A 33-year-old Fort Myers man sustained serious injuries after he was struck in Cape Coral by an allegedly drunk driver – who also happened to be an investigator for the 20th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office.
A spokeswoman for the agency later announced the 37-year-old employee resigned after his arrest, which included charges of DUI, DUI property damage and DUI causing bodily injury.
The criminal case has been reassigned, at the state attorney’s office request, to another circuit to avoid conflict of interest. So too was a pending DUI case against the victim in this case, who was not alleged to have been driving intoxicated at the time of this crash, which occurred at the intersection of Cape Coral Parkway and Skyline Boulevard.
Interestingly, this is not the first DUI case involving a state attorney’s office employee. It’s the third in the last two years, according to news reports. Authorities arrested a 36-year-old secretary for the agency in December for DUI.
Prior to that, an agency investigator (who has since resigned) was arrested for hit-and-run following a fatal crash on Christmas morning 2013. Trial is still pending in that case.
It’s important to note that whatever happens with the criminal cases, victims have the right to pursue a separate form of justice in civil court through a car accident lawsuit. While some judges do impose orders of restitution in criminal cases following conviction, there are two things to note.
The first is that auto insurance companies are not bound by those orders. Neither are employers. (There is no suggestion here the drivers were on-duty at the time of the crashes, but if they were or had they been driving agency-issued vehicles, the employer could be held responsible based on their shared negligence.)
The second is that compensating the victim is not the priority of the criminal justice system. It’s penalizing the offender. Of course, this is expected to bring some measure of justice and possibly closure for victims, but it will not pay their medical bills, cover their lost wages, fix their car or compensate for their pain and suffering. All of this is what civil litigation is for.
It is thoroughly disappointing that members of an agency committed to prosecuting offenders of these same offenses went on to allegedly commit them themselves. But this is an example of how drunk driving is the sort of offense that crosses barriers of age, race, gender and socioeconomic status.
Personnel records of the most recent alleged offender do not contain any indication that he had a problem with alcohol or drug abuse. In fact, he was noted to be a stellar employee.
The fact that the alleged victim in that case had a pending DUI of his own should have no bearing on either the civil or criminal case, so long as there is no indication he was drinking. At this point, officers have not made that assertion.
DUI injuries are often particularly serious because offending drivers often take little or no evasive action to avoid impact. In this case, the drivers were traveling opposite directions when the former SAO employee turned in front of the victim, resulting in a t-bone collision that caused the unbelted victim to slam into the steering wheel and windshield.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
State attorney investigator charged in crash, resigns, March 10, 2015, By Michael Braun, The News-Press
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Cedillo v. Farmers Insurance Co. – Motorcycle Accident Arbitration, March 13, 2015, Fort Myers DUI Injury Lawyer Blog