The state has two weeks to charge the man behind the wheel in a Jacksonville Landing hit-and-run death with a felony, or a judge will accept his guilty plea to a misdemeanor DUI in Duval County. Brain Patterson tried to plead guilty to the misdemeanor DUI last week related to the August case, just one week after picking up another DUI in Baker County, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The first Jacksonville Driving Under the Influence charge came after Patterson was being beaten on his way to his car following a nightclub dispute and, when he sped off, a man on the hood of his car fell of and Patterson ran him over. The man died days later at a local hospital.
The Duval County assistant state attorney said his decision to seek a Duval County felony charge is not related to Patterson’s second DUI, the newspaper reported. As a Jacksonville DUI attorney, that argument sounds pretty thin. The incident occurred in August and, two weeks later, the state filed a murder charge against the man who was beating Patterson while Patterson tried to drive away.
Patterson was arrested and charged with a DUI in October, once the blood results came back from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He had two court dates in November, but when he tried to enter a plea last week to the Jacksonville criminal charge, the state objected and the judge gave the state two weeks to file new charges.
If the state was interested in filing felony charges in Duval all along, why didn’t prosecutors file felony charges from the start? And why did they wait three court hearings to say they needed more time to investigate to determine if felony charges would apply?
Patterson made his own bed by getting a Baker County DUI with another DUI case pending, but the state should also have to live with its initial charging decision. Patterson’s Jacksonville Bond was revoked after his second arrest, so he’s in jail awaiting the resolution of the case. He faces a maximum of 6 months in jail on the DUI, which is now a first degree misdemeanor. If the charges are upgraded to a third-degree felony, Patterson would face a maximum of five years in prison.
And the judge is well within his right to refuse a plea. By nature of our judicial system, pleas have to be accepted by the judge. But it is extremely rare when a plea is not accepted. This decision was likely influenced by the prosecutor’s objection to the plea. The judge did not flatly deny it, but instead imposed a deadline on the state to make a decision. This is a prime example of the importance of staying out of trouble when a case is pending against you. Not only is Patterson in jail instead of free until the case resolves, he could be facing considerably more time and a potential felony conviction.
If you or a loved one needs a DUI Attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County DUI Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.