Clinton Deloach Jr. was convicted of DUI manslaughter and sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison, according to a report from The Florida Times Union. Deloach had passed a large truck in a rainstorm and crashed head on into Doreen Karen Meyers, a child abuse investigator from Brunswick, GA, killing her in the impact. Directly prior to the accident Deloach had an appointment with his doctor who prescribed him Fentanyl, a powerful pain relieving narcotic. Deloach left the doctor and was wearing a Fentanyl patch when he collided with Meyers. Deloach claimed that Meyers entered his lane and he swerved to miss her, however witnesses testified he was driving erratically and swerving in and out of his lane. Blood tests showed Deloach had high levels of Fentanyl and hydrocodone in his system, as well as lower levels of the anti-anxiety drugs alprazolam and lorazepam.
Despite what many people believe, DUI in Jacksonville and anywhere in Florida is not limited to alcohol or a certain blood alcohol level. All that is required for one to drive under the influence is to operate a vehicle while under the influence of any chemical substance when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired. This is a subjective standard and is largely proven or disproved based on the testimony of the accused, law enforcement officers, and witnesses. In defending against DUI accusations, Jacksonville DUI Attorneys attack the credibility of witness testimony, sometimes excluding it altogether for trial. As in this case, juries are often more susceptible to believe testimony of law enforcement officers over that of the accused, although in actuality there is nothing in law or reality that says police are in fallible, or to be believed any more than any other witness. A good Duval County criminal defense attorney knows this, and will set out to inform the jury of the same.
In this case, Deloach was legally taking his prescriptions. He may not have known the effects they would have on his ability to operate a vehicle. However, under Florida statute, knowledge of one’s impairment is not a requirement for DUI, only being in an actual state of impairment while operating a vehicle. As for whether the doctor failed to warn Deloach of the side effects of his prescriptions, this may give rise to a civil suit, but unfortunately does little to exculpate him criminally. The final straw was that the person he hit was a law enforcement officer, specifically one who worked with abused children, and one who was well known within the jurisdiction of his trial. Meyer likely testified against child abusers in the very courtroom, and in front of the same judge, where Deloach was being tried for her death. The maximum sentence allowed seems excessive for someone who was only inebriated due to properly taking his prescribed medication, especially since it was a new prescription and he likely was unaware of the effects it would have on him. Simply because the victim was a respected investigator and well known in the court system doesn’t entitle her to “more justice” than any other victim, or warrant a harsher sentence for Deloach.
If you or a loved one is ever charged with DUI manslaughter, or any DUI charge, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County DUI Lawyer is experienced in these cases and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.