Florida state law sets the legal limit for drivers with alcohol in their system at 0.08 BAC (blood alcohol content). The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s data for the year 2013 indicated that 31 percent of all traffic fatalities was the result of drunk driving crashes where the driver registered a BAC of 0.08 or higher. In 2013, on average, every 52 minutes there was a drunk driving accident that ended with a fatality. Importantly, if you or a loved one have been injured at the hands of a drunk driver in Saint Petersburg, contact a personal injury attorney who can help you navigate the halls of justice. Florida punishes drunk drivers that injure people by awarding what is called punitive damages to the injured person in addition to the usual medical bills, lost wages, incidental damages, pain and suffering. Punitive damages are meant to punish the person who committed a wrongful act.
DRUNK DRIVING INCIDENT ENDS IN TRAGEDY
In February, John Lovett Rutland, Jr. was discovered to have between 0.125 and 0.128 blood alcohol level after he caused the death of a three-year-old boy in an automobile collision. Rutland Jr.’s own 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son were in his vehicle with him at the time. He had just finished a probationary period for a previous drunk driving incident weeks before. Obviously, it didn’t take. He got behind the wheel, drunk, again, ran a stop sign, again, and plowed into a car loaded with children. Four other children were injured. Rutland Jr.’s 2001 Camry ran through a stop sign on State Route 674 (also known as College Avenue), crossed into the westbound lanes of a four-lane divided highway, across the median, hit the driver’s side of a 2002 Chevrolet SUV carrying the car load of children. All were wearing their seatbelts; however, the impact of the collision with the drunk driver was enough to send the three-year-old and a 10-year-old through the windshield.
EYE WITNESS TESTIMONY
Debbie Jasmer, a volunteer EMT with Sun City Emergency, was selling meals from her food truck, Whymama’s Finger Fist and Fork, when the crash occurred. She saw the SUV flip over several times. Jasmer performed CPR on the three-year-old until Florida state troopers arrived on the scene. She tried for eight minutes, and the state troopers tried for 30 minutes more, yet the three-year-old could not be revived.
THE PAST CAN REPEAT ITSELF
Rutland Jr. has a very long history with driving infractions, including careless driving and speeding. He was also arrested in 2003 for shooting a gun from his car window. In 2013, he was involved in a lawsuit for auto negligence, in which a settlement of the case was a result. The lawsuit involved a crash on Bayshore Blvd., in which the victim was seriously injured.
In December 2015, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reported that Rutland Jr. ran a stop sign in Dover, at the intersection of Gallagher and Wheeler roads. He also struck three road signs before his vehicle finally stopped. He failed field sobriety tests and his driver’s license was restricted to business-only travel until December 29, 2016. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has now decided to revoke his license entirely for one year, beginning February 23, 2017.
Rutland Jr. is being held without bond. Under Florida law, “DUI Manslaughter (in conjunction with prior DUI conviction), results in permanent license revocation. There are no provisions for a hardship license.” Time will tell the outcome of this particular case; however, the slogan, repeated time and time again, and with very good reason, “Don’t Drink and Drive” is meant to serve a purpose.