Drunk Driver: Over The Legal Limit And Running a Stop Sign

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Drunk Driver: Over The Legal Limit And Running a Stop Sign

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.


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.


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.


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.



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Drunk Driving: Consider the Risks

moralization---2-125243-mThere is no secret about the dangers associated with drunk driving, but people continue to run the risk after a night of fun. The troubling part is that all of it could be prevented. The accidents, the injuries, and the deaths that we have seen in Saint Petersburg as a result of people climbing behind the wheel in an inebriated state could have been avoided. It makes a person wonder why anyone would bother taking the risks involved, when there are so many options for alternative transportation, and lines of communication are always open. Why not just call a friend, hire a taxi, or hitch a ride with someone who hasn’t been drinking?

As a personal injury attorney, I have grown accustomed to hearing the excuses. Truthfully, there are many people who have driven drunk and not intended to cause harm to others, but that is the problem at hand. People don’t consider the full array of potential troubles that can arise from making a bad choice. While a person will undoubtedly consider what it would cost to be pulled over by the police – a hefty fine, loss of a driver’s license, or even a night in jail – it is not uncommon for that same person to overlook the much more serious consequences that other drunk drivers have faced.

Aftermath of a Lost License. I’ve heard it called “driving the gauntlet,” when a person decides to drive home in an intoxicated state without being pulled over. It’s true that most will make it home without any notable trouble. However, you must really consider if it is worth the risk. If pulled over and charged with DUI, you could lose your license for an extended period of time. How will you get to work? How will you run to the grocery store, pick up your kids from school, or meet friends for dinner? You’ll have to rely on others to drive you around, which can be a big inconvenience for everyone involved. If you are fortunate, the loss of your license won’t cost you your job.

Serious Injury or Death. The loss of your driver’s license, though, is a small price to pay compared to some of the other consequences that you could face. When drunk (or even mildly buzzed), your reaction time will be slowed and that means you are much more likely to be involved in a car accident. It could even happen on the St. Petersburg roads that you know so well, just minutes from home. Hit with enough impact, and you could be facing very serious injuries. In fact, you might not even come back from it. If you do, there could very well be a mountain of medical bills and repair expenses awaiting you.

Giving Others a Life Sentence. Causing harm to yourself is one thing, but consider what you could do to others when driving drunk behind the wheel. All the “I’m sorry” statements in the world aren’t going to make things better when you accidentally hit and kill a child, or when you have to watch the life seep from a man, as his son looks on. We’ve seen victims killed many times. We’ve also seen them burned so badly that they are scarred from head to toe. We’ve seen them paralyzed, or placed into a permanent vegetative state. All of this because a person didn’t want to bother waking a friend for a ride home. Will you be able to live with yourself, knowing that you ruined someone else’s life?

Time Away from Loved Ones. Even if you can live with that weight on your conscience, you aren’t likely to be comfortable doing so. If you kill, or seriously injure a person, as a drunk driver, you can face major legal consequences. This isn’t just a mere loss of license. You could face months, or even years, in prison, in addition to some hefty fines. One night of fun can cost you a great deal of time taken out of your life and away from those you love most. Is it really worth it?

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