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30 Days for DUI Manslaughter: Could it Happen in California?

June 23rd, 2009

Sacramento California raised Dante Stallworth, who was most recently employed as a receiver for the Cleveland Brown’s, after stints with the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the New Orleans Saints was sentenced in Florida to 30 days in jail for DUI manslaughter.  Was this result at variance from the public’s expectations in such situations?  You bet it was!

While the outcome could have been the result of great lawyering, Stallworth’s celebrity status, or most appropriately extenuating facts and circumstances of the case, this writer strongly suspects that it was most probably the influence of the victims’ family who reportedly received a substantial confidential settlement from Stallworth.

The reported facts of the case are not mitigated.  Apparently, Stallworth drove his Bentley around a stopped car to beat a red light and struck 59 year old Mario Reyes, who was walking to a bus stop form work as an overnight crane operator.  While Stallworth cooperated with the authorities, he is alleged to have provided a blood alcohol breath test  result of .126%.  The legal limit in California is .08%.

The case did not go to trial, and resolved at a very early stage of the proceedings, and consequently did not provide much opportunity for courtroom lawyering.  To pin the result on Stallworth’s status as a sports celebrity would be a stretch for even the most cynical of observers.

Could such a result be possible in law and order California, the home of the nation’s first three strikes law?  Sure, and this fact should arguably not be shocking, or even out of line, when considering current state law concerning the rights of victims to influence the outcome in criminal cases.  Florida, like California, has its own Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights, and it appears on first read not even to be as expansive as the bill that the California voters passed on November 4, 2008 in the form of Proposition 9, also known as Marsy’s Law and the Victims’ Rights and Protection Act of 2008.  Proposition 9 extended the victim’s right to be heard, to a right to be involved substantively in the criminal justice process.  California victims are now constitutionally entitled to safeguards fully protecting all of their rights, including the right to reasonably confer with prosecuting agencies even before any pretrial disposition of a criminal case.

Perhaps in an ironic tweak of law, Florida’s Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights arguably set up vulnerable crime victims to unnecessarily infringe upon the power of the state in its search for justice for the people of the state of Florida, and certainly in the case of Dante Stallworth, set up his victims to be his most powerful allies in the courthouse.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DUI in Santa Clara County, contact the San Jose DUI lawyers at the Law Offices of Bernard P. Bray.


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