In October 2013, 19-year-old Tyler Self was walking to an appointment in Jacksonville on Mayport Road when he was struck and killed by a car being driven by 22-year-old Christopher Duboulay. On April 22, 2104, Self’s family shared the results they got from the Florida Highway Patrol that showed that tests done on Duboulay the day of the accident showed that he had no drugs or alcohol in his system and that he had not been speeding. It appears at this time that Duboulay will not be facing any criminal charges for the accident in October, despite the anger of the Self family over Tyler’s death. The family also expressed frustration that it took six months for law enforcement to reach a conclusion and that they did not get any of the test results until recently.
Many people assume that every time there is a car accident where someone dies that there must be criminal charges filed against the other driver. This, in fact, is not the case. There are many instances where someone may have made a simple mistake that may not even come close to a level that would need to happen for there to be criminal charges or, in some cases, even a ticket. This appears to be one of those cases.
For criminal charges to be filed, there has to be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that a driver broke the law through acting in some way that was wrongful. In order for criminal charges to be filed for vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter, this usually means that a person would have to either be drinking or otherwise under the influence while driving or acting in some other outrageous way that is likely to cause someone’s death, drag racing would be a good example of this. Momentary distraction, speeding to the point of not being reckless or accidentally running a stop sign would normally not rise to the level needed to be able to successfully convict someone of vehicular homicide in Florida.
In the Jacksonville case, it does not appear that there was anything done wrong by the driver to the point where a vehicular homicide charge was warranted, and it seems like a very thorough investigation was done to make sure. Some reports seem to show this driver will not even be getting a ticket for his actions that day. Because he wasn’t acting in a way that was criminally wrong, there is no reason for charges to be filed against him. Prosecutors would not be successful doing this and it would ultimately be a waste of resources.
This does not mean that the family does not have a civil case against this driver for wrongful death and, based on their anger, that seems pretty possible. Even if the elements of a criminal conviction cannot be proven in court, the elements of negligence for purposes of civil court may be. Without knowing all of the details of the case, there does seem to be at least one indicator of civil negligence – namely that Self was legally walking on the sidewalk when he was struck. This indicates that the car left the road at some point, although the reasons for this are so far unknown to the general public. Whether the car was on the sidewalk because of a momentary distraction or for another reason, it does seem to show that the driver breached his duty of care and makes a civil suit likely to succeed.