On Christmas Day, Fort Myers resident Charles Lawson was arrested near the scene of a fatal hit and run for drinking and driving. Lawson, an investigator for the State Attorney’s office, was driving his government issued vehicle when he was pulled over because of damage to his vehicle consistent with a hit and run that had taken place shortly before Lawson was arrested. Despite evidence that Lawson may have been involved in the death of 48 year old Michael Sasen, he was arrested for a DUI and has not been charged with anything involving the fatal hit and run. However, Florida Highway Patrol highly suspects that Lawson was the one that hit and killed Sasen. Lawson was on administrative leave after the accident, but on January 14, he officially resigned from his employment with the state.
This case is somewhat different from the current legislative focus on having tougher restrictions for hit and run drivers. The law that is being looked at involved strengthening the sentencing for drivers involved in hit and runs so that the punishment is more consistent with the sentence they would get if they were involved in an accident while drinking and driving where they were caught at the scene. This would effectively eliminate any sentencing advantage that someone may have to leave the scene when they were drinking and driving.
This differs from the present case in that Lawson was actually arrested for drinking and driving, but has not yet been charged with anything relating to the hit and run. As the case stands now, Lawson faces the typical penalty for the drinking and driving, which depending on if this is a first offense or not, could mean jail time, license suspension and administrative fines.
However, if police were able to connect Lawson to hitting Sasen, his charges become much more serious. For a DUI Manslaughter which includes leaving the scene, Lawson faces additional charges relating to a first degree felony including a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison. This differs substantially from the possible sentence he could face from the DUI alone which would most likely be less than a year in jail.
Police have not charged Lawson in a hit and run at this time, but that does not mean that he is out of the woods. Most likely the delay is simply due to police building a strong case against Lawson in the hit and run in order to secure a conviction against him. There does seem to be strong evidence that Lawson was the one who hit and killed Sasen, but at this point, the evidence could still be explained. The damage to the car that Lawson was driving could have been caused by any number of things besides striking Sasen. The burden falls on the prosecution to prove otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, it would most likely mean getting physical evidence that connects Lawson to the hit and run such as paint transfer or Sasen’s DNA on Lawson’s car. Until the evidence is strong against Lawson, it would not be wise for the prosecution to file charges against him.
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