Police believe that 25-year-old Nathan Hartman had been drinking when he got behind the wheel and was allegedly involved in two accidents in Windermere, Florida, one of which caused the death of a 63-year-old woman. Police say on January 24, 2014, Hartman was driving southbound on County Road 535 in his truck when he struck a Ford Focus which was stopped at a light. The Focus was pushed into the back of a SUV. Hartman fled the scene of this accident and luckily no one was hurt. Two minutes later though, Hartman was involved in a second crash about a mile away, also involving two vehicles. In the second accident, Hartman was driving west on Ficquette Road when he crossed into the eastbound lane and struck a vehicle being driven by Beatriz Gonzalez head on. The car which was driving behind Gonzalez then struck Gonzalez’s car and Hartman’s truck. Gonzalez died as a result of the injuries she received in the accident.
Hartman sustained minor injuries due to the two accidents. Police found open beer cans in his truck at the accident scene. At the hospital they report he appeared to be drunk because he had bloodshot eyes, smelled of alcohol and was swaying. Hartman refused to take a sobriety test or a breathalyzer and was arrested at the hospital for DUI manslaughter and three counts of DUI property damage. This is not Hartman’s first driving offense. He was found guilty for driving with an open container in 2012 and has numerous traffic violations for things like speeding, careless driving and not wearing a seatbelt.
Besides the normal DUI penalties that Hartman can face, he also faces penalties for the DUI manslaughter and DUI property damage, both things which can bring a much heavier sentence. DUI property damage is a first degree misdemeanor, meaning that Hartman faces up to a year in jail and/or up to a $1000 fine for each charge. However, the charge for DUI manslaughter is a second degree felony, meaning that Hartman could be charged with up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
There is really no way to tell what the potential outcome will be when it comes to Hartman’s penalty in this case. However, his prior history of alcohol and driving related offenses could cause him some problems in the present case when it comes to sentencing. While he has not been charged with a DUI in the past, just driving with an open container, the fact that he has a conviction on his record for a driving/alcohol offense could cause him to get a harsher sentence in the present case.
In Florida, sentencing is based on what is called a “score sheet” which is presented by the prosecution during the sentencing phase. This puts things like the nature of the charge, whether someone was injured or killed and prior offenses into a quantifiable form, meaning that it assigns a number based on this combination of things. If this number is over 44, there will be mandatory prison time. If it is under 44, there can still be jail time, but things like house arrest or probation become a possibility. The score sheet can definitely come into play in Hartman’s sentencing based on his prior violations along with the fact that someone died because of his drinking and driving.
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