John Nicholas Obrien, 31, was charged with DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crash involving death. He is being held without bond at Polk County Jail. The press did not name an attorney for him.
According to the arrest affidavit, the alleged incident occurred at approximately 12:30 p.m. on April 25 on State Road 540, north of Eagle Lake Road. Obrien was allegedly westbound when his car veered off the road and struck a man riding a scooter on the sidewalk. Obrien then purportedly fled the scene. Witnesses alerted a passing Florida Highway Patrol trooper, who managed to catch up with Obrien a short distance from the crash site.
The person on the scooter, identified as 60-year-old Mathew Bankston Jr. of Mulberry, was rushed to Lakeland Regional Medical Health Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Obrien was taken to an area hospital with minor injuries before he was booked into Polk County Jail. A drug recognition expert at the sheriff’s office determined he was under the influence of a controlled substance, the affidavit indicates. The nature of that controlled substance has not been revealed to the public.
When asked by investigators what caused the crash, Obrien initially said he popped a tire and lost control of his vehicle. He then said he hit a pole and lost control of his car, according to the affidavit. Investigators confirmed that his vehicle had a blown out front tire and extensive damage on the front end.
Leaving the scene of an accident—more commonly known as a “hit and run”—is a serious offense in Florida. Statistics indicate approximately 11% of all accidents in the U.S. involve a hit-and-run driver.
Many drivers leave the scene because they are under the influence or driving without a license. Others simply fear arrest. Drivers who flee for whatever reason are required to report the accident to the nearest police station and provide their name, address, driver’s license, and registration information.
DUI manslaughter is an equally serious offense in the state. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a DUI manslaughter charge may be prosecuted as a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison or a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It is usually treated as a second-degree felony by default, but it can be enhanced to a first-degree felony if evidence proves the defendant was aware an accident occurred and didn’t render aid.
Given the seriousness of a DUI manslaughter charge, it is imperative to hire an experienced defense attorney who can launch an aggressive but tasteful defense that won’t create additional liability for the defendant.
South Florida DUI Attorney