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Judge rebuked for DUI manslaughter sentence

On behalf of Terence Gross of Gross & Schuster, P.A. posted in Drunk Driving on Thursday, November 1, 2012.

The Florida First District Court of Appeals has come down hard on a County Circuit Court judge for imposing what it called an “illegal” sentence on a man convicted of DUI manslaughter. Judge John Brown sentenced Joseph Patrick Schumacher to two years of house arrest and eight years of parole for killing his father in a bizarre drunk driving incident. Florida law requires a minimum mandatory four-year prison sentence. “The legislative language is unambiguous,” the appeals court ruled.

Schumacher was arrested in December, 2009 and charged with manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. Police say a drunken Schumacher was driving his SUV, dragging his Alzheimer’s Disease-stricken father along the street. The father’s foot had gotten caught in the seatbelt without his son noticing. The 67 year-old man suffered numerous injuries and died as a result. A jury convicted him of DUI manslaughter but acquitted him of the leaving the scene charge.

Judge Brown’s reasoning for not following state law was that Schumacher’s crime was “unsophisticated,” and that the defendant clearly loved his father and was remorseful. The judge also ruled that there was no “moral culpability” because Schumacher never intended for his father to die. Rather than prison, Brown said, restitution was more appropriate. The prosecutor argued in vain for the four year jail term.

The Appeals court ordered Brown to resentence Schumacher to at least four years behind bars. The prosecutor is pleased with the outcome, as would be expected. Another sentencing hearing must be set in the next 30 days.

Source:, “Judge’s sentence for DUI manslaughter overruled,” Tom McClaughlin, Oct. 31, 2012

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