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Tampa Man Charged with DUI Manslaughter in July 2011 Crash

Last July, Brittany Wentz of Tampa died from injuries sustained in a car crash at Interstate 275 and Himes Avenue. More than six months later, the driver of the car she was riding in has been arrested and charged with DUI manslaughter.

Law enforcement alleges that test results show the driver, Dale Alan Thompson, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.174. In Florida, a person is presumed to be impaired with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08. Thompson was arrested last week in Ohio and also faces two counts of DUI property damage.

Wentz was a front seat passenger in the 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt that Thompson was driving just before 1 a.m. on July 12. The car was reportedly westbound on on the I-275 exit ramp to Himes Avenue when the Florida Highway Patrol alleges Thompson lost control of the car and drove into the center grass median. The car crashed into a chain-link fence, light pole and tree, eventually overturning and coming to rest on its roof.

There were four people in the car at the time of the crash. Thompson and two other passengers in the car weren’t injured. Wentz was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where she died a week and a half later from her injuries.

Thompson will be extradited to Florida. Extradition is a legal process one state surrenders a suspected (or convicted) criminal to another state for prosecution, sentencing or incarceration.

If the fugitive does not agree to be extradited, the process is governed by federal law. In this case, the governor of Florida would have to officially demand Thompson’s return from Ohio to stand trial, including a copy of the indictment or affidavit. Involving the governor’s offices adds some time to the process. After the fugitive is arrested, the requesting jurisdiction (Florida) then has 30 days to appear in Ohio to receive the fugitive.

The extradition process also generally allows the fugitive to present a defense – not to the crime charged, but that the person sought by the requesting state is not the person who has been arrested. This mistaken identity defense to extradition would not, again, be an argument that the charging authorities mistook the arrestee for the murderer but that the arresting jurisdiction mistook the arrestee for the actual fugitive.

If convicted of DUI manslaughter, Thompson will face up to 15 years in a Florida State correctional institution, in addition to a fine of up to $10,000.

If you or someone you know is facing DUI charges in the Tampa Bay area, you are well-advised to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney to help you navigate the criminal and administrative implications of a DUI charge and/or conviction.

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