The Third District Court of Appeals has overturned a major vehicular manslaughter guilty plea this week of a Miami man who crashed into a carload of tourists on Tamiami Trail. Luis Lazardo was speeding down the trail, at speeds up to 83.9 miles per hour when he struck a car full of tourists from the United Kingdom, killing passenger Rachel May Coulson. The speed limit on the stretch of road this occurred was only 55. Initially, state troopers did not cite Mr. Lazardo with anything other than speeding, but once the ticket reached the desk of the prosecution, the ticket was dropped in favor of a charge of reckless driving and vehicular manslaughter.
Lazardo originally plead guilty to the charges, with an opportunity for appeal, and was sentenced to one year on house arrest and 3 years probation. While the 3rd DCA has overturned the guilty plea and the sentence, the civil suit against Mr. Lazardo remains, pursued by the families of those injured, and especially the family of Ms. Coulson. The court found that while he was being reckless, his speed of nearly 30 miles per hour over the speed limit did not amount to the “proper level of recklessness” that would require a criminal conviction on top of the civil liability faced by Mr. Lazardo. Without additional aggravating factors to the way he was driving, he can not face criminal charges for his behavior. You can read more about the accident and the case here.