Christine Braswell, a decorated Delray Beach Police officer was vacationing in Key West. While riding a scooter with her friend and also Delray Beach Police officer, Bernenda Marc, the two collided with another vehicle driven by Lacy Morris. Braswell was killed and Marc spent one week in the hospital. According to police reports, Morris had a blood-alcohol level of .17, over twice the legal limit of .08. Morris has now been charged with one count of DUI manslaughter and one count of DUI causing serious bodily injury. An arrest warrant was issued for Morris and bond was set at $170,000.
A conviction for DUI manslaughter in Florida carries a potential 15 year prison sentence. Moreover, there is a 4 year minimum mandatory and a minimum sentencing guidelines score of approximately 10.4 years in state prison if convicted.
Because the victims in this case were both police officers, there will undoubtedly be additional attention and scrutiny placed on this defendant. The attention will be there by the media and the prosecutors. For that reason, anything the defendant or her lawyer says in public can play a role in a potential sentence.
The bond on the arrest warrant issued by a Judge in Key West was placed at $170,000. Ms. Morris was arrested in Fort Lauderdale. She will be transported to Key West for her “First Appearance,” and her lawyer will then ask the court to reduce the bond.
Upon Ms. Morris being arrested, her lawyer told the media, “I believe you don’t arrest someone until you have all the evidence.” As for the victim being police officers, I would hope that’s not the reason for rushing. But I would also hope that when you arrest someone and hold them tantamount to no bond, you have all the evidence.” According to the Sun Sentinel, the lawyer said that a Key West police officer told him they don’t have test results for the Delray Beach police officers, and that there is video of the crash that he hasn’t seen. Her lawyer went on to say, “Right now, her speedy trial starts and if they don’t get all the evidence in by six months or so, they’ll have problems.” “We’re gonna want to test the blood on all three women. We’re gonna test everything.”
All of what this lawyer is saying is accurate. Also, DUI manslaughter cases often take 6 months to complete an investigation. What the lawyer said and plans to do is exactly what a good criminal defense lawyer will do in this case. However, making these comments serves no purpose. These statements will instead make the victims’ family more outraged as well as the law enforcement community.
Rather than making these statements, plot your course without telling anyone what you are doing. This case will be a causation case. In other words, even though Morris may have been intoxicated, the State still has to prove that she caused or contributed to the crash. If the blood alcohol content of the driver of the scooter was also over the limit, this will weaken the State’s case. In that scenario, you want to be in the best position possible of obtaining a favorable plea if one is available. These statements do not help toward that goal. The lawyer did say that his client was “distraught.” That statement was fine to make and the lawyer should have kept it that simple and short.