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Jail Sentence for DUI Equates to Death Sentence

An attorney has a responsibility to force the court to consider treatment options in lieu of jail for persons suffering from life threatening illnesses. I recently had the opportunity to represent an individual who had been charged with his third DUI (a felony under Florida law punishable by five years in prison). This individual had been coerced into pleading out his two prior DUI charges at the advice of his then attorney. A review of both of these files sadly indicated that each was very defendable and guilt never should have been admitted. As luck would have it, his third felony DUI arrest left no opportunity for a dismissal, suppression of the evidence, or even a likely success should the case proceed to trial.

Realizing the stakes are so much higher in felony court in terms of a prison sentence, our client felt it in his best interest to plea and seek mercy from the court despite the 30 day minimum mandatory and trend of Broward judges to sentences individuals for felony DUI anywhere from nine months to a year and a half in the Florida State prison system. What this meant to my client would be his HIV condition transcending into full-blown Aids due to the inability of the Broward County jail system to adequately supervise patients inflicted with the virus and timely administer their life-saving medications.

Kevin Sauve, a former inmate of the Broward County jail system, is one of many casualties of the Department of Corrections inability to get life-sustaining drugs to its inmates. Defense attorneys who fail to bring this problem to the court’s attention are also to blame for a situation that turns a commonly issued jail sentence to a death sentence for those suffering from HIV. Suave, 36, a former college admissions officer went three months without his HIV drugs following his May 1st, 2007 arrest. When he did receive medication, it was the wrong kind.

A common practice in the Broward County jail in is to replace one type of HIV medication for another when the correct prescriptions are unavailable or on-staff corrections physicians disagree with the patient-inmate’s primary care physician.

According to HIV specialist, Dr. James Luckett, replacing of HIV medication is not only toxic to the patient, but paves the way for one to become immune to the effects to the life-saving drug. In some cases a patient’s failure to take his prescribed medication for a period of only six hours will render him immune to its effects.

In patients who have suffered from HIV for many years they are limited to the last line of prescription drugs administered to them. Becoming immune leaves them with no other option but advancing into full-blown Aids and ultimately death.

In a felony DUI sentencing, two crucial points to remember are (1) that the Judge may consider treatment in lieu of a mandatory incarceration sentence; and (2) whether the jail system has the ability to render care to somebody suffering from a life-threatening illness. The jail system in South Florida has absolutely been put into question. In a Sun-Sentinel news article dated August 21, 2007, staff writer Bob Lamendola, noted three individuals who had progressed from HIV to full-blown Aids in the three month period of their incarceration with the Broward County Department of Corrections; they are Richard Hardwick, age 52 of Deerfield Beach, Keven L. Davis, age 33 of Deerfield Beach, and Joann Marie Christian, age 41 of Pompano Beach. I have pulled all three court files to determine if any argument was made on their behalf by their respective defense attorneys seeking their release from jail, due to the fact that required medications would not be forthcoming. I will post the results of my findings in a future blog.

The respective South Florida State Attorneys Offices naturally deny any allegations that inmates have not been receiving needed care despite an overwhelming amount of complaints filed by inmates. Dr. John May, who oversees jail care in eight Florida counties has been quoted as saying that he is “hurt” by such allegations. To date I have seen no creditable evidence presented in the form of testimony by any South Florida State Attorney validating that the jail system is protecting its inmates in this regard. To the contrary, social workers involved in aftercare all the way to primary care physicians are quick to point out the sharp decline in the health of infected persons immediately following incarceration in a South Florida jail.

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