Florida’s First Phone-Related Distracted Driving Case Goes to Trial

July 17, 2023 Criminal Defense

A Florida man recently received the maximum sentence after pursuing the first-ever texting and driving case that went to trial in Florida.

The Florida man convicted of vehicular homicide was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted of the deadly crash that resulted in the loss of a family’s young son.

This article will provide the case details along with information on the relative criminal charges.

What was the Incident?

In 2016, Gregory Andriotis was traveling on I-75 near Brooksville when he slammed into the back of a Mazda. He was accused of reckless driving caused by texting while driving.

Investigators later determined that Andriotis was traveling near 80 miles per hour before colliding into the Mazda, which was parked in traffic. The force of the impact pushed six cars ahead nearly 76 feet and resulted in the death of 9-year-old Logan Scherer. Logan’s parents and younger sister were also seriously injured in the wreck.

In May 2023, seven years after the fatal accident, Andriotis and the Scherer family appeared in a Hernando County courtroom to determine the defendant’s fate. Andriotis was found guilty of one count of vehicular manslaughter and three counts of reckless driving.

On June 15, 2023, Andriotis was given the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The Hernando County judge called his actions a ‘conscious disregard’ for life, saying “it’s a choice not to pay attention.”

Prior to the sentencing, Andriotis spoke publicly for the first time since the 2016 crash to apologize to the Scherer family:

“I wish more than anything that I could change what happened that day. I would gladly trade places with him if it meant he would live. Logan deserved to live a full life. I took that away from him and I took him away from you.”

The Scherer family took their tragedy and helped inspire Florida’s most recent texting while driving laws which went into effect in July 2019.

The case also marks the first cell phone-related distracted driving case to appear in trial in Florida. Both the jury’s guilty verdict and charge for vehicular homicide are being considered a legal first—a new precedent for fatal car crashes caused by texting and driving.

What is Distracted Driving?

According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), distracted driving is considered anything that takes your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road while operating a motor vehicle. The three types of driver distraction include:

  • Visual – Taking your eyes off the road.
  • Manual – Taking your hands off the steering wheel.
  • Cognitive – Thinking about anything other than driving.

When a person texts while driving, they are abusing all three types of driving distractions. Not only is this extremely dangerous to them, but also to those driving or traveling around them.

Other common causes of distracted driving include:

  • Tending to child passengers in the back seat;
  • Eating while driving;
  • Watching something outside the window other than the road;
  • Interacting with vehicle passengers;
  • Unsecured pets in passenger or back seat;
  • Applying makeup or other grooming while driving;
  • Adjusting car settings such as climate control or the radio; and/or
  • Checking GPS.

The FLHSMV indicated that there were approximately 53,596 reported crashes due to distracted driving in 2022. Out of those, 2,574 resulted in significant injury and 268 resulted in fatalities.

Florida’s Ban on Texting While Driving Law

Florida Statute Section 316.305 explains that the Florida Legislature intends to improve roadway safety for all vehicle operators, passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and all other road users to prevent crashes related to texting while driving. To accomplish this, it is now unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle while manually typing into their cell phone or other wireless communications device.

The law went into effect on July 1, 2019, and now allows law enforcement to stop and issue citations to drivers of motor vehicles who are found texting and driving.

Exceptions to Statute Section 316.305

According to FLHSMV, a stationary motor vehicle is not subjected to prohibition in the law. Under Statute Section 316.305, the following lists motor vehicles who are exempted from the law:

  • Individual performing official duties as an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle (includes law enforcement, fire service, or emergency medical services);
  • Individuals reporting an emergency or suspicious activity to law enforcement or other authorities;
  • Individuals receiving messages that are:
    • Related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle;
    • Safety-related information including emergency, traffic, or weather alerts;
    • Data primarily used by the motor vehicle; or
    • Radio broadcasts;
  • Individuals using a navigational device or system;
  • Individuals conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require manual entry of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols aside from activating or deactivating a feature or function;
  • Individuals conducting wireless communication that do not require reading text messages, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.

Vehicular Homicide in Florida

The criminal offense of vehicular homicide is codified under Florida Statute Section 782.071 as the unlawful killing of another person or unborn child by the injury to the mother, while operating a motor vehicle in a reckless or negligent behavior.

Vehicular homicide is considered a second-degree felony with penalties including up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

However, if the driver knew the accident occurred and failed to render aid, provide information, or flees the scene, they will then face a first-degree felony. The penalties for a first-degree felony include up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

Reckless Driving in Florida

Florida Statute Section 316.192 defines reckless driving as the offense a person commits when they operate a motor vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

A defendant charged with reckless driving that causes damage to the property or person of another will face a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor include up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

A defendant charged with reckless driving that causes serious bodily injury to another person will face a third-degree felony. The penalties for a third-degree felony include up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Finding a Distracted Driving Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or someone you know has been accused of texting while driving or vehicular homicide, it is in your best interest to contact a defense attorney as soon as possible. If convicted, you could be facing long-term prison sentences, expensive fines, or both. The Tallahassee, Florida criminal defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm are experienced in these types of cases and can assist in helping you strategize and develop a defense plan to get the charges against you lessened or dismissed. Contact us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave us a message on our website.

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