This week, a Florida police officer pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter after being convicted in the wake of an accident that killed a young mother.
According to the Miami Herald, 24-year-old Peter Munoz did not appear in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court for his arraignment. Rather, his DUI attorney entered a plea of not guilty for him, which is allowed under Florida law.
Sources indicate that Munoz, who had been a police officer in Coral Springs for five months before the accident, was speeding through an intersection late one night this July when he struck the car of Jennifer Gutierrez, a paralegal who was traveling home from her boyfriend’s house.
The Miami Herald reports that Munoz’s Volkswagen struck the driver’s side of Gutierrez’s BMW with such force that the victim was impaled into the driver’s side door. When paramedics arrived on the scene, they had to cut the car into several pieces in order to remove Gutierrez.
Toxicology reports taken after the accident showed that Gutierrez had not been drinking, but Munoz did not perform as well on his blood alcohol test.
A police affidavit taken shortly after the accident shows that Munoz had a blood alcohol content of .229 one hour after the crash, which is almost three times more than the legal limit of .008.
Police reports from that night also indicate that Munoz did not attempt to take any evasive action to miss the BMW; instead, he simply plowed right through it.
After the accident, Munoz was taken to a local hospital, and later released home before being arrested a few weeks later on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide.
Understandably, the family of the victim was upset that Munoz was not immediately taken into custody, and has alleged that Munoz received special treatment from his colleagues in the Coral Springs police force.
The Coral Springs police department, however, promptly fired Munoz when he was arrested in late September. The official termination notice, though, does not explicitly mention the car crash.
Munoz likely faces a lengthy court battle, particularly in light of his not guilty plea. Sources indicate that the arrestee’s attorney believe that the victim may have been on her cell phone at the time of the accident, which may have caused her to drive recklessly.
In her defense, Gutierrez’s family claims these allegations are untrue, and that Munoz is solely responsible for the accident.
In the meantime, the family of Jennifer Gutierrez will mourn the loss of a promising young woman, who was apparently studying for her final exams at a local college on the night of the accident.
Gutierrez is survived by her 4-year-old daughter, who was not in her car at the time of the accident.