Fort Lauderdale Man Accused of DUI Manslaughter of Miami Heat Cheerleader

March 23, 2011 by David S. Seltzer

As a Miami-Dade drunk driving criminal defense lawyer, I was interested to see a piece about the prosecution of a man accused of a high-profile DUI death. As the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported March 18, Mario Careaga of Fort Lauderdale is accused of causing the death of Nancy Guillermina Lopez-Ruiz, a 22-year-old who had just joined the Miami Heat dance squad. Lopez-Ruiz was stopped by the side of the road on her motorcycle when Careaga plowed into her, killing her at the scene. Careaga is facing charges including DUI manslaughter, DUI property damage and careless driving.

Careaga and a friend were at the Galleria Mall before the September 2010 crash. Surveillance cameras at two stores show the two men being served at bars about six times, police say. Then, they apparently got into Careaga’s car and drove west on Sunrise Boulevard, where Lopez-Ruiz was stopped by the side of the road, in an area called a “gore” that authorities said was not intended for vehicles. The crash threw her 137 feet, killing her at the scene. Ninety minutes after the crash, two tests measured Careaga’s blood-alcohol level at 0.23 and 0.24 — about three times the legal limit. Careaga turned himself in on formal charges March 17 and was released the next morning on bail. His Fort Lauderdale DUI criminal defense lawyer said it was “a horrible, tragic accident.”

I’m pleased to see Careaga has a defense attorney, because the charges he faces are very serious. It’s difficult to say from the information included in the article, but from that quote, it looks like Careaga and his lawyer may be planning to defend the charges rather than make a plea agreement. If Lopez-Ruiz was stopped in an area not intended for vehicles, as the police report said, Careaga may be able to argue that he didn’t reasonably expect anyone to be there. By contrast, if he makes a plea bargain, he will likely face less time than the maximum 15 years in prison carried by a Florida DUI manslaughter charge. As a south Florida intoxicated driving criminal defense attorney, I know that could mean a plea to a lesser or different charge that still carries some time, including vehicular manslaughter, felony DUI and others.

A DUI charge in Florida can cost thousands of dollars, take away your driver’s license and cause trouble at home and at work. If you’re facing a DUI charge and you’d like to talk to an experienced attorney about fighting it, you should call Seltzer Law, P.A. today. We’re available 24 hours a day and seven days a week at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) or through our website.