The "proximate cause" element of vehicular homicide in Florida embraces more than the "but for" causation-in-fact test as modified by the "substantial factor" exception. Even where a defendant's conduct is a cause-in-fact of a prohibited result, as where a defendant's reckless operation of a motor vehicle is a cause-in-fact of the death of a human being, Florida and other courts throughout the country have for good reason declined to impose criminal liability (1) where the prohibited result of the defendant's conduct is beyond the scope of any fair assessment of the danger created by the defendant's conduct, or (b) where it would otherwise be unjust, based on fairness and policy considerations, to hold the defendant criminally responsible for the prohibited result.
Defendant was involved in a drag race. The other participant died after he was thrown from his car when it crashed into a guardrail. Defendant was charged with the crime of vehicular homicide. After the trial court denied defendant's motion to dismiss, he pleaded nolo contendere and reserved for appeal the denial of his motion. Subsequently, the trial court convicted and sentenced him for vehicular homicide.
Should defendant be held criminally responsible for the deceased's death?
The court held that defendant did operate his motor vehicle in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to another. However, the court further held that defendant's participation in the drag race was not a proximate cause of the deceased death. The court stated that the deceased killed himself by his own reckless driving. Therefore, the held that defendant could not be held criminally responsible for the deceased's death. Judgment was reversed and remanded with directions to grant defendant's motion to dismiss.