Velazquez v. State

District Court of Appeal of Florida, 1990.

561 So.2d 347.

Dressler, pp. 194-196


Facts: The defendant was in a drag race.  After the race was seemingly finished, the victim turned around and raced back to the starting line.  The defendant followed.  The victim died when his car went through a guardrail.  Velazquez was prosecuted for vehicular homicide.


Rule: Courts usually use the “but for” test of causation, which says that a defendant’s act was the cause-in-fact of a result if it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for their action.


Sometimes, courts substitute the “but for” test with the “substantial factor” test when two or more defendants did the same thing at the same time causing the intended result.


Finally, some crimes have a “proximate cause” element that is wider than “but for” test.  Basically, courts won’t find defendants guilty if the result of their conduct was unforeseeable or when it just wouldn’t be fair to find them guilty.


Notes and Questions


1.     If the police can’t identify the driver that struck Elmer, it is inevitable that the four drivers will be treated the same, whether by being punished or by being acquitted.  I don’t think the value of pinning Elmer’s death on someone is so great that it’s worth assigning blame and punishment to the three drivers who did not cause it.  All of them may be liable in a civil suit brought by Elmer’s decedents.


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