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OFFICE OF THE STATE ATTORNEY KATHERINE FERNANDEZ RUNDLE

ELEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT STATE ATTORNEY

INTEROFFICE MEMORANDUM

TO: File DATE: 9/10/2021

FROM: Laura Adams RE: Case disposition


Assistant State Attorney

On February 10, 2021, Samentha Toussaint was driving a motor vehicle on Sunny Isles Beach
Boulevard near Highway A-1-A. This is a very busy street known for multiple traffic crashes. There is a traffic
light for vehicles to stop for pedestrians crossing the roadway on the crosswalk. Eleven year old Anthony
Reznik had a green light to cross the road and began to make his way across the lanes of traffic in the marked
crosswalk. There were 3 lanes of traffic that he needed to cross to get to the other side of the road. Cars were
stopped for the first 2 of the lanes of the roadway. However, in the third lane, there were no cars stopped for the
red light. As Toussaint approached the stop bar of that third lane, she failed to stop. When she went through the
red light, the vehicle she was driving struck Anthony. Anthony was rushed to the hospital; however, his life
could not be saved. He died after being on life support for about 2 weeks.

After the crash, Toussaint stopped her car and remained at the scene. She cooperated with the
investigation and provided a recorded interview to the police. In that interview, she stated that the traffic light
was green for her, which is clearly inaccurate. The police did not detect any signs of impairment so there was
no legal basis to compel her to provide a sample of blood or urine for toxicology testing. Further, the police
investigation indicated that she was not driving at an excessively high rate of speed at the time of the collision.
When the collision occurred, it was dusk but not dark. No evidence was found to prove that she consciously
disregarded the traffic control device.

The Miami-Dade Police Department Traffic Homicide Unit was called to handle this fatal crash
investigation. The investigators took photographs and crash measurements, conducted witness interviews,
reconstructed the collision, and reviewed video surveillance footage of the crash. After factoring all the
evidence gathered in this case, it was their opinion, as well as mine, that there is insufficient evidence to charge
Toussaint with any felony offenses in conjunction with this crash. There was no evidence that she was driving
under the influence of drugs/alcohol, and she did not flee the scene. Consequently, she could not be charged
with DUI Manslaughter or Leaving the Scene of a Deadly Crash.

Moreover, the charge of Vehicular Homicide could not be sustained in this matter, either. In order to
prove the crime of Vehicular Homicide, the State would have to prove that Toussaint was driving recklessly.
The distinction between reckless driving (the basis for criminal vehicular homicide charges) and careless driving
(which cannot be the basis of a criminal offense but can result in the issuance of traffic tickets) has been
addressed in a multitude of cases with similar tragic outcomes. For example, in the case of Luzardo v. State,
147 So.3d 1083 (Fla. 3d D.C.A. 2014), the court noted that “By definition, the crime of vehicular homicide
requires proof of the elements of reckless driving… Reckless driving, in turn, is defined as driving ‘in willful or
wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property…’” The court goes on to note that “willful” means
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“intentional, knowing and purposeful” conduct and that “wanton” means “with a conscious and intentional
indifference to consequences and with the knowledge that damage is likely to be done to persons or property.”
Another case, Damoah v. State, 189 So.3d 316 (Fla. 4th D.C.A. 2016), noted that “The law differentiates
between negligent driving conduct, which exposes a wrongdoer to civil liability, and criminal driving conduct,
which subjects a person to incarceration and other criminal sanctions. Case law strictly construes criminal
driving statutes to prevent the net of the criminal law from sweeping so broadly that it snares all conduct, both
criminal and negligent.” The Damoah court went on to note that “Consistent with this view, the Florida
Supreme Court has held “statutes criminalizing simple negligence to be unconstitutional.” The case of Berube
v. State, 6 So.3d 624 (Fla. 5th D.C.A. 2008) found that “What is missing from the State’s proof is evidence that
Berube, in an intentional, knowing and purposeful manner, made an improper left turn with a conscious and
intentional indifference to consequences and with knowledge that damage is likely to be done to persons or
property.” In other words, even when an innocent person is killed in a traffic crash, the law recognizes that
accidents can happen, and people should not go to jail or prison for mere mistakes. Unless the at-fault driver
can be shown to have taken deliberate action knowing that it was likely that death or serious injury would likely
result, the charge of Vehicular Homicide cannot be proven.

In the absence of showing that Toussaint was impaired by drugs or alcohol, or that she was driving at an
excessive rate of speed, or racing another car, or was driving with a “conscious indifference” to the safety of
other persons or property, Florida law makes it clear that her negligence in failing to stop for the red light cannot
form the basis of a criminal offense. Anthony’s parents have understandably expressed a great deal of
frustration that the woman who is at fault for their son’s death will not face criminal charges. They point to the
fact that she has a terrible driving history in support of their wishes for her to be criminally charged. However,
her past conduct cannot form the basis of a Vehicular Homicide charge, as the rules of evidence would not allow
this information to be admissible at trial. They have also expressed dismay that Toussaint’s license had not been
revoked as a result of her prior traffic tickets. However, that is beyond the purview of what the State Attorney’s
Office can do, since it is up to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Drivers License Bureau
to manage the suspension and reinstatement of drivers’ licenses.

I met with Anthony’s family and their attorney on several occasions to discuss the charging decision in
this case and to explain why no felony charges can be filed. Sergeant Armendariz, one of the supervisors of the
Miami-Dade Police Department’s Traffic Homicide Unit, was also present for one of the meetings and voiced
his agreement that no felony charges can be filed in this case. The family members also emailed many questions
to the traffic homicide investigators and to me about this case, and their emails and questions were answered to
the best of my ability. They requested a meeting with the State Attorney, and on August 23, 2021, the family
and their attorney met with Ms. Rundle and me via Zoom. Ms. Rundle expressed her condolences to the family,
but advised that she concurred with the assessment of the Miami-Dade Police Department Traffic Homicide
investigators and myself – that despite the tragic outcome of this collision, there was insufficient evidence to
charge Toussaint with Vehicular Homicide. The family indicated that they were hoping to pass some legislation
to keep incidents like this from happening in the future.

The lead detective in this case indicated that he intends to cite Toussaint for her actions that led to
Anthony’s death. Citations for traffic infractions such as running a red light are prosecuted by the State
Attorney’s Office when those violations result in a death. The State Attorney’s Office handles “fatality
infractions” like this – even though criminal charges are not viable – in light of the tragic nature of these cases,
and to try to provide as much support for the next-of-kin as possible. These cases do subject the at-fault driver
to more punishment than a non-fatal infraction, and can result in fines, points on a driver’s license, a
requirement to complete traffic safety classes, a suspension of the driver’s license and performance of
community service hours. Once the citation(s) are issued for Toussaint, our County Court division and traffic
homicide counselors will continue to work with the Reznik family and their lawyers.