TAMPA: Davis Island Teen to Plead Guilty to Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Death

Jordan Valdez, the Davis Island teenager who was charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Death, is expected to plead guilty and be sentenced on November 24th. For those unfamiliar with this case, Valdez, who was 16-years-old at the time, was involved in a fatal crash on February 8th, killing a homeless woman as she crossed Hyde Park Avenue near the Davis Island bridge. The victim, Melissa Sjostrom, 33, died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.

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In what has become both a newsworthy and controversial case in the Tampa Bay area, Valdez has been charged (as an adult) with a First Degree Felony which carries up to a maximum of thirty (30) years in prison. However, authorities with the Hillsborough County State Attorneys Office have already indicated that they will not be seeking prison time or a conviction. For the complete story, please read today’s St. Pete Times article.

It only takes a quick look at the 256 online “comments” that follow a previous St. Pete Times article, that was published on May 19, 2009, to get the feeling that this case has upset many in the Tampa Bay community. Initially, Valdez was cited for Careless Driving, a non-criminal traffic infraction that is usually punishable by a small fine. Adding further insult to injury, that Careless Driving citation was dismissed in a Tampa traffic court (without anyone from Sjostrom’s family present — despite a written request from the family to continue the matter so the family could travel down from Kentucky) by Hillsborough County Court Judge Joelle Ober.

After the St. Pete Times went public with the story, and following the public backlash that the story created, the Tampa Police Department “re-opened” and “re-investigated” the case. And, after doing a much more thorough job the second time around, the Tampa Police Department finally built a solid case for prosecutors to bring to Court. Eventually, Valdez was arrested and charged as an adult with Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Death.

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As this case clearly shows, Florida law treats many Juveniles involved in serious traffic cases as if they were an adult. While serving as a prosecutor in the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office, I was one of a select few prosecutors in that Office that handled all of the DUI Manslaughter and other traffic-related fatality cases. The logic behind prosecuting juvenile traffic offenders as adults has always been the same: If you choose to engage in an adult activity (i.e., driving a motor vehicle and/or drinking alcohol before your 21st birthday), then the eyes of the law will treat you as an adult.

After serving the citizens of Pinellas and Pasco counties for almost six years, Attorney Nicholas J. Dorsten, Esq. founded the Blake & Dorsten, P.A., which is based in Clearwater, Florida. The Blake & Dorsten, P.A. was built on the same principles that led to the many successes that you can read about in the PRESSROOM on the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. website.

We bring to the table the unique combination of prosecutorial / trial experience combined with a proactive, aggressive approach to defending criminal and/or traffic-related matters.

If your criminal and/or traffic case requires immediate attention, as well as an aggressive and experienced (yet affordable) defense, the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. will be there for you. 365/24/7. Please review criminal attorney Nicholas J. Dorsten’s training and experience in these matters and read what many of his previous clients have had to say about the level of professionalism and hard-work that the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. has brought to their case.

To speak directly with criminal defense Attorney Nicholas J. Dorsten, Esq., please call the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. at 727.286.6141.

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