Driver Who Killed Biker In Car Crash Won't Face Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

Categories: Bike Blog, Crime
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Luka Balenovic
Also read: Driver With Suspended License Who Killed Biker In Crash Hasn't Been Charged Yet

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office has concluded its investigation into the traffic accident that claimed the life of Luka Balenovic on August 6, and for the family and friends of Balenovic, the results are upsetting. Gerardo Valdivia, the driver of the car that hit Balenovic's motorcycle, will be charged with a failure to yield the right of way and driving with a suspended license -- but not vehicular manslaughter.

"How this man is not being charged with some form of vehicular manslaughter is baffling," wrote Derek Malpass, a friend of Balenovic's, in an email to Riptide. "The courts have failed us all miserably, and it is so disgraceful to [Luka's] memory that his killer is being treated with such a meager slap on the wrist."

Though Balenovic's friends had been looking for a stiffer penalty for Valdivia, Ed Griffith, spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, told us Balenovic's death alone wasn't enough to garner a criminal charge.

"Motor vehicle crimes need to have wanton or willful disregard for the safety of others," Griffith says. "What happened here doesn't meet those legal standards."

Griffith told Riptide that, in order to qualify as a crime and not a traffic infraction, Valdivia had to have been acting in a way that put other drivers in danger. If he had been speeding or drunk behind the wheel, for example, more severe charges would have been filed. Griffith said that the SAO's investigation determined that Valdivia had not been driving at an excessive speed, and the incident report stated that Valdivia was not under the influence of any substance.

Although it is a crime to drive with a suspended license, first- or second-time offenses are usually considered misdemeanors. Valdivia's May charge was his first and only DWLS charge. The reason for the suspension also impacts whether driving with a suspended license is a misdemeanor or a felony. According to Griffith, Valdivia's license was initially suspended because he failed to show up for a court appearance in June, and not for any particular moving violation.

Investigators also determined, thanks to footage from a red-light camera nearby and from the incident report, that Valdivia had the green light when he made a left turn on NW 47th Avenue from NW Seventh Street, clipping the back of Balenovic's motorcycle as he did so.

Failure to yield when turning with a green light and facing the opposing vehicle is a moving violation that carries a punishment of three points on a license and a $60 fine.

Balenovic's friends aren't convinced that the punishment will have any impact.

"If the city or the courts would have done their job and served Valdivia with his outstanding warrants, he would have never been on the road," Malpass wrote. "His blatant disregard for the law is obvious, and who is to say that he isn't capable of doing this again?"

Riptide tried to reach Valdivia at his home for comment but he didn't answer. His mother Celia had previously spoken to us, saying that the crash was an accident but declining to say much more.

Though Valdivia will escape felony charges in Balenovic's death, Malpass states that he and Luka's friends will continue to fight for justice. Jeff Liddle, who rode alongside Balenovic, put it bluntly.

"A life was taken through negligent behavior, and this shall not be looked upon lightly," he wrote to Riptide.

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13 comments
jamesmichaelhardy
jamesmichaelhardy

This is a shame. The Court that let this go unpunished should be ashamed of itself. I hope an MRO or the AMA stand up to this kind of behavior. Some one has to.

56samba
56samba

Clearly in Florida you can get away with Murder. This is terrible, it just shows anyone with a suspended licence that you might as well ignore the law, because you can kill somebody and they STILL don't care. In Britain you would be facing a long time in prison for this crime. I feel for the family of the innocent man who lost his life. 

TonupBoyz
TonupBoyz

My condolences to the family of Luka Balenovic for the loss. Sadly, in the state of Florida, killing a biker usually ends up with the guilty party having to pay a mere $63 dollar fine. ABATE of Florida, Inc. is the nations 4th largest MRO (motorcycle rights organization) and the largest and most active MRO in the state of Florida. ABATE's more than 8,000 members  represent the nearly 1 million registered motorcyclists of Florida. We promote motorcycle safety awareness, encourage continuing rider training and political awareness. We fund our work through motorcycle related activities. We are your neighbors and friends, who work, pay taxes, serve our country and vote. We believe in freedom. We use all legal means to protect our rights without infringing on the rights of others. Please help us fight for our rights, safety, and freedom of the road. Join your local ABATE Chapter today.  Ride safe. Eric Thompson, West Coast Chapter ABATE of Florida, Inc. Legislative Trustee. 

SteelerGirl
SteelerGirl

Do the rest of the world a favor and lock the loser up!

jason.autrey
jason.autrey

If they are claiming they cant charge him with the death of Luka due to dwsl only being a misdemeanor since this is only the 2nd time he has been charged with it then why cant they charge him with misdemeanor manslaughter. Misdemeanor manslaughter is when a person commits a misdemeanor that is in place to protect the public. His license was suspended to protect others on the road, he violated that and knowingly and willfully got behind the wheel, failed to yield and hit Luka in turn killing him. That is misdemeanor manslaughter. Charge him!!!

ironbutt
ironbutt

Because a motorcyclists'life is not as valuable as a criminals'

jason.autrey
jason.autrey

If this guy isn't responsible for Luka's death then who is? Luka was riding his bike going straight doing the speed limit when this guy driving with a suspended license, who doesn't yield Luka's right of way and hits and kills him. And that doesn't make him at fault for Lukas death? So you're telling me that if this guy obeyed the law, Luka would have crashed? No! He would still be here and still loving life! This is an atrocity to Luka's memory and a complete injustice to him and all of his family and us friends. This is not the end of this. We will continue to fight for justice for Luka. He would do the same for any one of us.

derek.malpass
derek.malpass

"Griffith told Riptide that, in order to qualify as a crime and not a traffic infraction, Valdivia had to have been acting in a way that put other drivers in danger. " 

 

HOW IS FAILING TO YIELD RIGHT OF WAY TO A MOTORCYCLIST NOT ACTING IN A WAY THAT PUT OTHERS IN DANGER?! He's dead for Christ's sake. Had he survived with injuries would this be different?!

Palangana
Palangana topcommenter

What the hell is the point of leaving a comment on a story that just says "@MiamiNewTimes"?

Palangana
Palangana topcommenter

He was probably texting.

holland.travis
holland.travis

 @derek.malpass more importantly, how is driving without a valid license not acting in a way that puts others in danger. You pass drivers ed because you prove that you arent a danger on the road. You lose you license because, through tickets DUI or whatever else, you prove that you are a danger to others. 

 

By this logic, driving drunk is only a moving violation, and not a danger to others. If Luka had been in a car, this wouldn't be a question.

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