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Linking PTSD to DUI: Drunk-Driving Victim A Casualty of War?


Marine Captain Scott Sciple is facing charged of DUI manslaughter after driving the wrong way down a Florida interstate in April of last year and crashing head-on into another driver. Sciple's blood-alcohol content was three times the legal limit. The crash killed the other driver.

Sciple has pleaded not guilty to the DUI manslaughter charges. It is expected that he will offer an insanity defense at trial. In Texas, if you drink and drive and cause the death of another person, you can be charged with intoxication manslaughter. This is a felony-level offense and can result in up to 20 years in a Texas prison, along with license suspension and steep fines.

An Insanity Defense Based on PTSD

Sciple, originally from Alabama, had just moved to a new duty-station in Tampa after completing four military tours of Iraq and Afghanistan with the United States Marines. He earned three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star along the way.

Insanity Defense in Houston

He is currently being held in a psychiatric ward, awaiting trial. His injuries and experiences as a Marine, claim his defense, left him with untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and caused him to go into a dissociative state the night of the accused intoxication manslaughter. Sciple believed he was in Afghanistan, still fighting the war.

The PTSD had caused other irregular behaviors in Sciple also. He once left his home in San Diego to purchase sunglasses, but ended up in Mexico. He was taking prescription medication to treat depression and anxiety as well, both common indicators of PTSD. Had Sciple's wartime injuries been properly diagnosed and treated, the fatal drunk-driving accident may have been avoided altogether.

The Marine Corps appears to be accepting at least part of the blame for the Marine's actions. In an 860-page report related to Sciple's drunk-driving accident, stating that he should never have been sent to Tampa; he was both mentally incapacitated from his wartime experiences and was unable to make good decisions.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Marine claims brain trauma led to fatal DUI crash," 23 September 2011

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