DUI Manslaughter Lawyers in Clearwater, Florida (FL)
Any case involving driving under the influence in Clearwater can result in serious penalties because of the strict punishments the state of Florida places on these crimes. When someone who is driving under the influence causes a fatal vehicle accident in Clearwater, the potential criminal consequences are more severe. In these cases, the accused will be charged with a crime called DUI manslaughter. DUI manslaughter is considered a second-degree felony in Florida, so it is extremely important to consult with an experienced attorney if you are facing these charges.
Experienced DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorneys in Pinellas County
If you are or someone you love is facing DUI manslaughter charges in Clearwater, contact Musca Law today to seek the guidance of a knowledgeable DUI manslaughter defense lawyer. These cases can quickly become complicated, and it takes a skilled attorney to build the right defense. Musca Law has the experience necessary to defend accused persons against these charges, and we work hard to ensure our clients receive the best possible outcomes in their cases.
Musca Law offers free and confidential consultations, and we are available to make evening and weekend appointments. Contact our offices today to schedule your consultation with one of our dedicated attorneys by calling (888) 484-5057.
Clearwater DUI Manslaughter Penalties
DUI manslaughter cases in Clearwater and across Florida are generally charged as second-degree felonies. A conviction for this level of felony can lead to serious penalties, which can include time in prison up to 15 years. Further penalties for a DUI manslaughter conviction can include any of the following:
- Permanent loss of driver’s license (revocation of driver’s license)
- Payment of a fine up to $10,000
- Vehicle impoundment
- Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on vehicle
- Long-term probation
- Community service requirements
- Required counseling for drug or alcohol abuse
- Required education on substance abuse
The penalties imposed by a judge are not where the effects of a DUI manslaughter conviction end. This type of conviction — and even the filing of charges — can cause long-term strife for the accused and their families. It can be extremely difficult to find employment and housing following a felony conviction, and families feel the effects of lost income during a prison sentence. A compassionate and experienced attorney, like those at Musca Law, can help you avoid the potentially devastating consequences of a DUI manslaughter conviction.
State Laws on Blood Testing in DUI Manslaughter Cases
Florida Statute § 316.1933 requires blood testing on any person who is believed to have caused an accident while driving under the influence that led to serious bodily injury or the death of another person. The statute says that a law enforcement officer under these circumstances “shall” facilitate the test, and the officer can use force to require the person suspected of driving under the influence to submit to the test. The blood test will be used to gauge the level of alcohol in the driver’s system or the type and level of drugs in the driver’s system.
Administration of the test is not automatic under § 316.1933. Rather, a set of circumstances needs to be present in order for the test requirement to be triggered. These circumstances include all of the following under Florida law:
- The officer responding to the scene has probable cause for believing that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- The person believed by the officer to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol was driving a vehicle or was in “actual physical control” of a vehicle at the time of the accident;
- The vehicle driven by or under the control of this person caused the death of another person or caused serious bodily injury to another person.
When these circumstances are present, the law enforcement officer must require a blood test in accordance with the wording of § 316.1933. The officer, however, cannot draw the blood or test the blood. The blood draw and test has to be performed by an authorized person under the statute, which includes health professionals and technicians, like doctors, nurses, and lab workers. The statute also indicates that if a medical facility draws blood for purposes of medical treatment, that test might be admissible against the person suspected to have been driving under the influence, even if a law enforcement officer did not request the test.
There are multiple ways that a blood test can be refuted. The required circumstances might not have been present, or the test might have been conducted in an unreliable fashion. Your Clearwater DUI manslaughter defense lawyer will explain the laws in the state surrounding blood tests and will determine if any options might be available to exclude the results of a test administered in your case.
Medical Records Order in Clearwater DUI Manslaughter Cases
During the course of a DUI manslaughter case in Clearwater, the state will request or subpoena copies of your records from any medical treatment you received following the relevant vehicle accident. The prosecution will also want the results of any blood tests administered after the accident. These efforts will assist in the state’s endeavor to establish that you were legally under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident.
As part of this records-request process, you might be asked to fill out a HIPAA medical authorization that gives the medical facility that treated you permission to provide your records to the state. It is important to know that you have the right to medical privacy because of laws at the state and federal level. The state is entitled to obtain certain records, but it is not entitled to everything in your medical file. Your Clearwater DUI manslaughter lawyer will work to ensure that you only release what is necessary and that the prosecution does not gain access to irrelevant confidential records that violate your privacy rights.
Defenses to a DUI Manslaughter Case in Clearwater
Your Clearwater DUI manslaughter defense attorney will determine what defenses are available to you based on the facts and circumstances of your case. Defenses typically used during the course of a DUI manslaughter case in Clearwater can include the following:
- The blood test administered on the accused was performed inappropriately or is unreliable in some way.
- The accused was not driving the vehicle involved in the accident or was not in actual physical control of the vehicle.
- The accused was not legally intoxicated at the time of the accident.
- The vehicle accident was not the cause of the death in the case.
- The accused did not receive a Miranda warning before making statements to authorities.
- The state has not met its burden of proof in the case.
Your attorney might use several of these defenses in your case or might use a completely different defense. The individual strategies used in your case will be dictated by the facts of the case and other circumstances present in the case. When you hire skilled representation, like those at Musca Law, your lawyer will review your case in full and uncover every possible way that the charges can be refuted. Contact our office to set up a free case consultation and learn more about potential DUI manslaughter defenses in Clearwater.
Disputing a Blood Test in a Clearwater DUI Manslaughter Case
The blood test performed on an accused person is critical in a DUI manslaughter case. For this reason, your lawyer will likely immediately investigate whether the test results in your case can be excluded or can be challenged on some basis. Some of the ways that the lawyers at Musca Law work to throw out blood test results or refute them in court include:
- The chain of custody over the blood sample was not properly preserved, making the sample susceptible to errors and contamination.
- The sample was contaminated at some point during the testing or preservation process.
- The blood draw or test was not performed by a person duly authorized or licensed to do so under Florida law.
- The officer at the scene did not have probable cause to believe that:
- The accused was driving or was in actual physical control of the vehicle;
- The accused was under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- The accused’s vehicle caused the accident.
If one or more of these circumstances is present, the blood test results in your case might be inadmissible.
Driving and Actual Physical Control Considerations in Clearwater DUI Manslaughter Cases
One of the ways any DUI case might be defended in Clearwater is by arguing that the accused was not driving the vehicle or was not in actual physical control of the vehicle at the time of the accident. Not only is this element required for the crux of the prosecution’s case, but it is also required for administration of a blood test. Perhaps the accused was a passenger in the vehicle, or there is a case of mistaken identity, and the accused was not involved at all.
The concept of actual physical control can be more difficult to understand. If the law enforcement officer did not see you driving, no witnesses saw you driving, and you did not admit to driving at the scene of the accident, the state might need to prove that you were instead in actual physical control of the vehicle. This generally means that you were recently driving the vehicle or you were in a position to drive the vehicle.
In a DUI manslaughter case, actual physical control might become an issue if the accused stopped the vehicle and fell asleep, after which a fatal accident involving another vehicle occurred. These cases require a thorough analysis of the facts, including the condition of the vehicle, the placement of the vehicle keys, and the actions of the accused. Your lawyer will help you understand if the issue of actual physical control could be in dispute in your case.
Revocation of Driver’s License Following DUI Manslaughter Conviction in Clearwater
It is likely that someone who is convicted of DUI manslaughter in Clearwater will lose his or her driver’s license. The revocation order could be temporary or permanent, depending on the situations involved in the case, including whether the person has previously been convicted for driving under the influence. Driving privileges can sometimes be restored after a DUI manslaughter conviction, usually after five years’ time has passed, provided the person has no prior DUI convictions.
A person might also be able to seek restored driving privileges because of hardship. This matter will be considered in a hearing, during which a judge will decide if the person has met the requirements for a hardship license. This hearing must be requested within a certain window of time. A hardship license might then be granted in order for the person to drive to work and/or school.
Reinstatement of licenses and restoration of driving privileges are not easy achievements in Florida, as the state wants to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. It is important to hire a knowledgeable attorney, like those at Musca Law, to ensure you have the best chances of receiving renewed driving privileges. Contact our offices today to talk to a lawyer about license reinstatement if you have been charged with DUI manslaughter in Clearwater.
Building a Defense in a Clearwater DUI Manslaughter Case
In a manslaughter case in Florida, as opposed to a homicide case, the state does not have to prove that you intended to cause the accident or acted with any kind of intent in regard to the accident. The prosecution in a DUI manslaughter case will seek to prove that you were under the influence, you were driving the vehicle or were in actual physical control of the vehicle, you caused the accident, and the accident caused someone’s death.
The state will perform a full investigation and procure witness testimony in order to establish the elements of the manslaughter case. You have to do the same work to be able to fight the charges and argue that the prosecution has not proved its case. You will need to conduct your own investigation, talk with witnesses, and potentially hire experts. To accomplish this, you need a lawyer who has the experience and resources to carry out all these tasks.
Musca Law has decades of experience handling DUI manslaughter cases, and our attorneys understand the steps required to build the best defense. We perform comprehensive investigations and provide a personalized approach to every case. Not all cases are the same, and your case deserves a defense that matches your individual circumstances.
In each case, we will quickly take some critical actions to prepare our client’s defense. These actions will include:
- Advising you and protecting your rights during police interrogations or interviews.
- Gathering your medical records from treatment following the accident.
- Gathering the medical records of the person who died in the accident.
- Obtaining the police report created from the accident.
- Obtaining photos or videos taken at the scene of the accident.
- Taking additional photos of the scene.
- Tracking down witnesses to the accident and preserving their statements.
We work tirelessly to fight the charges against our clients. To ensure that your rights are protected and important evidence in your case is preserved, contact Musca Law today.
Other Felony Charges for DUI Incidents in Florida
Aside from DUI manslaughter, a person might be charged with a felony in Florida for other types of DUI-related incidents or accidents. Many DUI cases will result in misdemeanor charges, but the facts of every case will dictate the charges that the state files. Some situations in which a DUI might result in felony charges are:
- DUI-related accident that leads to serious bodily injury
- DUI-related accident involving injury in which the driver left the scene
- Three DUI convictions with the third conviction taking place within 10 years of another DUI conviction
- Four DUI convictions in a lifetime
It is important that you hire a lawyer as soon as possible when you have been charged with any DUI-related crime. The facts of the case and your criminal history can influence the nature of the charges against you, and you need an experienced advocate on your side to ensure that you have not been overcharged based on your background and to defend your liberties. Contact our offices today to arrange a case consultation with one of our lawyers to discuss your charges and the possible defenses available to you.
Contact Musca Law to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Clearwater DUI Manslaughter Defense Lawyer
Contact Musca Law today if you have been charged with DUI manslaughter in Clearwater. Our firm offers free, confidential consultations with our Clearwater criminal defense attorneys, and we will investigate your case to help you understand your options. Our lawyers have a combined 150 years of experience in criminal defense, and we understand the potential consequences of a conviction. We have the legal knowledge and skills to deliver the quality defense you deserve.
Our attorneys schedule weekend and evening appointments, and our office is available now to take your call. You can reach Musca Law to schedule your case consultation today by calling (888) 484-5057.