DUI Manslaughter Key West, Florida
Defending Against DUI Manslaughter Charges in Florida
Driving under the influence, or DUI, is a crime that several individuals have committed, even if they were not apprehended by police. It is critical to understand that Florida has a zero tolerance policy for those who choose to drink and drive and cause deadly accidents, which is charged as DUI manslaughter. Law enforcement in Key West, as well as the prosecution who represents the interests of the state, aggressively pursue DUI manslaughter cases. In fact, they often fight to implement the most severe punishment allowable by law, which includes jail time for an extensive period of time, steep monetary fines, the permanent revocation of one’s driver’s license, and other serious consequences. Furthermore, judges in Key West typically side with the prosecution, as they take DUI charges very seriously. Meaning, that judges are likely to accept the prosecution’s recommendations for sentencing.
Under Florida law, DUI manslaughter constitutes a second-degree felony, which carries with it a prison term between four and fifteen years. Note that the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that (a) the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at or above the legal limit of 0.08%, and (b) caused the death of an individual or a fetus mature enough to survive outside of the womb (known as a quick child under Florida Statutes Section 782.971). Despite the prosecution’s burden, prosecutors in Key West often prevail in DUI manslaughter convictions with the help of law enforcement given the fact that the above elements of DUI manslaughter are not difficult to prove.
Skilled Key West DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorneys
In Key West, DUI manslaughter charges are very serious. This is why you should work with the skilled DUI manslaughter defense attorneys at Musca Law. Musca Law’s seasoned Florida DUI defense lawyers will fight tirelessly to safeguard your legal rights and interests during each stage of the criminal proceeding. Our attorneys strive to minimize the potential repercussions of a DUI manslaughter charge in Key West, Florida, which could negatively affect your life on a permanent basis. Call Musca Law anytime day or night toll-free at (888) 484-5057 to discuss your rights and options with our Key West DUI manslaughter defense attorneys.
Critical Issues in Key West DUI Manslaughter Cases
A significant issue that arises at the beginning of a DUI manslaughter investigation in Key West is whether the alleged offender must provide medical records to law enforcement as well as the prosecution. Under Florida law, a judge can issue an order for the accused’s medical records directed at the facility where he or she received medical treatment after the accident. These records often include highly incriminating evidence such as the accused’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC), statements made to those who treated him or her, and the medical personnel’s observations of his or her behavior during treatment.
Notwithstanding, the prosecution in Key West faces a major procedural hurdle before they are able to obtain the alleged offender’s medical records. Specifically, a prosecutor must issue to the accused a HIPAA letter or obtain a subpoena deuces tecum for his or her medical records. The issuance of the letter triggers certain rights on the part of the accused, including the right to have a lawyer present at the evidentiary hearing where the judge determines whether the medical records should be surrendered to the prosecution. A timely and well-argued objection to the prosecutor’s motion could prevent the government from collecting critical information about you and substantially hinder their case.
DUI Manslaughter Penalties in Monroe County
Pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 316.193, DUI manslaughter, as noted above, is a second-degree felony, the punishment of which includes a jail sentence of up to fifteen years and no less than four years. When determining a proper punishment, the presiding judge must adhere to the sentencing guidelines under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code.
Under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, DUI manslaughter constitutes a Level 8 offense. Specifically, the Florida Legislature ranks offenses according to their severity. Meaning, a Level 1 offense is the least serious and the most serious is a Level 10 offense.
DUI manslaughter, as a Level 8 offense, is associated with the following criminal penalties:
- Prison time for up to fifteen years. However, a Level 8 offense may mean that the offender is sent to prison for 124.5 months;
- A maximum of fifteen years of probation;
- Monetary fines not to exceed $10,000;
- Community service; and
- The permanent loss of one’s driving privileges, subject to a hardship exception.
Qualifications for Obtaining a Hardship License After a DUI Manslaughter Conviction in Key West
No person who is convicted of DUI manslaughter in Key West is automatically able to drive once again. However, Florida law does allow an offender to seek a “hardship license,” which can be obtained only after certain requirements have been fulfilled. An individual convicted of DUI manslaughter can seek a hardship license after five years following the original revocation. To obtain a hardship license, the offender must demonstrate the following:
- There have been no drug-related arrests for the five year period preceding the hardship license application;
- The offender has installed an ignition interlock device for a two-year period;
- There have been no arrests for driving with a license that has been revoked during the preceding five years;
- The offender has not taken drugs or consumed alcohol for five years prior to the application; and
- The offender has completed a DUI course and remains under the supervision of the DUI program.
Fighting Against DUI Manslaughter Charges in Key West: Preservation of Evidence
A viable defense begins with the preservation of valuable evidence. Law enforcement, as well as the prosecution, cannot destroy or withhold potentially exculpatory evidence. Notwithstanding, they are not required to search for exculpatory evidence either. Accordingly, the development of a strong defense begins with a comprehensive investigation to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.
The highly seasoned Key West DUI manslaughter defense attorneys with Musca Law cannot stress enough the value of being involved in a DUI manslaughter case from the very beginning. Musca Law’s skilled and experienced Key West DUI defense lawyers retain experts in order to examine the evidence. Said experts become an invaluable part of the defense team, as they highlight the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and provide the jury with a comprehensive view of all of the evidence. Without a balanced view of the evidence, the case against the accused would seem to be insurmountable, and a so called “slam dunk” for the prosecution.
Retaining experts is only a part of a multi-pronged defense strategy. When representing those accused of DUI manslaughter, Musca Law’s Key West DUI manslaughter defense lawyers leave no stone unturned as they pursue all avenues of defense and mitigation. Accordingly, the lawyers at Musca Law aggressively challenge all of the evidence brought forth by the prosecution, as well as:
- Be present at all law enforcement interrogations;
- Obtain the medical records of all those who died or sustained injuries in the DUI-related crash;
- Take photographs of the scene as well as all vehicles involved in the accident;
- Conduct interviews of all witnesses of the accident;
- Engage in a search for surveillance footage that was not preserved by law enforcement.
Pre-Trial Motion Practice in Key West
Musca Law’s Key West DUI manslaughter defense attorneys understand the critical nature of strategic motion practice. Pre-trial motion practice has a focus on the actions of police and whether these actions violated the constitutional rights of the accused. Such a focus can make a significant difference for the accused.
Law enforcement is susceptible to erring in certain circumstances. Consequently, Florida criminal procedural law allows individuals charged with DUI manslaughter to review law enforcement’s actions to determine whether they were constitutional.
Motions to dismiss and suppress, as drafted by a seasoned Key West DUI manslaughter defense attorney, could successfully attack the prosecution’s case if the judge rules that law enforcement violated the alleged offender’s right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures, the right to remain silent, and the right to have an attorney. Any violation of these rights could result in the suppression of damning evidence. Meaning, the prosecution will be unable to use the evidence against the defendant in their case.
The following are some of the ways in which a motion to suppress could affect the outcome of an alleged offender’s trial:
- Seizing bodily evidence such as blood without probable cause could result in the blood results being rendered inadmissible;
- Suppressing any statements that the alleged offender made without being read his or her Miranda rights; or
- Stopping the alleged offender without cause allows the judge to suppress evidence obtained from and following the illegal stop.
Filing a motion in limine is another method of challenging the prosecution’s evidence to ensure that the accused receives a fair trial. A motion in limine does not necessarily attack the evidence pursuant to an alleged constitutional violation. Rather, these motions, heard before the trial commences, assist in shaping the evidence that is presented to the jury so that they are not prejudicial or unfair to the accused.
Trial Defenses in Key West DUI Manslaughter Cases
The defenses available depend upon the facts and circumstances of each DUI manslaughter case. A strong defense does not involve only one defense strategy in most cases. Specifically, a defense strategy that is aimed at attacking every weakness in the prosecutor’s case is known as the “reasonable doubt defense.” In other words, the defense attempts to contradict the prosecution’s evidence to prevent them from convincing the jury that the alleged offender is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
There are a number of different defenses that may be available, which are as follows:
- Attacking the results of a blood test as well as the methods employed by investigators who obtained the alleged offender’s blood;
- Moving to exclude statements that were provided in the accident report that center upon how the accident happened. These statements are not admissible in Florida as a result of the Accident Report Privilege.
- Challenging the field sobriety test results. Law enforcement as well as the prosecution consider these tests to be essential in determining the level of an accused’s impairment. However, these exercises may not be appropriate for everyone. Specifically, the suspect’s failure of field sobriety exercises can be explained by the circumstances of the case such as the chaos of the scene, shock, disability, or an injury.
- The breathalyzer test results can also be challenged. According to studies, breathalyzer results are often higher, and therefore, unreliable, once a vehicle’s airbags have deployed. Therefore, the suspect’s BAC may be higher and not accurately reflect his or her actual level.
- The BAC level may also be challenged, even if the airbags did not deploy. For instance, if the accused’s BAC was not at or above 0.08%, a DUI manslaughter defense attorney can raise this is a viable defense.
- Chemical tests can also be attacked at trial. If law enforcement failed to follow the proper procedures or missed a step in the chain of custody, this could cause the chemical tests results to be deemed inadmissible due to a lack of reliability.
- The defense team can also challenge causation. The prosecution must establish that the alleged offender’s actions directly caused the deadly accident. Hence, the alleged offender could argue that the other driver committed a traffic infraction that caused his or her death. In this case the accused would not be deemed guilty of DUI manslaughter. The presentation of evidence of what is referred to as an intervening cause serves to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.
- The missing element defense can also be raised. The prosecution must prove that the defendant had control over the vehicle during the deadly crash. However, if no one witnessed the driver exit his or her vehicle, the prosecution is then missing a “wheel witness.” In essence, the defense can assert that there was another person who had control over the accused’s vehicle at the time of the crash.
Frequently Asked Questions in Key West DUI Manslaughter Cases
At Musca Law, we strongly urge our clients to pursue a proactive approach with his or her defense team. Specifically, we provide our clients with a comprehensive and thorough approach to their cases. Essentially, we want our clients to have a full understanding of the evidence that is being used against them as well as the repercussions of a DUI manslaughter conviction. We also desire for them to be aware of what the prosecution needs to prove to a jury that the alleged offender is guilty of DUI manslaughter. As such, we work hand-in-hand with our clients as we develop a strong defense strategy on their behalf.
When individuals meet with us during their initial case consultation, they often have a significant number of questions. While each DUI manslaughter case is unique, many people ask the same questions, which are as follows:
- Can the prosecutor offer a plea deal?
Yes. Our skilled Key West DUI manslaughter defense lawyers pursue all avenues of defense, from seeking a verdict of not guilty to the negotiation of a fair punishment for our clients. Whether the prosecution decides to offer a plea deal depends upon a number of different factors. The accused does not have to accept the plea deal, as he or she has the right to claim innocence during the pendency of his or her case.
- How much time will I have to serve if I am convicted of DUI Manslaughter?
If a person is convicted of DUI manslaughter in Key West, the maximum prison sentence is fifteen years. As noted above, the sentencing guidelines call for a prison sentence of approximately ten years. It is also important to know that the judge could provide you with credit for not having a prior record, being conciliatory, and/or taking full responsibility for your behavior. A person who pursues residential alcohol or drug treatment can seek a reduction of his or her prison sentence for the time spent in the treatment program.
- When can I get a bond after a DUI Manslaughter arrest in Key West?
There is an eight-hour waiting period before being released from jail on bond unless the BAC drops to below 0.05%, or the suspect is no longer exhibiting signs of being under the influence of narcotics.
The Consequences Are Too Severe to Trust Any Other Law Firm
Contact the experienced Florida DUI manslaughter lawyers with Musca Law today by calling (888) 484-5057. Our Key West defense attorneys will provide a confidential case review at no cost to you or your family. Don’t wait; contact us now to learn more about your legal rights and options. We look forward to making a difference for you!