DUI Manslaughter Defense Lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale is a desirable destination for residents, visitors, and tourists, sitting just north of Miami. Florida is not known for having nearly as many driving under the influence (DUI) arrests than most other states. According to an article published by patch.com, information obtained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Transportation, and FBI crime reports, reveals that Florida ranked forty-sixth (46th) nationally for drunken driving rates in 2018, which equates to approximately 151 DUI-related arrests for every 100,000 people.
While Florida generally does not have as many DUI-related arrests as most other states, many individuals in Fort Lauderdale and throughout the rest of the state face severe DUI charges that could land them in jail for decades, especially when a DUI-related accident results in the death of another person. When a person suspected of driving under the influence is involved in an accident that causes the death of another person, the suspect will likely face DUI manslaughter charges.
Fort Lauderdale prosecutors will diligently and aggressively prosecute DUI manslaughter cases, and anyone facing such criminal charges needs to have an equally diligent and aggressive (but measured) defense attorney on his or her side. Facing any serious criminal charge in Fort Lauderdale is undoubtedly an emotionally draining and stressful experience that creates feelings of fear and uncertainty.
Because Fort Lauderdale DUI manslaughter charges are serious felonies, convicted individuals face many years in prison along with monetary fines, probation, the loss of a driver’s license, and a permanent record as a convicted felon accused of causing an accident that killed another person. A person’s livelihood is on the line when facing Fort Lauderdale DUI manslaughter charges. As such, only a qualified Fort Lauderdale DUI Manslaughter Defense Lawyer should represent a client who is facing these charges in court.
As with any criminal matter, a defendant’s constitutional rights are always on the line. No matter what stage in a criminal proceeding, if a defendant’s constitutional rights are violated, such conduct can change the course of the proceeding, potentially resulting in the dismissal of criminal charges.
The Fort Lauderdale DUI Manslaughter Defense Lawyers of Musca Law – How We Can Help You
If you or a loved one is facing Fort Lauderdale DUI manslaughter charges, it is critical to retain an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Without the representation of an attorney, many defendants unknowingly or unwittingly provide information to law enforcement officials without realizing such information may be used against them later on. While many attorneys may have excellent trial skills in other areas of the law (such as personal injury), when dealing with a serious felony like DUI manslaughter, it is best to work with an attorney who only handles criminal matters.
The Fort Lauderdale DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorneys of Musca Law possess the necessary skills, resources, diligence, reputation, and track record of success to provide clients with the confidence they need in an attorney and law firm. Our attorneys thoroughly evaluate every client’s case to develop a unique defense that can overcome the prosecution’s allegations. To find out how Musca Law can help you, contact our office today 24/7 by calling (888) 484-5057.
Understanding DUI Manslaughter Under Florida Law
Any crime that results in the death of another person – whether intentional or accidental – is devastating for the victim and the victim’s family and friends. DUI manslaughter cases are particularly difficult, as the accused defendant did not possess the intent to end another person’s life, but rather the death happened as a result of a DUI-related traffic accident. To achieve a conviction, Fort Lauderdale prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and even one shred of doubt in any juror’s mind could mean acquittal.
Per Florida Statute §316.193(3)(c)(3), Fort Lauderdale prosecutors must prove the following in a DUI manslaughter case:
- At the time of the DUI-related accident, the defendant was operating and/or had control of the vehicle involved in the accident;
- The defendant’s conduct “resulted in the death of another person or unborn child who could have lived if born (known as a quick child”);
- Because of the consumption of alcohol and/or drugs, the defendant’s normal faculties were impaired, resulting in the DUI-related accident and subsequent death of another person; and
- If alcohol was at issue, the defendant’s blood-alcohol concentration was equal to or greater than .08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or by .08 grams of alcohol per every 210 liters of breath.
To achieve a conviction, Fort Lauderdale prosecutors must prove each element of the crime has been satisfied. If the jury believes the prosecution failed to prove just one element of the crime, then this means that a jury should reach a verdict of “not guilty.” In many cases, however, juries may reach a verdict that is not supported by facts. Therefore, the skill of a defendant’s attorney is essential to ensure all possible defenses to the crimes are properly raised and presented in court for a jury to understand fully. Jury confusion can be a contributing factor to a defendant being wrongfully convicted.
The consequences of facing a Fort Lauderdale DUI manslaughter conviction are far-reaching. Time in state prison, the enforcement of tens of thousands of dollars in fines, and a permanent criminal record will forever change a person’s life. As such, the defendant’s attorney must have the right tools and specialized knowledge, including knowledge of how Fort Lauderdale prosecutors are likely to present a case.
Additionally, more experienced attorneys typically have a good relationship with prosecutors and judges. Hiring an attorney who is aggressive in his or her defense of a client’s rights, but who also is respectful and professional in the process, will help achieve a favorable result that is fair given the facts of the case.
Criminal Penalties for DUI Manslaughter in Broward County, Florida
Because the criminal charge of DUI manslaughter involves the death of an individual, conviction of this crime will always result in jail time. The length of the jail sentence will be dependent on the totality of the circumstances concerning a particular case. A judge has the discretion to determine what sentence is fair for a defendant who has just been convicted of DUI manslaughter as allowable under Florida law.
DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony under Florida law. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum of fifteen years in jail, as well as the imposition of a fine not to exceed $10,000. If the facts presented by a Fort Lauderdale prosecutor are compelling, and the defendant is expecting to spend some time in jail, the goal will be to reduce that time as much as possible. All prosecutors and judges are different, and not all criminal defense attorneys may share the same strategies for fighting a DUI manslaughter charge. The sentence a defendant receives will be dependent on (1) the facts of the case and evidence supporting the case, (2) the Fort Lauderdale prosecutor who brought charges of DUI manslaughter, (3) the judge assigned to the case, and (4) the expertise of the attorney representing the defendant.
A Limitation on Judicial Discretion When Facing a Fort Lauderdale DUI Manslaughter Charge
Pursuant to the Florida Criminal Punishment Code (specifically, Statute §921.002), the minimum amount of jail time a judge can sentence a defendant convicted of DUI manslaughter is four (4) years. Because jail time is a certainty for conviction of a DUI manslaughter charge, a defendant will have to fight to the fullest extent possible to either avoid jail time entirely through the dismissal of criminal charges or acquittal at trial or to achieve the least severe punishment possible of four years in jail.
The Consequences of a Fort Lauderdale DUI Manslaughter Conviction Go Beyond Jail Time
Probation and Other Court-Mandated Penalties After Release from Prison
In addition to jail time and fines, convicted individuals will face long-term probation, which is intended not only to supervise the individual’s behavior after completion of a jail sentence but also to rehabilitate the individual and promote sobriety. Proper integration into society following a jail sentence is also important. While probation allows individuals to be free from a jail cell, their lives will be controlled by law enforcement officials, at least for a certain timeframe. One violation of the terms of a probation agreement may result in a convicted individual being immediately sent back to jail.
Judges impose the same general standard terms of probation in most DUI manslaughter cases, but judges also have the discretion to impose specific terms that may fit a particular individual’s case. For example, if the convicted individual had a history of repeat DUI offenses, a judge may impose a longer period of drug and alcohol counseling than the standard timeframe. Aside from abiding by all laws and attending drug and alcohol counseling, a convicted individual should expect to complete a certain number of hours of community service, submit to random drug and alcohol testing, and wear an electronic monitoring device.
Harm to Reputation and Loss of Some Constitutional Rights – Being a Convicted Felon
Criminal convictions stay on a person’s record unless a substantial reason exists to expunge or seal a criminal file. As such, individuals who have served jail time for a Fort Lauderdale DUI manslaughter conviction will go on with life branded as a felon. Being a felon not only is harmful to one’s reputation, but being a felon makes it difficult to get a job, attend school, find a place to live, or apply for credit. Moreover, convicted felons cannot possess firearms, a cherished constitutional right for non-felons. In the past, convicted felons did not have the right to vote in Florida. However, this past January, Florida citizens overwhelmingly voted to approve Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to felons who have served their time.
Specific Harm to Immigrants Convicted of DUI Manslaughter in Fort Lauderdale
Florida is home to a diverse population, with many immigrants coming to Florida from all over the world. Being an immigrant, with our without permanent residency status or citizenship status, can make any criminal matter much more serious. Depending on where a person faces criminal charges, law enforcement authorities may notify immigration officials. Visa-holders may be forced to depart the United States immediately with little ground to fight on.
For those who have lawful permanent resident status (green cards), the consequences of a DUI manslaughter conviction could be detrimental to becoming a U.S. citizen. Also, an immigration judge may determine that even someone with a green card should be forced to depart the country. And even if an immigrant has become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, if the person is subsequently convicted of DUI manslaughter, he or she may be at risk of losing citizenship and/or being deported. Additionally, criminal charges alone – without conviction – could lead to immigration officials taking action.
The Loss of Driving Privileges and the “Hardship” Driver’s License in Florida
A Fort Lauderdale DUI manslaughter conviction will result in the permanent revocation of the convicted individual’s Florida driver’s license without the ability to gain driving privileges in the future, except in limited circumstances. A way in which a convicted person can seek reinstatement of his/her driver’s license is to seek a “Hardship” license by meeting a series of requirements. While there is no guarantee a person will be allowed to drive again lawfully, many people can obtain a Hardship license if they meet the following conditions:
- Upon application for a Hardship license, the convicted person has not driven for at least five years;
- The convicted person has remained sober from the time of release from jail to the time of applying for the Hardship license;
- The convicted person has not been arrested or charged with any drug or alcohol-related crimes from the time of release from jail to the time of application for the Hardship license;
- The convicted person has not driven with a revoked driver’s license;
- The convicted person’s vehicle has an ignition interlock device which has been installed for at least two years before applying for a Hardship license; and
- The convicted person completed Florida’s DUI education program, has been randomly drug and alcohol tested and has agreed to be supervised by the DUI program for the entire duration of the Hardship license.
A Hardship license will be immediately revoked if the convicted person violates just one condition of the terms of the Hardship license period.
Defending a Fort Lauderdale DUI Manslaughter Case – The Importance of Preserving Evidence
With a Fort Lauderdale DUI manslaughter case, any evidence that supports a defendant’s case will be critical to overcoming the criminal charges. A prosecution with a one-sided case will make it difficult for any defendant to walk free. Preserving evidence following a DUI accident is essential to the successful defense of a DUI manslaughter case. While the general facts of DUI accidents are similar in that the driver was allegedly under the influence of alcohol at the time he or she was involved in a traffic accident, each accident will have a few unique facts that could be immensely helpful to the defendant.
Fort Lauderdale prosecutors will rely on blood-alcohol test results, photographs of the accident scene, testimony from witnesses, and documentation of the victim’s fatal injuries to prove a defendant is guilty of DUI manslaughter. However, such evidence is not always lawfully obtained, and test results are not always accurate. As such, a defendant needs to preserve or obtain any evidence that shows he or she was not driving under the influence at the time of the accident (such as witness testimony indicating the accused person had not been drinking that night).
The Fort Lauderdale DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorneys of Musca Law immediately seek to preserve all evidence concerning a DUI manslaughter charge. Law enforcement officials are quick to clean up accident scenes, so it is imperative that our attorneys can reach the accident scene to document all available evidence before the evidence is gone. Using your own photographs can help to ensure you are not relying on photographs produced by law enforcement officials who may have left some evidence out.
Musca Law knows what to expect from Fort Lauderdale police officers, detectives, prosecutors, and all other law enforcement officials involved in a DUI manslaughter proceeding. There are no surprises with the Fort Lauderdale DUI Manslaughter Defense Lawyers of Musca Law. Our collective experience allows us to fully protect clients’ rights at every step of the criminal proceeding. While no attorney can guarantee criminal charges will be dismissed or that a jury will return a verdict of “not guilty,” Musca Law can assure prospective clients that our attorneys have a track record of helping clients find the best possible result given the facts of the case. That result may be the dismissal of charges, or it may be the minimum sentence available under the law.
Contact the Fort Lauderdale DUI Manslaughter Defense Lawyers of Musca Law Today
Facing a Fort Lauderdale DUI manslaughter charge is not only frightening but also stressful, as the future is uncertain. You do not need to fight serious felony charges alone. Chose a Fort Lauderdale Defense Attorney who has been there before to defend others like you in court against a strong prosecution. At Musca Law, our legal team is ready to fight for you 24/7. Contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057.