DUI Manslaughter Lawyer in Lakeland, Florida (FL)
Florida DUI Manslaughter Laws, Penalties & Defenses
Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal in all 50 states. A driver who is caught behind the wheel with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher would face penalties even if that individual did not cause any harm or damage. When a person is driving under the influence and is involved in a car accident that leads to the death of another human being, then that driver will face DUI Manslaughter charges. Florida law defines the crime of DUI Manslaughter in Florida Statute Section 316.193(1). A person commits a DUI Manslaughter when he or she causes or contributes to another human being's death, including that of an unborn "quick" child while driving under the influence. The definition of an unborn “quick” child is found in Statute Section 782.071, which states that the law is referring to a viable fetus.
Florida state law categorizes DUI Manslaughter as a second-degree felony, and any person convicted of this crime will face a prison sentence of somewhere between four and fifteen years.
Florida DUI Facts and Statistics
DUI related injuries and deaths have declined in recent years throughout the country and in Florida specifically. In 2017, the number of deaths caused in the state by drivers who were under the influence of alcohol dropped to 350 as compared to 417 the previous year. Educational efforts and rideshare companies have gotten some of the credit for the lowering number of DUI-related fatalities.
The largest number of drivers involved in fatal DUI accidents were between the ages of 25 and 29 years old. For these young individuals, the consequences of one bad mistake can follow them throughout their lives. Many DUI Manslaughter cases involve a person who has never been involved in criminal activity and who never thought they would get into a car after a few drinks and cause a fatal crash. These drivers are often devastated by the occurrence even before taking into account the legal consequences.
Of course, DUI Manslaughter cases are highly emotionally charged. The victims’ families often feel incredible anger towards the person who caused the loss of their loved one. As such, the State’s Attorneys and legal system are under pressure from the victim’s family, and sometimes society in general, to punish the driver to the maximum extent available under the law. The result is that individuals who may have made one horrible mistake, and possibly had a bit of bad luck, too, will end up fighting harsh charges, prison sentences, fines, probation, the loss of their driver’s license, and stigma that will last for years to come. It is vital that those accused of DUI Manslaughter or any felony DUI find experienced attorneys who can ensure that they are treated fairly and have the best opportunity to return to and rebuild their lives.
Manslaughter DUI Defense Attorneys in Lakeland, Florida (FL)
DUI Manslaughter is considered a serious crime that is punished under the law with harsh penalties. Anyone who is charged with committing a DUI Manslaughter should immediately contact an experienced Lakeland criminal defense attorney to make certain that their rights are protected and that any potential defenses to the charges are identified and developed. The seasoned attorneys at Musca Law can work with you to develop a strong defense strategy based on the facts specific to your case.
These cases are often complicated and emotionally challenging. Part of the evidence that is typically used to prove these cases are tests such as blood samples, which are sent to a lab, and breathalyzer tests that are performed at the police station. All of these tests and the evidence collected must be done cautiously and in compliance with strict rules and regulations. Your attorney can ensure that nothing was done inappropriately and work to have any evidence that was improperly gained excluded so that it cannot be used against you.
Medical Records and Subpoena’s: What the State Must Show to when they want your Records
Medical records are private and protected, and even law enforcement officers do not have the right to force a person to hand over such records. However, in some instances, the StateState will have the ability to obtain those records because the person in question is suspected of committing a crime. In these cases, the State's Attorney's Office must issue a subpoena duces tecum to acquire records. The first indication the accused person will have that this process has begun will be either a HIPAA 15-day letter for Blood Alcohol Content or a Notice of Issuance of an Investigating Subpoena for Medical Records.
The StateState faces a steep burden when it is trying to overcome a person's right to privacy. The prosecutors will have to overcome these burdens and comply with the accused’s due process rights when conducting an evidentiary hearing.
It is crucial that anyone who receives notice that the StateState is seeking their records contact an attorney immediately. Without a legal advocate, any violations made by the StateState will likely be overlooked, leading to the accused losing their chance to defend against the charges effectively.
At Musca Law, our attorneys handle all types of DUI defense, whether the individual caused property damage, injuries, or was involved in a fatal accident.
Consequences of a DUI Manslaughter Conviction in Florida
DUI Manslaughter is categorized as a second-degree felony in Florida, and a Level 8 Offense pursuant to the State's Criminal Punishment Code. The maximum sentence faced by a person accused of DUI Manslaughter is up to fifteen years in prison.
Prison time is not the only penalty, though, and anyone convicted of this crime may also face:
- Fines of up to $10,000;
- Community service;
- Lengthy probation periods;
- Required alcohol abuse treatment;
- Mandatory DUI school;
- The impounding of their vehicle; and
- The permanent revocation of their driver’s license.
Lakeland Police can Force a Blood Test in Some Situations
Florida law mandates that if an impaired driver causes serious bodily injury or death of another person, then that driver is required to submit to a blood test. The law also gives police officers the right to acquire the test through the use of reasonable force when the test is necessary and performed pursuant to a valid warrant.
Before the police can force an individual to undergo a blood test, they must be able to show that:
- The person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash;
- That the person was in control of the vehicle when the accident occurred; and
- The use of the vehicle led to the serious bodily injury or death of another human being.
Vehicular Homicide Defense: How Your Attorney Can Protect You
When prosecuting a crime, the State’s Attorney must prove certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Unlike murder or voluntary manslaughter charges, when prosecuting vehicular homicide charges, there is no need to show that the defendant had any intent to harm or kill another person. The StateState only must show that the driver was operating a vehicle in such a way that serious bodily injury or death of another person was a likely outcome.
Prosecutors will carry out their own investigation into the case in order to support the vehicular manslaughter charges. The experienced attorneys at Musca Law understand that it is important to find a qualified expert witness, potentially including an accident reconstructionist, in order to effectively defend against the charges. Defending against serious charges means putting together the best possible defense strategy and team. Our attorneys work closely with experts in order to determine the best way to fight the charges in each individual case.
We frequently file motions to prevent improper evidence from being admitted against our client. We often file motions in limine to exclude evidence that is prejudicial from being used against our clients at trial, motions to suppress evidence, and motions to dismiss all charges against our client. We look at each piece of the prosecution’s case and fight it step by step.
Our representation includes the following:
- Photographing evidence and the vehicles involved in the collision;
- Taking photographs of the place the accident occurred, tire marks and other essential markings;
- Being there when the police interrogate our client and ensuring police respect our client’s rights;
- Collecting evidence such as medical records of anyone injured in the crash, or of anyone who died in the accident; and
- Obtaining statements of all witnesses to the accident.
Obtaining a Hardship Driver’s License
The consequences faced by a person convicted of DUI Manslaughter include a statutory minimum prison sentence of four years. The maximum sentence is up to fifteen years. Even after the completion of a prison sentence, a person convicted of DUI Manslaughter includes the mandatory loss of a driver's license, which may be temporary or permanent. Drivers who are not repeats offenders may have their licenses reinstated. A showing of hardship may be used to get a license reinstated for certain purposes. A hardship license will allow a person to drive to and from work, and for certain other specified purposes.
A hardship license for "business purposes" will let an individual drive for the purposes of work, education, church, and medical needs. A hardship license that is designated for "employment purposes" is more restrictive and permits an individual to drive only for necessary work-related purposes.
Felony DUI Charges in Lakeland, Florida (FL)
Felony DUI charges include DUI Manslaughter and other impaired driving-related charges, as well. While individuals charged with DUI's in Lakeland, Florida will face misdemeanors, the following offenses are considered felonies:
- DUI Manslaughter;
- A third DUI within ten years of any other DUI;
- A fourth DUI in a person’s lifetime;
- Any DUI in which the driver flees the scene, including those that cause only property damage, as well as ones causing bodily injury or death; and
- Any DUI that causes serious bodily injury to another.
Being convicted of a felony DUI carries serious consequences, and any charges should be handled with the utmost seriousness. It is imperative to hire an attorney who has the experience necessary to fight the charges aggressively.
Penalties for Drivers with Three DUI’s in Ten Years
When a person is convicted of three DUIs in ten years, then he or she will face Felony DUI charges punishable by:
- Fines anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000;
- Minimum prison time of thirty days;
- A maximum sentence of five years in prison;
- Required installation of an ignition interlock device in their vehicle for two years following the reinstatement of their license;
- The revocation of their driver's license for at least ten years (with the possibility of acquiring a hardship license; and
- Having their vehicle impounded for ninety days.
Consequences for DUI Involving Serious Bodily Injury in Lakeland, Florida (FL)
When a driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs is the cause of a collision that severely injures another person, then the charges that driver will face under Florida Statute Section 316.193(3) include a prison sentence of up to five years. It does not matter if this was the individual’s first DUI offense. The court must also revoke the driver’s license for at least three years.
DUI Manslaughter Sentencing in Florida
Florida Statute 316.193(1) and (3)(c)(3) categorizes DUI Manslaughter as a second-degree felony. The law states that a person convicted of this crime will face:
- A fine of up to $10,000;
- At least 124.5 months in prison;
- A maximum of fifteen years in prison; and
- The permanent loss of their driver’s license.
Fleeing the Scene of a DUI Accident in Lakeland, Florida (FL)
Hit-an-run accidents are crashes in which a driver involved leaves the scene rather than reporting the accident and staying to provide assistance and to take part in the investigation. Fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime. When a person flees the scene of an accident that they cause while driving under the influence, the consequences vary based on the type of damage caused.
If the accident causes a non-serious injury or injuries to other individuals involved, then the crime is a third-degree felony. Anyone convicted under these circumstances will face at most five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
If another person sustained severe injuries in the accident, then the driver who was under the influence and fled the scene will face a felony in the second-degree and a maximum prison term of fifteen years and a fine of $10,000.
In the most serious cases, when the accident causes the death of another individual, the crime becomes a first-degree felony with a prison sentence of up to thirty years and a $10,000 fine.
Defenses Available in Felony DUI Cases in Florida
There are many possible defenses to felony DUI charges, but which ones will apply depend on the facts of each individual case. Some possible defenses for felony DUI charges, including DUI Manslaughter are as follows:
- Inaccurate Field Sobriety Test: When an officer investigates a DUI, they often ask the suspected driver to exit the vehicle in order to perform a field sobriety test. If the test is administered after a person was just involved in a crash, then the results might be skewed because the driver was in shock or injured in the crash.
- Improper or Involuntary Blood Test: Police must have a person’s permission or a valid warrant in order to take a blood sample. In the event that the police forced a non-consensual blood test without a proper warrant, the results may not be admissible.
- Improper breathalyzer: Breathalyzer tests can be inaccurate. There are strict requirements for the maintenance and calibration of these machines, and for the administration of these tests. If police cannot show that they met all requirements, the test results may be put into question and excluded. Additionally, when an airbag deploys in a crash, this can impact a breathalyzer reading, causing it to indicate a higher blood alcohol level. These test results can also be invalidated.
- Intervening cause: If the defendant, while driving under the influence, did not cause the accident that led to injury or death, then this can be used to defend against the manslaughter or felony DUI charges, though the driver may still be convicted of a DUI.
- Wheel witness: If the police did not see and cannot show that the person was driving at the time of the accident, and the driver denies he or she was operating the vehicle, this can be used to defend against felony DUI charges.
- Physical Control: The defendant can challenge the charges by stating that he or she was not the person operating the vehicle at the time of the accident.
- Crash Report Privilege: An individual’s statements made in the course of an accident investigation may be privileged. If a person says something in the course of the investigation, that statement may not be entered into evidence in a criminal or civil trial. Additionally, the police accident report cannot be entered into evidence. If the accident report has incriminating evidence, a defense attorney can make sure it is excluded from evidence.
- Causation: If the case against the defendant cannot prove that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the injuries or death, then the prosecutor’s case fails.
- BAC was within Legal Limit: If the driver’s BAC was not over the legal limit, then he or she may raise this as a defense to the charges.
- Miranda warnings: The police are required to read a person their Miranda warnings at the time of their arrest. Anything the defendant said prior to the Miranda warnings being read can be excluded as evidence.
Lakeland, Florida DUI Manslaughter FAQs
Clients often ask our attorneys the following questions:
Will my DUI be a misdemeanor or a felony?
DUI charges might be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case. Felony charges will result when a DUI person is convicted of their third DUI in ten years or a fourth DUI within their lifetime. If a driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs causes an accident that leads to another person being severely injured or killed, then he or she will be charged with a felony and not a misdemeanor, even if it is a first-time offense.
What are the differences between DUI with property damage, DUI with non-serious injury, and DUI with serious injury or death?
When a DUI-related accident causes non-serious injuries and property damage, the charges will be considered a first-degree misdemeanor. If the person has previous DUI's, the charges might be upgraded to a felony.
In cases where a person suffers serious injuries in the crash, the driver will be charged with a third-degree felony.
If someone is killed in the accident, including an unborn “quick” child, the crime becomes a second-degree felony.
Do I have to remain in jail after a DUI arrest?
A person who is arrested for DUI will have to remain in jail for a period of time. Before the individual is released, he or she must no longer be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, must have a BAC or lower than .05 percent, or must have been in jail for a period of at least eight hours following the original arrest.
If I am convicted, can I spend my prison term in a treatment facility for alcoholism?
In some cases, a court may order a person to serve some or all of their sentence at a residential drug or alcohol addiction treatment facility.
Contact Our Skilled DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorney in Lakeland to Fight Your Felony DUI Charges
The experienced DUI Manslaughter attorneys at Musca Law have been working to defend individuals in Lakeland, Florida, for decades. Call us today at 888-484-5057 to schedule a confidential, free case evaluation.