DUI Manslaughter Melbourne, Florida
Defending Against DUI Manslaughter Charges in Florida
Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol is criminalized in all 50 states. If a person is arrested for the operation of an automobile with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher, he or she will face serious criminal charges. When a person operates a vehicle while intoxicated and causes the death of another person - known as DUI manslaughter - the consequences imposed pursuant to Florida law are extremely harsh.
In Florida, DUI manslaughter is defined in Florida Statute Section 316.193(3)(c)(3). Specifically, if a person causes the death of another human being or unborn child (pursuant to Florida Statute Section 782.071) while he or she is operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the resulting charges will be for DUI manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony in Florida.
In Florida, DUI manslaughter cases are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law due to the emotional nature of these types of cases.
Those Facing DUI Manslaughter Charges in Brevard County Need Experienced Legal Counsel
The skilled and experienced lawyers at Musca Law represent clients in the Melbourne area and all over the state of Florida. If you have been charged with DUI manslaughter in Melbourne, it is critical that you act immediately to obtain a seasoned criminal defense attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and options as well as help you to develop the strongest defense possible in your case.
When an individual is the suspect of a DUI manslaughter case, police will most likely seek to obtain the accused’s blood sample and his or her medical records. The medical aspects of DUI manslaughter cases are one of the main reasons why defending against these cases is extremely challenging and complex. It is vital to understand that the repercussions of a DUI manslaughter conviction are immense and can impact an individual’s life for years to come, even after his or her prison sentence has been served.
If you are facing charges for DUI Manslaughter in Melbourne, Florida, contact our offices at 1-888-484-5057. At Musca Law, we have someone ready to speak with you any time, 24/7. When you call us, one of our experienced Florida criminal defense attorneys will advise you of your legal rights and options.
Your HIPAA Privacy Rights and Subpoenas for Medical Records
If you are charged with DUI manslaughter, the State’s Attorney may send you a HIPAA 15-day letter to obtain copies of your BAC results should a blood test have been performed.
You may also be sent a Notice of Investigating Subpoena for Medical Records. If you receive such a notice or a HIPAA 15-day letter, it is important that you understand the implications as well as your legal rights and options. Medical records are protected information, and as such, the prosecution must overcome a significant burden to infringe upon one’s privacy rights. Specifically, due process rights are meant to protect every person accused of DUI manslaughter.
If you have been accused of DUI manslaughter, the attorneys at Musca Law can help. Our attorneys will assist you in navigating the criminal process as well as work tirelessly to ensure that your due process rights are fully protected. We represent clients facing charges in all types of DUI cases, including those that resulted in serious bodily injury or death.
Sentencing and Penalties in Melbourne DUI Manslaughter Cases
The maximum prison sentence for a person convicted of DUI manslaughter is fifteen years. This crime is categorized as a Level 8 offense and a second-degree felony under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. In addition to a potential fifteen-year prison sentence, a person can face a minimum term of imprisonment of four years. While the prosecution can waive the mandatory sentence in certain cases, it is subject to their discretion, and the presiding judge may still opt to issue a sentence of four years or more in prison.
In addition to jail time, a person convicted of DUI manslaughter may also face additional repercussions such as:
- Community service;
- A monetary fine of up to $10,000
- DUI classes
- The permanent suspension of one’s driver’s license;
- Vehicle impoundment; and/or
- Mandatory drug or alcohol abuse treatment.
Elements Prosecutors Must Prove to Obtain a Blood Sample from the Accused in DUI Manslaughter Cases
In Florida, certain elements must be proven before law enforcement can seek a blood sample from a person accused of DUI manslaughter. These include the following:
- The person was in actual physical control of or driving the subject vehicle;
- The person was impaired by alcohol or drugs; and
- The car the person was driving or in actual physical control of the subject vehicle that resulted in the death of another individual.
Hiring Experts and Building a Case in Melbourne
The attorneys at Musca Law are adept at building a strong defense case, which is critical because the prosecution will have the benefit of law enforcement officers to conduct a full investigation of the accident and resulting death. Fortunately, the defense can carry out their own investigation into the series of events and utilize their findings to challenge the prosecution’s evidence.
Our Melbourne criminal defense lawyers will examine all aspects of your case, and during the process, they will pursue various motions to prevent prejudicial or improper evidence from being used against our clients at trial.
During the criminal proceeding, we will be right by your side each step of the way, which means that we will be present during police questioning, seek witnesses and their statements, obtain the decedent’s medical records, and collect evidence such as photographs of the accident in order to better understand the case and launch a strong defense to the charges.
Types of DUI Charges
The majority of DUIs are charged as misdemeanors. However, there is a particular set of circumstances that cause the charges to be upgraded to a felony. In the following situations, the prosecutor can seek felony charges against the accused:
- DUI resulting in death or serious injuries and the driver leaves the scene of the accident;
- Three DUI convictions within a ten-year period;
- Four or more DUIs in one’s lifetime’ and
- DUI resulting in serious injuries or death.
Penalties for Felony DUIs
When a person gets a third DUI within a ten-year period, the crime can be charged as a third-degree felony. The punishment associated with a third-degree felony conviction is a prison sentence of at least 30 days and a maximum sentence of five years. The individual can also be forced to pay a monetary fine between $2,000 and $5,000. He or she may also have his or her vehicle impounded for a minimum of 90 days, and may also lose his or her driving privileges for ten years. There is the possibility of having one’s driver’s license reinstated after two years if the offender can establish the burden of showing that they have a significant hardship associated with the inability to drive.
If an individual is convicted of four DUI convictions in one’s lifetime, this constitutes a third-degree felony, which carries with it the consequences listed above. However, the only difference is that the individual may permanently lose his or her driving privileges. There is a possibility of reinstatement after five years due to a showing of hardship.
If a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causes injuries or death to another individual, he or she may face second-degree felony charges. A person who is convicted of DUI manslaughter may face a prison sentence of four to fifteen years. The driver will also lose his or her driving privileges on a permanent basis and face monetary fines of up to $10,000.
Hit-and-Runs and DUIs in Melbourne
In some instances, a person who is involved in a vehicular crash may panic and leave the scene of an accident. This often occurs when a person is attempting to evade police due to being impaired by drugs or alcohol. If the driver who flees the scene causes minor injuries, he or she can face a third-degree felony charge (the consequences of which are discussed above).
If an individual leaves the scene of an accident after causing serious bodily injury, the individual will likely face second-degree felony charges (the consequence of which are discussed above).
Should an individual flee the scene of an accident involving death, he or she will likely face first-degree felony charges, which carry with it a prison term of up to 30 years and a $10,000 fine.
Obtaining a Conditional Driver’s License After a Melbourne DUI
When an individual has his or her driver’s license revoked, this can have serious consequences in his or her life for years to come, well after his or her prison term has ended. Not being able to drive can affect one’s ability to obtain gainful employment, as well as other repercussions.
Florida laws enables individuals who had their driving privileges revoked to obtain a hardship license under certain circumstances. This license is associated with various restrictions however, it can greatly improve one’s ability to move on with his or her life.
In order to obtain a hardship license, the individual must not have been placed under arrest for drug-related crimes for at least five years, must not have operated a vehicle with a suspended license for at least five years, must have not used drugs or alcohol for at least five years, and must have attended DUI classes and substance abuse treatment.
The license does impose certain restrictions on one’s driving privileges, however, it will enable the individual to at least drive to and from work, and possibly use his or her vehicle for religious or medical purposes.
A seasoned Melbourne DUI attorney can advise you as to whether you will be eligible to seek a hardship license. If we determine that you are a good candidate for a hardship license, we will help you through the process so that you can start to rebuild your life.
Building a Defense in a Melbourne DUI Manslaughter Case
If you are facing DUI manslaughter charges in Melbourne, there are certain defenses that may be available. What defense applies depends upon the facts and circumstances of one’s case. The defenses may include the following:
A dispute of the facts
The prosecution must establish that a defendant was in actual physical control of his or her vehicle, was impaired by alcohol or drugs, and caused an individual to die in an accident. In this case, the defense can assert that the individual was not driving while impaired or was not driving at the time of the accident. The accused can also argue that there was another factor that caused the individual to perish in the crash. These defenses all attack the factual allegations of the prosecutor’s case.
There is also the possibility of raising a wheel witness defense, which seeks to deny that the accused was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident, and that no one saw him or her operating his or her vehicle when the accident occurred. If the accused does not admit to driving, this may be a potential defense.
Faulty or Improper Collection of Evidence
Police are required to follow certain rules when gathering evidence against an accused. If an officer violates these rules, the evidence obtained can be excluded from being used against the accused. When conducting an investigation, law enforcement may request that a blood sample be obtained from the accused. However, if the individual’s blood was taken without consent or pursuant to a warrant, the results may not be raised against the defendant.
In some cases, a person can undergo a field sobriety test which police use to determine if someone is visibly impaired. When an individual is injured in an accident or disabled, this could lead to misleading results. It is also critical that law enforcement be trained and properly execute a field sobriety test. If not, the test can be excluded as improper.
A breathalyzer test must also be properly performed. If law enforcement or the testing lab cannot demonstrate that their equipment was properly calibrated and maintained, then the test results may be invalidated or excluded.
Also, when airbags are deployed in a crash, chemicals in the airbags are released in order to allow the devices to rapidly inflate. If the breathalyzer test was performed close to where the airbags deployed, then the defense can assert that the results of the test be excluded.
Privilege and Miranda Rights
Some statements that an accused makes may be excluded in one’s case. When reporting an accident, individuals have a privilege given that it is important for law enforcement to speak with them to learn more about the accident and to respond accordingly. Therefore, statements made by an accused during accident reporting cannot be used against him or her in a court of law.
When law enforcement places a person under arrest, the officer must read to them their Miranda rights, which informs them that they have the right to remain silent and to have an attorney. If a person states something before their Miranda rights were read to them, then these statements can be excluded during his or her criminal proceeding.
Moreover, if an accused requests an attorney, he or she must be able to speak with him or her. Police cannot prevent the accused from consulting with an attorney and continue to question him or her.
Frequently Asked Questions about DUI manslaughter in Melbourne
If you are facing charges for DUI Manslaughter, you likely have questions. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions that people ask us during their initial case evaluation:
I was charged with a DUI, is this a misdemeanor or felony?
A: Many DUI cases are misdemeanor offenses however, it depends upon the specific set of facts and circumstances in one’s case. If a person receives their first DUI and they did not cause any damage, he or she will face a misdemeanor charge. However, if an individual causes another person to sustain serious injuries or death, then he or she will likely face felony charges. In some cases, if an individual causes damage, bodily harm, or death to an individual and flees the scene of the accident, then he or she will likely be charged with a felony.
Can I go to an alcoholism treatment program instead of serving a prison sentence?
A: In certain cases, an offender may be able to serve all or part of his or her prison sentence in a substance abuse treatment program. The time you spend in the program will be credited towards the time served in prison. It is critical that you speak with an attorney to learn more about whether this is a viable option in your case.
If I am arrested for DUI, how long will I have to remain in jail?
A: Police cannot release a person who was arrested for driving under the influence until that person is sober or no longer found to be under the influence, has a BAC under .05 percent, or was arrested at least eight hours ago.
If you are facing DUI Manslaughter Charges, act now and contact Musca Law!
Our experienced Melbourne criminal defense attorneys are ready to fight to protect your rights. Contact us at 888-484-5057 to arrange a confidential free consultation with one of our seasoned lawyers.