DUI Manslaughter Lawyer in Navarre, Florida
DUI Manslaughter Charges in Navarre, Florida
Driving is stressful enough without adding alcohol or drugs to the mix. Even a couple of drinks can distort our capacity to process all of the information we need so that we can safely drive. A few drinks after work or at a backyard barbecue might seem innocent enough. However, drinking more than one drink per hour can elevate someone’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over Florida’s legal limit of 0.08%.
Although the legal limit seems like an arbitrary number, studies have shown that the ability to drive safely at that stage is compromised. A person might not feel intoxicated if their BAC is 0.08%, but research says that reaction time slows, decision making is impaired, and a person is prone to taking higher risks. Additionally, coordination and sensory perception diminish as well.
When a crash happens while a driver's BAC meets or exceeds the legal limit, and a person died in the crash, then the driver in Florida could face DUI Manslaughter charges.
DUI Manslaughter Charges in Navarre
DUI Manslaughter charges must be defended vigorously. Law enforcement officers and the state’s attorneys involved in the investigation and prosecution of a DUI Manslaughter case will deploy all of the resources necessary to convict the accused of the most serious charge possible. Most often, that charge is DUI Manslaughter.
Florida’s legislature considers DUI Manslaughter to be a very serious crime. Consequently, the legislature passed laws that severely punish the offender while trying to deter other drivers from driving after consuming alcohol or drugs. Florida’s DUI Manslaughter charge, found at Florida Statutes Section 316.193, establishes a minimum-mandatory four-year prison sentence for the conviction of DUI Manslaughter. Additionally, the legislature defined DUI Manslaughter as a second-degree felony that carries a maximum penalty not to exceed fifteen years in prison.
Sentencing judges in Florida have one additional consideration: sentencing guidelines under Florida’s Criminal Procedure Code. Florida’s Criminal Procedure Code sets forth the level of severity of a particular crime. The judge must factor in the severity of the crime, along with aggravating and potentially mitigating circumstances to arrive at an appropriate sentence for the specific person facing DUI Manslaughter charges.
Florida’s Criminal Procedure Code lists DUI Manslaughter as a Level 8 felony. Unless the sentencing judge departs downward from guidelines, the judge must sentence the person convicted of DUI Manslaughter to 124 ½ months in prison at a minimum. The judge could, in his or her discretion, sentence the defendant to serve all fifteen years; however, strict application of the sentencing guidelines would set the incarcerated portion of the sentence to almost ten and one-half years.
Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt in Navarre DUI Manslaughter Cases
The state always has the burden to prove the defendant guilty of all counts by a standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. The accused never has to present any evidence of innocence. Rather, the accused comes before the jury “cloaked and shrouded” by the presumption of innocence. The presumption may be removed only after the government sustains its heavy burden of proving each and every element of DUI Manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt.
Despite the lofty standard of proof constitutionally imposed on the government, the elements, or components, of the charge of DUI Manslaughter are not overly oppressive. To secure a conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The accused drove while alcohol (or drugs) impaired his or her ability to drive,
- Operated with a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The 0.08% BAC is commonly known as the “legal limit,” and
- Caused the death of another or otherwise contributed to the death of another.
The prosecution could authorize this charge if the victim of the collision is a “quick child,” or an unborn baby capable of living outside of the womb.
The government will endeavor to prove the charges by offering evidence from law enforcement officers who performed accident reconstruction, first responders who assisted at the scene of the crash, the medical examiner who performed a post-mortem examination of the deceased, percipient witnesses who might have observed the accused drinking before the crash, witnesses who observed the crash, and medical experts to give testimony concerning the accused’s level of intoxication.
Experienced Navarre DUI Manslaughter Defense Lawyers
Examining a Navarre DUI Manslaughter case from the perspective of the prosecution seems like the evidence is virtually certain to conclude in a conviction. Musca Law’s seasoned Navarre DUI Manslaughter defense attorneys know how to deconstruct the government’s case to show that the evidence is not all it appears to be.
Musca Law’s Navarre defense lawyers work passionately to protect their clients’ liberty and constitutionally-protected rights. They will develop a multi-tiered defense strategy aimed at avoiding criminal liability for the charges and reducing the potential sentences their clients face.
Call Musca Law’s Navarre DUI Manslaughter defense attorneys right away if you are under suspicion for DUI Manslaughter or have been charged with DUI Manslaughter in Navarre. Musca Law is staffed 24/7 to take your confidential call. Dial (888)484-5057 right now to speak with a Navarre DUI Manslaughter defense attorney from Musca Law.
Common Issues in Navarre DUI Manslaughter Cases
Florida law recognizes that evidence proving the level of intoxication against a DUI Manslaughter suspect is "evanescent" or disappears quickly. Accordingly, Florida law allows law enforcement officers to compel a person under suspicion by law enforcement to submit to a blood test. Law enforcement officers must follow the law before obtaining the suspect’s blood. Failing to follow the law will invalidate any reading that the investigators obtain.
Florida prosecutors could obtain the suspect's BAC another way. If the suspect was injured and required medical treatment, and the treating physicians ordered blood tests, then the ETOH, or ethyl alcohol reading will appear in the records. The records might also contain other valuable evidence that the prosecutors would want to have, such as statements made by doctors by the accused, signs of injury or absence of injury, as well as any notations concerning the suspect’s behavior.
The suspect’s medical records are valuable evidence. The prosecutor must abide by the procedures outlined in Florida law to obtain those medical records. At the outset, the suspect must receive a HIPAA letter from the government explaining that the prosecutor will ask the court to order the production of the medical records. Next, the court will schedule a hearing to determine if the court will order the production of the suspect's medical records.
The suspect has rights in this process. He or she enjoys the right to be represented by counsel and object to the disclosure of the medical records. Also, the accused has the right to contest the evidence offered by the state in an evidentiary hearing centering on the issue of whether the judge will order the production of the records.
The judge should not “rubber stamp” the state’s request. Articulate objections made by the defense could prevent the government from obtaining critical evidence about the suspect, which should diminish the strength of their case.
Possible Penalties for DUI Manslaughter Charges in Navarre
As discussed above, the penalties for a conviction of a DUI Manslaughter conviction are severe. The four-year statutory minimum period of incarceration requires the person convicted of the charge to serve four years day-for-day. However, the application of Florida’s Criminal Procedure Code almost triples the minimum sentence the judge could impose.
The person incarcerated for DUI Manslaughter may receive jail credit in jail while awaiting disposition of the case and for any time spent in an inpatient substance abuse recovery program. Additionally, the Florida Department of Corrections could grant “gain-time” toward early release for good behavior and program participation.
The sentencing judge can impose up to a fine of $10,000.00 and probation of up to fifteen years. Furthermore, the Department of Corrections will supervise people released from prison before the end-date of their sentence. Also, the judge could impose a community service requirement upon the convict as well.
Potential Collateral Consequences of a DUI Manslaughter Conviction in Navarre
One of the most substantial collateral consequences a person convicted of DUI Manslaughter in Navarre faces is the potential to be deported if the person is not a legal citizen. A person who is lawfully present in the country could have those privileges revoke and face removal from the U.S. because of a conviction for DUI Manslaughter.
A conviction for DUI Manslaughter in Navarre requires lifetime revocation of the person’s driving privileges. The person could apply for a hardship license after five years of revocation. The applicant must cross several hurdles and understand that receiving a hardship license is not guaranteed.
To qualify for a hardship license, the applicant must:
- Not driving arrests and no drug-related arrest for the five years preceding the application;
- Install an ignition interlock device in vehicles which the applicant might operate;
- Prove that he or she abstained from drugs and alcohol for the preceding five years; and
- Complete a DUI educational program. The applicant must remain under the supervision of the DUI program for the remainder of the revocation time. Additionally, the person must submit to alcohol and drug screening. Not taking or testing positive could force the DUI program administrators to revoke the hardship license.
Successfully Defending DUI Manslaughter Charges in Navarre
Musca Law’s Navarre DUI Manslaughter defense attorneys have the experience, knowledge, and skill necessary to defend a complicated case like DUI Manslaughter. They know that a defendant has a better chance of succeeding when the DUI Manslaughter suspect engages their counsel as soon as possible. Allowing Musca Law's savvy DUI Manslaughter defense lawyers to intervene and begin defending as soon as possible allows for the preservation of exculpatory or favorable evidence. Becoming engaged early in a DUI Manslaughter case helps counsel to work on exposing cracks in the government’s arguments.
Musca Law’s DUI Manslaughter defense attorneys can advocate for their client at all stages of the investigation and trial, including:
- Intervening with attempts by law enforcement to interview the accused;
- Getting copies of the victim’s medical records and personal history;
- Taking photos of the scene and vehicles shortly after the crash;
- Interviewing all witnesses and locating possible witnesses not interviewed by police;
- Preserving surveillance video that the police did not discover.
Pre-Trial Defense Strategies in Navarre DUI Manslaughter Cases
Pre-trial defenses are essential in every criminal case. The defense must scrutinize the evidence to determine whether the investigators violated the suspect’s rights. Proving that the government’s agents committed constitutional or statutory violations of the rights of the accused could convince a judge to exclude that evidence from trial. If that happens, then the government’s case is significantly less-compelling and might prevent the prosecution from sustaining the burden of proving the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In DUI Manslaughter cases, motion practice is particularly important. Musca Law’s Navarre DUI Manslaughter defense attorneys may file motions to suppress that could throw out evidence obtained by the police unlawfully. Some examples of motions to suppress are:
- Motions targeting the propriety of the police actions when taking the defendant’s blood samples;
- Motions to suppress the statements made by the accused because of a violation of the defendant’s rights under Miranda v. Arizona;
- Suppressing the police interactions with the suspect because the police detained the suspect unlawfully; and
- Moving to suppress searches of the suspect's car or cellphone if not conducted according to constitutional mandates.
A successful motion to suppress will preclude the government from introducing at trial the evidence seized by police unlawfully and all of the evidence that flows logically from the illegally obtained evidence. For example, if the police searched the suspect’s cell phone unlawfully, then any evidence that police derived from the unlawful seizure such as text messages, photos, and even GPS points would be inadmissible at trial.
Filing motions to suppress could also force the government to reflect on the strength of the case and offer a plea deal. No prosecutor wants to lose a DUI Manslaughter case. Therefore, exposing weaknesses in the government’s case could encourage plea bargaining to a reduced charge. With that said, the accused always has the right to maintain his or her innocence.
Successful Trial Defense Strategies Commonly Used in Navarre DUI Manslaughter Cases
The facts and circumstances of each case frame the particular defenses that could be made at trial. Some cases lend themselves to one specific type of defense based on the facts, but the defense in another case might revolve around the theme that the defendant is not guilty because the state cannot prove him or her guilty.
Arguments about the weight and significance of the evidence take shape before the trial begins. Savvy DUI Manslaughter defense attorneys understand that filing pre-trial motions, called motions in limine, can significantly frame the case for the jury. The facts of the case dictate which motions in limine the defense will argue. Some motions in limine will focus on excluding irrelevant information or evidence that is so unfairly prejudicial that it is no longer relevant. The defense could also argue that the government should be limited in its arguments to preserve the defendant’s rights to a fair trial. Filing motions in limine to prevent the jury from hearing evidence that they should never get to hear is vital to a fair trial for the accused because once the jury hears that evidence, one can never “un-ring the bell.”
Filing a motion in limine seeking an order preventing the prosecutor from trying to admit evidence of statements made by the suspect at the accident scene because of Florida’s accident report privilege is one example of aggressively defending a case with pre-trial motions.
Motions in limine can also advise the judge about particular arguments the defense will make. Trial judges appreciate learning about nuanced arguments and points of law before those issues arise in the trial. For example, the defense could offer expert testimony contesting the validity or reliability of the conclusions drawn by the government’s experts. The defense can also contest the manner in which the police seized the defendant’s blood sample and show that it was contaminated. Similarly, the defense could make an argument that the breathalyzer results are invalid. Another avenue of attack focuses on the field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests have very little to do with one's ability to drive safely. Notwithstanding, the police over-emphasize the significance of the performance of the defendant on those tests.
Another avenue of defense for the defendant is a lack of causation. The state must prove that the suspect causes or contributed to the crash. The defense could present evidence that the other driver was wrong, and the defendant did nothing to cause or contribute to the accident. For example, if the victim turned left and cut off the defendant, then the accused might only be guilty of DUI rather than DUI Manslaughter.
Experience Matters When Your Freedom is in Jeopardy
Call our experienced Florida DUI Manslaughter lawyers with Musca Law today at (888) 484-5057. Nothing the government can do will bring the deceased back. Even still, the prosecution in Navarre will fight hard to get their conviction and send you to prison because of one mistake.