DUI Manslaughter Lawyer in Orlando, Florida
Defending Against DUI Manslaughter Charges in Florida
Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in all 50 states. If an individual is caught operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of .08 percent, this itself can lead to serious criminal charges. When a person drives under the influence and injures or kills another individual, the consequences are far more severe.
DUI Manslaughter is defined in Florida Statute Section 316.193(3)(c)(3). Under Florida law, if a person unintentionally kills another human being in a vehicle accident while that person is under the influence of alcohol, the resulting charges will be for DUI Manslaughter, which is a felony. The victim can be any other person, including a viable fetus, as defined in Florida Section 782.071.
Florida prosecutors will aggressively try these cases. The State allows for harsh sentences. Because of the emotional nature of DUI Manslaughter charges, the State is under pressure to seek the most severe punishments available under the law.
Those Facing DUI Manslaughter Charges in Orlando Need Experienced Legal Counsel
The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Musca Law represent clients in the Orlando area and other parts of Florida. If you are facing DUI Manslaughter charges, you need to act quickly to obtain an attorney who can advise you of your rights under the law and help develop the best possible defense strategy based on your case.
When a person becomes a suspect in a DUI Manslaughter case, officers will likely request blood samples and even medical records from the accused. It is crucial for a suspect to understand his or her rights and obligations fully. The medical aspect of DUI Manslaughter cases is just one reason that defending against these charges is complicated. It is important to remember that the consequences of a DUI Manslaughter conviction are immense and will impact a person's life even after their time in prison.
If you are facing charges for DUI Manslaughter in Orlando, Florida, contact our offices at 1-888-484-5057. At Musca Law, we have someone ready to speak with you any time, 24/7.
Your HIPPA Privacy Rights and Subpoena’s for Medical Records
A subpoena duces tecum can be used by prosecutors to get medical records for a person facing DUI Manslaughter charges. If you are being charged with this crime, the State’s Attorney might mail you a HIPPA 15-day letter to obtain your BAC records. You also might be sent a document called a Notice of an Investigating Subpoena For Medical Records. If you receive either of these documents, you have to understand the implications and your rights. Medical records are protected, and while the State can obtain such information, they must first overcome a struct burden to overcome the accused's right to privacy. Due process rights protect every accused person.
If you are being investigated, our attorneys can help you understand your rights and what you must turn over, and what should remain confidential. Attorneys at Musca Law can help you navigate the process and ensure that you are not taken advantage of and that your due process rights are respected. We represent clients charged in all types of DUI cases, including those involving severe bodily harm and death.
Sentencing and Penalties in DUI Manslaughter Cases
DUI Manslaughter charges come with a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. The crime is categorized as a Level 8 offense and a second-degree felony under the State's Criminal Punishment Code. Not only is the maximum penalty 15 years, but judges are bound by law to sentence any individual convicted of DUI Manslaughter to a minimum of four years in prison. While prosecutors can waive the mandatory sentence in some instances, this will be up to their discretion, and the judge may still choose to sentence the person to the minimum prison time or more.
In addition to prison time, other possible punishments include:
- Community service;
- Lengthy probation periods;
- Up to $10,000 in fines;
- DUI courses;
- Permanent loss of driver’s license;
- Impounding of the suspect’s vehicle;
- Mandatory counseling for alcohol abuse.
Elements Prosecutors Must Prove in DUI Manslaughter Cases
Under Florida law, Prosecutors must show certain elements in order to convict someone of DUI Manslaughter successfully. If the police want to acquire blood samples from a suspect, they must believe that the individual's conduct meets all of the necessary elements, which include:
- The suspect was driving or actually in control of the vehicle;
- The suspect was under the influence of alcohol or another substance; and
- The car the suspect was controlling killed another person.
Florida law dictates that officers must reasonably meet all of these burdens if they wish to obtain a sample of the accused individual's blood.
Unlike most types of homicide, there is no need to prove that the accused person intended to harm anyone at the time when they allegedly killed the victim.
Hiring Experts and Building a Case
Our attorneys at Musca Law understand how to build a defense case. Prosecutors will have the benefit of law enforcement officers who will conduct a full investigation into the accident and death. A defense expert can carry out their own probe into the events and use their findings to fight against the results of law enforcement officers.
Our Orlando criminal defense attorneys will evaluate cases with a critical eye and will file motions to prevent improper or prejudicial evidence from being used against our clients at trial.
Our clients know that we will be there fighting for them through each step of the process. We will be in the room for police interrogations, seeking witnesses and acquiring their statements, getting the deceased or injured person’s medical records, and collecting photographs and evidence to help understand the case and build a defense to the charges.
Types of DUI Charges
Most DUIs are misdemeanors. It takes a particular set of circumstances to upgrade the charge to a felony. In the below situations, the prosecutor can charge the accused with a felony:
- DUI convictions three times within ten years;
- DUI causing severe injuries or death when the driver then flees the scene of a crash;
- Four DUIs in a person’s life; and
- DUI causing death or severe injuries.
Penalties for Felony DUIs
When a DUI is a felony because the suspect has three convictions within a decade, the crime can be charged as a third-degree felony. The punishment can include a prison sentence of at least 30 days and at most five years, a fine between $2,000 and $5,000, impoundment of the individual’s vehicle for at least 90 days, and a ten-year loss of their driver’s license. There is a possibility of obtaining a hardship license after two years in some circumstances.
If a person is convicted of four DUIs in his or her lifetime, this is a third-degree felony even if the DUIs occurred more than ten years apart. Punishments will include up to five years in prison, a fine between $2,000 and $5,000, and a permanent loss of the individual's driver's license. In this scenario, there is a possibility of having a license reinstated with a showing of hardship. This will not be available, however, until after five years.
If a driver is under the influence and his or her actions behind the wheel cause severe harm to another person, then that driver can face felony charges. This is true even if the suspect has never had a previous DUI conviction or any other criminal conviction. These charges will result in a possible sentence of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, and the three-year loss of a driver's license.
In the most challenging situations, when a driver kills another person while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, prosecutors can charge that individual with a second-degree felony. A person convicted of DUI Manslaughter must be sentenced to a minimum of about four years in jail. The judge may impose a prison sentence of up to 15 years. The driver will lose his or her license permanently and can be fined up to $10,000.
Hit-and-Runs and DUIs
In some instances, a person who is involved in a deadly car crash may panic and flee the scene. This frequently happens in the case of drivers who are under the influence of alcohol. Fleeing the scene of a collision that causes severe bodily harm or death will lead to severe consequences for a driver, especially if the driver is under the influence.
If the injured person only sustains minor harm, the fleeing driver can still face a third-degree felony and up to five years in prison. The judge can impose a fine up to $5,000 as well. If the driver is accused of causing severe bodily injury and then fleeing, the crime is upgraded to a second-degree felony with the possible five-year prison term and a fine of up to $10,000.
In the worst-case scenario, if someone dies in an accident, and the driver is under the influence and flees the scene, the prosecutor can charge the driver with a second-degree felony DUI Manslaughter and fleeing the scene. A conviction for this offense can lead to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Getting Back a Conditional Driver’s License After a DUI
When a person loses their driver's license, this can have severe consequences long after he or she serves time in prison and pays all fines. Not being able to drive can impact a person's employability, making it difficult for that individual to earn a living.
Florida law allows for people who lost their driver's licenses to obtain a hardship license under certain circumstances. This license comes with restrictions but can drastically improve a person’s situation and help that person move on with his or her life.
In order to get this license, the driver must not have been arrested for drug-related charges for at least five years, must not have driven on a suspended license for at least five years, must have refrained from using drugs or alcohol for at least five years, and must have gone through DUI courses and treatment for substance abuse.
The license will not permit a driver to use their license for any purpose, but it will make it possible for them to drive to and from work, and possibly for medical or religious purposes.
A Florida DUI attorney can let you know whether you are eligible to obtain a hardship license. If you meet the requirements, our attorneys can help you through this process so that you can start working towards rebuilding your life.
Building a Defense in a DUI Manslaughter Case
If you are charged with committing a DUI Manslaughter, there will be certain defenses available to you. Which defenses apply or would be best to use in your case will depend on the facts specific to your case.
Disputing the facts
Prosecutors must show that a defendant was in physical control of the vehicle, was under the influence and caused the death of the alleged victim. In some instances, the defendant might argue he or she was not driving at the time, or that he or she was not drunk. It might also be possible to refute the causation by stating the accident did not lead to the person's death, or that the accused did not cause the accident. The accused could also raise a defense declaring that an intervening cause led to the person's death. These defenses all attack the factual allegations of the prosecutor's case.
A wheel witness defense is used to categorically deny that the accused was driving in cases where the driver exited the car, and no one saw who was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident. If the person facing charges never admitted to driving, this may be a possible defense.
Faulty or Improper Collection of Evidence
Police are bound to follow specific rules when collecting evidence against a suspect. If those rules are violated, the evidence can be excluded from any prosecution of the accused. When investigating a DUI case, the police may request a blood draw. However, if officers took the suspect's blood sample without a warrant or consent from the suspect, then the blood sample may not be used to build the prosecutor's case.
In some instances, officers might perform field sobriety tests on a person who sustained injuries or who is disoriented because of a crash. This could lead to misleading results. It is also important that the officer has the proper training and performs the tests correctly. The results of this test can also be excluded if the test was improper.
Chemical tests and breathalyzer tests must be properly performed. If the police or lab cannot show their equipment is properly maintained and calibrated, the test results may be invalidated or excluded.
Additionally, when airbags deploy in a collision, they use chemicals to inflate rapidly. Studies have shown that these chemicals can lead to incorrect results on a breathalyzer test. If the breathalyzer test results are improper because the driver’s airbags deployed, the defense attorney can move to exclude the results of that test.
Privilege and Miranda Rights
Some statements made by a suspect cannot be used against him or her in a court of law. When reporting an accident, individuals have a privilege because it is important that the police learn of and respond to the accident. Statements made during accident reporting are therefore considered privileged.
When police put a person under arrest, they must read them their Miranda rights. The Miranda warnings inform the accused of important rights, such as their right to remain silent and to have an attorney. If a person says something prior to their Miranda warnings, then these statements may be excluded from the case against the accused.
Similarly, if the accused asks for an attorney, he or she must be permitted to speak to his or her attorney. Police cannot prevent a person from speaking to an attorney and continue to interrogate that individual.
If you are facing charges for DUI Manslaughter, you likely have questions. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:
Q: I was charged with a DUI, is this a felony or misdemeanor?
A: A DUI can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific facts of the case. If this is a first DUI and you did not cause any damage, you will be facing a misdemeanor. If you have two previous convictions for DUIs within the past ten years or three within your life, you could be facing felony charges.
If you caused severe injuries or killed someone while driving under the influence, you will likely be charged with a felony. In some instances, if you caused damage and then left the scene, this could also increase the charges to a felony.
Q: Can I go to an alcoholism treatment program instead of prison?
A: In some situations, you might be able to serve time at a residential facility to undergo alcoholism treatment rather than spending time in prison. The time spent in the program will be counted as time served towards your prison sentence. Speak to an attorney to see if this is an option in your case.
Q: If I am arrested for Driving Under the Influence, how long before they have to release me?
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 charges for DUI Manslaughter in Orange County, act now and contact Musca Law!
Our experienced Orlando driving under the influence defense attorneys are ready to fight to protect your rights. Contact us at 888-484-5057 to arrange a confidential free consultation.