DUI Manslaughter Attorneys in Panama City, Florida (FL)
Any motor vehicle accident involving a death is undoubtedly tragic. No one, except under rare circumstances, gets behind the wheel of a vehicle and tries to cause the death of another in an automobile accident, even if the driver has consumed alcohol or drugs before starting to drive. Despite a lack of intent to kill another person, an individual in Panama City could be charged with DUI manslaughter (DUI stands for driving under the influence) if he or she took drugs or drank alcohol, drove, and caused a deadly crash. The person who is facing an accusation of DUI manslaughter in Panama City will be faced with harsh penalties, including a prison term of up to fifteen years, probation, heavy monetary fines, the lifetime loss of one’s driving privileges, vehicle impoundment, and community service, among other forms of punishment.
Panama City judges do not take DUI manslaughter charges lightly. Investigating law enforcement officials and prosecutors also take DUI manslaughter cases very seriously. Specifically, judges are ready to impose a sentence greater than the minimum prison term required by law if an individual is convicted of DUI manslaughter. Additionally, prosecutors who are assigned to a DUI manslaughter case will avail himself or herself of all resources necessary to seek a DUI manslaughter conviction.
The individual facing a DUI manslaughter charge in Panama City may feel like the world is out to get him or her. DUI manslaughter cases are associated with social scorn. The general public is often of the opinion that if police pursue DUI manslaughter charges against a person, then he or she is automatically at fault. Fortunately, DUI manslaughter cases are not tried in the court of public opinion.
A person facing DUI manslaughter charges in Panama City is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The presumption of innocence remains with the accused until the prosecution submits sufficient evidence to establish that he or she is guilty of DUI manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. The Constitution of the State of Florida, as well as the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution, safeguard the rights of a suspect and ensure that he or she receives a fair trial conducted by an impartial judge and a jury of one’s peers.
If you are under investigation for DUI Manslaughter charges in Panama City, or police have charged you with DUI Manslaughter in Panama City, you need to ask as fast as possible. Call (888) 484-5057 to speak with Musca Law’s Panama City DUI Manslaughter attorneys. The Panama City DUI manslaughter attorneys at Musca Law have the valuable experience, tenacity, and skill you need to fight against your DUI manslaughter charges. Contact us today to learn more about your legal rights and options.
DUI Manslaughter Pursuant to Florida Law
Criminal law is premised upon the guilty mind. This is evidenced by an intention to engage in a criminal act or the careless disregard for others’ safety. DUI manslaughter, and the lesser-included crime of DUI, do not require the prosecution to establish that the impaired suspect drove his or her vehicle intending to cause another person to be killed. Instead, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The person accused operated or had control over a vehicle at the time of the crash;
- Killed another person, or a child who was unborn yet could have lived if born, also called a “quick child,” through the operation of the vehicle;
- While the accused operated the vehicle with his or her normal faculties impaired by due to the consumption of alcohol; and
- The driver’s blood alcohol concentration was found to be 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or by 0.08 grams of alcohol for every 210 liters of breath.
The prosecution must prove each element of a DUI manslaughter charge by a reasonable doubt. Failing to establish even one element will result in the case being dismissed.
Prosecutors in Panama City who litigate DUI manslaughter cases face extreme pressure to successfully convict the person charged of this crime. As a result, prosecutors fight tooth and nail for a conviction. They will pressure investigators to undergo extremely comprehensive investigations so as to leave the defense without the ability to challenge the state’s case.
A lawyer who does not have significant experience defending DUI manslaughter cases may be overwhelmed by the evidence presented by the prosecution. Conversely, an attorney with significant trial experience and success in defending difficult DUI manslaughter cases where the evidence seems to be solid can poke holes in the prosecution’s case and provide the accused with the best chances of winning an acquittal or obtaining a plea bargain to bring the case down to a lesser offense, which may mean little, or no prison time.
DUI Manslaughter Laws in Florida
Under Florida Statutes §316.193(3)(c)(3)(a), it provides that any individual who is found to be guilty of DUI manslaughter will be deemed guilty of a second-degree felony, which is associated with a maximum of fifteen years in jail and a monetary fine levied of up to $10,000. However, the sentencing judge has no discretion under Florida’s DUI manslaughter law to reduce the incarceration portion of the offender’s sentence to less than four years committed.
A Panama City DUI manslaughter lawyer who has several years of experience under his or her belt who tirelessly defends the accused is knowledgeable that the judge must impose a sentence consistent with the Florida Criminal Punishment Code, as provided in Florida Statutes §921.0022.
Consequently, any advice offered to an accused by a Panama City DUI manslaughter must include an examination of the Florida Criminal Punishment Code. Under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code, a DUI manslaughter conviction carries with it a 124.5 month sentence as a Level 8 offense. The judge could issue a shorter jail term if the court renders the decision that not adhering to the Criminal Punishment Code guidelines is inappropriate in the case.
Panama City DUI Conviction and Collateral Consequences
A conviction under Florida’s DUI statute is associated with certain collateral consequences. The judge will rule that the offender will have to undergo probation designed to help the offender reintegrate into society and remain sobriety. If an offender violates a term of his or her probation, he or she could be sent back to jail.
The court will impose the standard terms of probation that apply in every case as well as special conditions of probation that are unique to the offender. The judge issuing the sentence may require the offender to complete community service, wear an electronic monitoring device, submit to random drug and alcohol screening, and undergo substance abuse counseling that is paid at the offender’s own expense. Such treatment may be outpatient or inpatient, depending upon the circumstances of the case.
An additional collateral consequence of a DUI manslaughter conviction is that a person can be deported if he or she is not a citizen of the United States. In fact, a convicted offender, if not a citizen, could be denied naturalization rights should a DUI manslaughter conviction be secured against him or her.
Further consequences of a DUI manslaughter conviction pertain to the access of motor vehicles. Specifically, a judge may order that the subject vehicle involved in a DUI manslaughter case to be impounded. Also, the judge could order the offender to attend a DUI educational training program and also require his or her vehicle to have an ignition interlock device installed.
Hardship License After DUI Conviction
The state will permanently revoke the license of a person who receives a DUI manslaughter conviction. However, the state has the discretion to reinstate the driver’s license of an individual convicted of DUI manslaughter if he or she satisfies a number of different conditions, which include the following:
- There has been no driving for five years before submitting an application for reinstatement;
- The offender has abstained from drugs or alcohol;
- There have been no subsequent arrests for drug-related offenses or driving on a license that is revoked;
- The offender’s vehicle has had an ignition interlock device installed for at least two years prior to applying for reinstatement; and
- The offender has completed the state’s DUI educational program, has submitted to random alcohol or drug testing, and has agreed to be supervised by the DUI program for the entire hardship period.
A violation of any of these terms after the state grants a hardship license will cause the state to revoke the hardship license.
Evidence Preservation in Panama City DUI Manslaughter Cases
Available defenses depend heavily upon the facts and circumstances surrounding the DUI manslaughter case. Specifically, when Panama City DUI manslaughter defense attorneys are retained in a DUI manslaughter case, they analyze every facet of every detail of the matter in order to challenge the government’s case. When the attorneys at Musca Law choose to pursue a case, they will immediately begin to develop the strongest defense possible. However, they urge an accused to seek out their services as early as possible given that there are perils associated with talking to police, losing evidence, and missing valuable eyewitnesses who can help the defense poke holes in the prosecutor’s case.
Working with Musca Law’s team of Panama City DUI defense attorneys as soon as possible aids in preserving the physical evidence at the accident scene. Specifically, the evidence left behind by an accident does not remain on the road for a long period of time. For example, once police conclude their investigation, clean-up crews will come to the crash scene and clear away all of the remaining debris. The police will take photographs of the scene, however, a thorough defense lawyer needs to analyze the scene closely and in-person as soon as practicable after an accident. Doing so will help understand where the vehicles were when the collided, see yaw marks in the road, gouge marks, and skid marks left by the crash.
Musca Law’s team of Panama City DUI defense lawyers are aware that the police will seek the services of an accident investigator to examine the accident, and focus the blame on the accused for causing the accident. By retaining a seasoned defense crash expert to assist in trial preparation, the attorneys at Musca Law will better understand the significance of the findings made by the government’s expert and develop a strategy to minimize the expert’s findings or to challenge them entirely.
The failure to hire an expert to thoroughly examine the government’s expert opinion could lead to a one-sided presentation of the evidence and leave the jury with only one conclusion to consider.
Defending a DUI manslaughter case in Panama City requires significant resources from an attorney who is sworn to safeguard the rights of the accused. Musca Law’s DUI manslaughter attorneys are ready to defend our clients at every stage of their case. We accompany our clients during police interviews and advise them about their rights against self-incrimination, collect all relevant medical records, take pictures of the cars and scene, interview witnesses including trying to locate witnesses who did not speak with police, and attempt to locate and preserve security videos not captured by police.
Trial Strategies for DUI Manslaughter Cases in Bay County
DUI manslaughter cases tend to plod through the court system, which can be frustrating, especially in a situation where the accused is held on high bond and cannot post it immediately. Musca Law’s defense lawyers get the frustration. However, they do not approach cases by rushing them to trial, which is counterproductive. Instead, they meticulously and thoroughly examine each case in order to develop the most effective defense strategy possible.
Every aspect of our client’s case provides our attorneys with the ability to advocate for them. One of the most important stages of a DUI manslaughter case is the pre-trial motion stage. This stage may be split into three different categories: motions for discovery of the state’s evidence, motions to dismiss and suppress, and motions in limine.
During the discovery stage of a DUI manslaughter case, our attorneys file motions to compel the state to produce all of their evidence, including exculpatory evidence. Upon learning of such evidence, the prosecution must produce it. If a prosecutor refuses to turn over this evidence, we will seek to have the court force him or her to produce it. The government must also produce all evidence of which it intends to use at trial.
Once the discovery phase has been completed, then the defense will file motions to dismiss and motions to suppress, if applicable. A motion to dismiss can be successful in certain cases to get rid of some or all of the charges that are pending against the accused. Conversely, a motion to suppress is a highly effective tool for challenging the prosecution’s evidence. Such motion is helpful in preventing the admission of evidence that was the subject of an improper search and seizure. Also, statements made to police in violation of a person’s Miranda rights could be another effective tool for excluding damning evidence from trial.
A motion in limine is a motion that is heard by the trial judge that shapes the evidence that the jury will hear. Specifically, a motion in limine serves to remove inflammatory, prejudicial, or irrelevant evidence from trial. Motions in limine could also request that the judge prevent the prosecution from attempting to admit expert testimony that does not meet Florida’s evidentiary standards.
The strategies employed by the defense to prevail in a case depend upon the evidence that the state’s attorney seeks to admit at trial. Some defense strategies will focus on nullifying the significance of expert testimony by demonstrating a bias held by the expert or the expert’s conclusions were incorrect. Other defense strategies focus on establishing that law enforcement failed to properly administer a field sobriety test or breath test. Or, that the machines used to investigate a suspected DUI matter rendered inaccurate results.
Another common defense strategy is known as the “wheel defense.” The prosecution has the burden of proving that the accused had control over or operated a vehicle involved in an accident. However, if there are no witnesses on the scene to place the accused behind the wheel of a vehicle, then the prosecution would have not prevailed in proving an essential element of their case.
Another defense that may be raised is that the accused was not the cause of the accident. Specifically, the defense can assert that the victim was talking on a cellphone, going at an excessive rate of speed, made an illegal U-turn or committed another type of traffic infraction that led to the deadly crash. In this instance, the accused could be acquitted of the DUI manslaughter charge. The jury could convict the accused of the lesser-included offense of DUI if the evidence is sufficient.
Finally, the reasonable doubt defense is always a viable option. The reasonable doubt defense views the case as a whole and persuades the jury that the government failed to satisfy its burden to prove the accused guilty of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Musca Law Stands Ready to Defend Your Rights
Musca Law’s Panama City criminal lawyers are available 24/7 to take your call. Our firm offers free consultations in private settings so we could discuss your case openly and honestly while preserving the attorney-client privilege. Call us today at (888) 484-5057 to protect your legal rights, liberty, and freedom. We look forward to making a difference for you.