DUI Manslaughter Pensacola, Florida
Defending Against DUI Manslaughter Charges in Florida
Driving under the influence, which is referred to under Florida law as “DUI,” is one offense that many people have committed, even if they were not caught by police. Florida law has zero tolerance for those who drive while intoxicated and cause fatal accidents. Law enforcement in Pensacola, Florida as well as the prosecutorial agencies who represent the state heavily prosecute DUI manslaughter charges. As such, the prosecution most often seeks to punish the offender to the fullest extent of the law, which may mean that he or she will face imprisonment, monetary fines, a loss of driving privileges, and other serious repercussions. Judges often agree with the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendations, as they take DUI manslaughter charges very seriously.
Under Florida law, DUI manslaughter constitutes a second-degree felony, which carries with it a maximum prison sentence of fifteen years and a minimum prison sentence of four years. Notwithstanding the severe consequences of a DUI manslaughter conviction, the prosecution must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, the prosecution must establish that the driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol or drove at or above the legal limit of 0.08% and caused another person, including an unborn fetus mature enough to survive outside of the womb (pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 782.972), to perish.
Seasoned Escambia County DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorneys
DUI manslaughter charges in Pensacola are extremely serious, which is why you should enlist the help of a Pensacola defense attorney at Musca Law. Our attorneys are experienced, knowledgeable, and adept at handling all types of DUI cases, no matter how challenging or complex. We vigorously work to protect your rights during all stages of your case and to develop the strongest defense strategy possible.
Don’t wait; contact Musca Law anytime, day or night toll-free at (888) 484-5057 to discuss your rights and options with one of our highly seasoned Florida DUI manslaughter defense attorneys.
Critical Issues in Pensacola DUI Manslaughter Cases
One of the most critical issues that arise during the beginning stages of a DUI manslaughter investigation in Pensacola is whether the accused must surrender medical records to the prosecution as well as law enforcement. Pursuant to Florida law, the prosecution may request from a judge an order allowing them to obtain a certified copy of the accused’s medical records if he or she received treatment following the accident. These medical records may contain valuable information to the prosecution, including the accused’s blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, statements that he or she may have made to medical personnel, and the treatment team’s observation of the accused’s behavior.
In order to obtain this information, prosecutors in Florida must satisfy a significant procedural hurdle, which includes delivering to the accused a HIPAA letter or a subpoena duces tecum for the medical records. The receipt of the HIPAA letter triggers certain rights for the accused. Specifically, the accused has the right to have an attorney present and an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the records should be produced and provided to the prosecution. A timely and well-argued objection to the prosecutor’s motion could prevent the state from collecting critical information about you and substantially hinder their case.
DUI Manslaughter Penalties in Pensacola
DUI manslaughter is a felony in the second degree under Florida Statutes Section 316.193, which dictates that the offender must serve at least four years in jail. Specifically, the judge must consider the sentencing guidelines under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code when rendering a determination as to what consequences the offender should face.
Under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, it ranks DUI manslaughter as a Level 8 offense. According to the Florida Legislature, they rank offenses according to the severity, with Level 1 as to least serious crime and Level 10 as the most severe offense.
As a Level 8 offense, a conviction for DUI manslaughter in Pensacola gives the judge the discretion to impose the following criminal sanctions:
- A prison term for up to fifteen years. Notwithstanding, a Level 8 offense carries with it the potential for 124.5 months in jail;
- A monetary fine of $10,000 or less;
- A maximum of fifteen years of probation;
- Community service;
- A permanent revocation of one’s driver’s license, subject to certain statutory requirements that would allow a driver to regain his or her driving privileges, which are:
- DUI educational requirements;
- Outpatient or residential substance abuse treatment;
- The installation of an ignition interlock system, which must be installed and maintained at the offender’s own expense.
Qualifications for Obtaining a Hardship License After a DUI Manslaughter Conviction in Pensacola
No individual who has been convicted of DUI manslaughter is guaranteed the right to drive once again. However, the individual can attempt to seek a hardship license after satisfying certain requirements that establish the individual’s commitment to maintaining sober. Specifically, a person can receive a hardship license if he or she meets the following qualifications:
- No drug-related arrests for five years preceding the hardship license application;
- No arrests for driving while on a suspended license for the preceding five years;
- The installation of an ignition interlock device for two years;
- The applicant has not consumed drugs or alcohol for the preceding five years; and
- The applicant completed DUI courses and has remained under the supervision of the program for the duration of the revocation period, which could be for life. The individual must also appear for substance abuse testing as required by the DUI program. Failing to meet these requirements could result in the loss of one’s driving privileges.
Defending Against DUI Manslaughter Charges in Pensacola Preservation of Evidence
A strong defense starts with the preservation of valuable evidence. The State and law enforcement teams are obligated not to withhold or destroy exculpatory evidence. However, they are not required to locate such evidence either. As such, it is critical for you to launch a strong defense involving a thorough investigation to expose weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Part of developing a strong defense is to retain experts who can examine the evidence and serve as an integral component of the defense team in order to poke holes in the state’s case and provide the jury with a comprehensive view of the evidence. Without a balanced view of the evidence, the case will be a “slam dunk” for the prosecution.
The retention of experts is one crucial step in a DUI manslaughter defense case. Musca Law’s Pensacola DUI manslaughter attorneys leave no stone unturned and explore all possible avenues of mitigation and defense. During a DUI manslaughter case in Pensacola, our attorneys challenge every piece of the prosecution’s evidence and proactively participate in all stages of the prosecution’s case, including:
- Being present for the police interrogation of our clients;
- Obtaining the medical records of every individual who was injured or killed in a DUI-related accident;
- Taking photographs of all of the automobiles involved in the accident;
- Taking photographs of the scene, including skid marks, yawl marks, and debris fields, if possible;
- Conducting interviews of witnesses; and
- Conducting a search for surveillance videos of the crash scene, if they are available.
Pre-Trial Motion Practice in Pensacola
At Musca Law, our Pensacola DUI manslaughter lawyers understand the critical nature of strategic motion practice. There are various pre-trial motions that center upon law enforcement’s actions and whether they violated the accused’s constitutional rights. Bringing forth certain motions can make a significant difference for an individual facing DUI manslaughter charges in Pensacola.
Law enforcement can make mistakes in certain high-pressure situations such as a DUI manslaughter case. This is why Florida’s criminal procedure law enables individuals faced with DUI manslaughter charges the ability to scrutinize the police’s actions and whether they pass constitutional muster.
Certain well-drafted and well-presented motions to suppress and dismiss could successfully attack the prosecution’s case if the judge finds that law enforcement violated the accused’s right to an attorney, right to remain silent, and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. A violation of these critical rights could result in the judge suppressing from use evidence that was obtained through unconstitutional means.
Here are some examples of how a successful motion to suppress could positively affect the accused’s case:
- The seizure of blood or other bodily evidence without probable cause may influence the judge to rule that such evidence is not admissible at trial;
- Stopping the accused without cause may give the judge a reason to prevent the admission of evidence obtained following an illegal stop; or
- The suppression of statements made by the accused that violates his or her Miranda rights.
Filing a motion in limine is another method of attack to ensure that the accused gets a fair trial. These motions do not necessarily request that the judge suppress evidence pursuant to a showing that the accused’s constitutional rights have been violated. Conversely, these motions are heard before the trial starts where they assist in shaping the evidence to ensure that it is not unfair or prejudicial at trial. Specifically, this type of motion prevents the jury from being exposed to evidence that they should not hear.
Trial Defenses in Pensacola DUI Manslaughter Cases
The strategies employed by the defense depend upon the specific facts of one’s case. A vigorous defense does not necessarily rely upon one avenue of defense in most cases. Typically, an argument that attacks all of the weaknesses in the government’s case is generally known as the “reasonable doubt defense.” Otherwise stated, the defense attempts to contradict the evidence to prevent the state from convincing the jury that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In certain circumstances, a seasoned Florida criminal defense attorney can advance the following defenses on behalf of the accused:
- Challenging the blood test results and methods by which law information obtained the suspect’s blood sample;
- Moving to prevent that admission of statements made to law enforcement and emergency personnel as to how the accident happened. In Florida, these statements are inadmissible in court due to what is known as the Accident Report Privilege.
- Aggressively contesting the results of a field sobriety test. Law enforcement as well as the prosecution place substantial evidence on how the accused performed on this test. Notwithstanding, the defense can assert that the test results were skewed due to shock, injury, or a disability (like the inability to stand on one leg).
- Attacking the results of a breathalyzer test. According to studies, when airbags deploy, this can cause a breathalyzer test to read inaccurately. Even if the airbags didn’t deploy, the results can still be subject to attack. If a BAC level is not at 0.08% or higher, a Pensacola criminal defense attorney can raise this defense.
- Chemical tests can be challenged at trial. A failure to follow proper procedures or a missing step in the chain of custody could cause a chemical test to be unreliable, and therefore, inadmissible in court.
- Lack of causation. This is an additional defense that can be raised. Specifically, the prosecution must establish that the defendant’s actions caused a crash that resulted in the death of another person. Hence, the accused cannot be found guilty of DUI manslaughter if he or she did not cause the other person to die in a crash (meaning, there was an intervening cause that resulted in the death of the other person). Presenting evidence of said intervening cause will serve to weaken the prosecution’s case.
- The missing element defense. This can be asserted in certain circumstances where the prosecution fails to establish that the accused had control over his or her vehicle at the time the fatal accident occurred. If no one witnessed the individual leave the vehicle, then the prosecution lacks evidence of a “wheel witness.” The defense can also assert that another individual had control over the accused’s automobile at the time of the crash.
Frequently Asked Questions in Pensacola DUI Manslaughter Cases
At Musca Law, we encourage our clients to pursue an engaged approach with their defense team. We provide our clients with a comprehensive understanding of the evidence that has been presented against them as well as the potential repercussions of the case, along with information as to what the prosecution needs to establish in order for a jury to render a guilty verdict. We also discuss with our clients the specific defense strategies that can be raised on their behalf.
When clients meet with us, they often have a number of important questions. While each DUI manslaughter case is unique, we have found that there are certain common questions posed by clients which include:
Could the prosecutor offer a plea deal?
The answer to this question is “yes.” Our seasoned Pensacola criminal defense attorneys pursue all avenues of defense in striving to achieve a not guilty verdict or obtain a fair sentence, whichever applies. Whether the government decides to offer a plea bargain is dependent upon a number of different factors. Keep in mind that the accused always has the right to maintain his or her innocence.
How much time will I have to serve if I am convicted of DUI Manslaughter?
The maximum prison term for DUI manslaughter is fifteen years. As noted above, the sentencing guidelines call for a sentence that is approximately ten years. There is also a minimum sentence of four years. The judge could reduce the sentence if the individual does not have a criminal record, is contrite, or is taking responsibility for his or her actions. The accused may also earn gain-time off of the sentence as well. Depending upon the facts of one’s case, a person accused of DUI manslaughter may also obtain time counted against their sentence should he or she seek treatment in an inpatient substance abuse recovery program.
When can I get a bond after a DUI Manslaughter arrest in Pensacola?
There is an eight-hour waiting period before being released from jail on bond unless the BAC drops to below 0.05%, or the suspect is no longer exhibiting signs of being under the influence of narcotics.
The Consequences Are Too Severe to Trust Any Other Law Firm
Don’t wait to obtain the services of a seasoned Pensacola criminal defense attorney. Our Pensacola DUI manslaughter defense attorneys will provide a confidential case review at no cost to you or your family. Our firm’s attorneys are among The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 Trial Lawyers, included in the 2012 Florida Super Lawyers® for criminal defense, and boast 10.0 Superb Avvo ratings. We know how to protect your future. We are skilled, experienced, tenacious, and relentless when it comes to defending our clients. Our seasoned Florida criminal defense attorneys work zealously to exploit the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and develop a strategic defense for our clients. Our record of success in and out of the courtroom speaks for itself. To learn more about how Musca Law can make a difference for you, call (888) 484-5057 today.