What is the Sentence for DUI Manslaughter in Florida?

October 9, 2019

Florida Driving Under the Influence Manslaughter: Penalties for Killing Someone While Driving Drunk

In the United States, all 50 states have criminalized driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The State of Florida imposes harsh penalties on those who drive under the influence, especially those who cause the death of others. 

Driving Under the Influence in Florida: What the Statute Says 

Title XXIII, Chapter 316, Florida Statute Section § 316.193(1) Driving under the influence; penalties is the statute that defines driving under the influence (DUI) in the state of Florida.

According to the language of this law, an individual may be convicted of driving under the influence if that individual is driving a vehicle or is in physical control of that vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Although the statute does not explicitly define what “physical control” of the vehicle means, there are several examples in Florida case law. For example, if a driver’s car was off, but the keys were in the ignition, this may be sufficient to charge someone with driving under the influence. Police officers also may examine the vehicle to see if the engine is still hot from being used.

Florida statute § 316.193(1)(a) states that drivers under the influence of drugs listed in Florida statute § 877.111, substances controlled by Chapter 893, or alcoholic drinks may all be charged with DUI if they are impaired while operating a vehicle. 

Florida statute § 316.193(1)(b) notes that a driver may be arrested for DUI if the individual’s blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or greater per 100 milliliters of blood.

Florida statute § 316.193(1)(c) adds that a driver may be arrested for DUI if the individual’s breath alcohol level is greater than 0.08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. 

DUI Manslaughter Penalties in Florida

Florida adds severe penalties for those who drive drunk or under the influence of drugs and cause the death of someone else. In Florida, this crime is called DUI manslaughter.

According to Florida § 316.193(c)(3)(c)(3)(a), DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony, according to the penalties listed in Florida § 775.082 (1)(b)(3)(d), is punishable by at most 15 years behind bars and, according to § 775.083(1)(b), a fine that may not exceed $10,000.

If the driver knew or should have known that the accident happened, and another individual or unborn child was killed because of the accident, the driver may be convicted of a first-degree felony if the driver did not exchange information or render aid as required by Florida § 316.062. (Florida § 316.193(c)(3)(b)(i)-(ii)).

First-degree felonies are punishable by up to 30 years in prison  and a fine of up to $10,000 (Florida §§ 775.082 (3)(b)(1); 775.083(1)(b)).  

There is a mandatory minimum sentence of 4 years in prison for those convicted of DUI manslaughter in Florida.

The death of an unborn child is also penalized by the same punishments listed above. “Unborn child” is defined in Florida § 775.021(5)(e) as a fetus at any stage of development in the womb. There is no requirement that the fetus actually be viable and able to survive outside of the womb.

The Duty to Render Aid 

Florida motorists have a duty to stop and render aid after being involved in an accident.  These duties are detailed in Florida § 316.062. After an accident that involves property damage, injuries, or death, a driver must give his address, name, and vehicle registration number to the other individuals involved in the accident. If asked, the driver must also present his driver’s license or permit. 

If law enforcement officers are at the scene of the accident, the driver is required to provide this information to them. 

The driver is also required to get injured individuals to a physician, hospital, or other medical facility if requested or if it seems that these individuals need such care. 

Killing a Pedestrian Under Florida § 316.027(1)(b)

In Florida, special attention is given to those deemed “vulnerable road users” in Florida § 316.027(1)(b). There are special courses regarding the safety of these individuals that may be required as a part of a driver’s DUI penalties.

Vulnerable road users include pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and those riding mopeds and scooters. Vulnerable road users also include individuals riding animals and those using tractors, skates, skateboards, horse-drawn carriages, electric wheelchairs, and manual wheelchairs.

Those involved in accidents that result in fatalities may be required to take courses that go over the rights and safety of vulnerable road users before their driver’s licenses may be reinstated, according to Florida § 316.027(2)(e)(1). Florida § 316.027(2)(e) provides that one’s driver’s license may be revoked for a period of at least three years. 

A judge has the ability to order a harsher punishment if a driver hit and killed a pedestrian while driving under the influence.

Other Penalties for DUI Manslaughter in Florida

In addition to the prison time and fines listed above, a judge may issue several other types of penalties to someone convicted of DUI manslaughter.

For example, the defendant may be sentenced to up to 15 years of probation.

The defendant may have his driver’s license revoked permanently. 

The defendant may be required to complete many hours of community service.

The driver’s vehicle may be impounded after the arrest.

The judge may require the defendant to complete a DUI substance abuse class.

Substance abuse treatment, as well as psychological counseling, may also be required. 

Possible Defenses to DUI Manslaughter Charges in Florida

DUI manslaughter is a serious crime in Florida. However, there are defenses that may be available that could result in a reduction or dismissal of charges.

For example, perhaps the field sobriety test was conducted improperly, which led to the defendant’s arrest. Some individuals may also have valid excuses for failing a field sobriety test, such as an injury. Or, the Breathalyzer device may have been calibrated incorrectly, which gave a false reading. 

Other defenses may also be an option, depending on the facts of the case.