The most serious of DUI cases are ones that involve the death of another person, more commonly known as DUI Manslaughter. It is even more tragic when that person may be someone you know who may have been in or near the vehicle at the time of the crash. DUI Manslaughter is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in Florida prison and a $10,000 fine.
Due to the nature of these offenses and often the publicity surrounding them, it is not often that a prosecutor will want to "strike a deal," even in a weak case. Thus, it is vitally important to get quality, experienced representation as soon as possible. Early investigation is often the key to winning these types of cases.
Unlike a misdemeanor DUI, the police have the right to forcibly draw blood from you in these cases, even without your consent. If alcohol or drugs are detected, the State will come down hard on a person accused of DUI Manslaughter, even if the drug amounts are barely detectable or the alcohol level is below a .08. First, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of four years imprisonment. However, such a "short" sentence is unusual in Florida because the sentencing guidelines in Florida "score" a person, even WITHOUT ANY PRIOR CRIMINAL RECORD, a sentence of 10 years and 4 months, with a judge's discretion all the way up to 15 years in prison. Any prior record or other aggravating factors, such as multiple deaths or serious injuries to others would likely bring that sentence closer to that maximum of 15 years or even beyond that in multiple victim cases.Permanent Driver's License Revocation
The Florida legislature has decided that a person's driving privileges shall be permanently suspended upon being convicted of DUI Manslaughter. Specifically, when there is a DUI Manslaughter Conviction with No Prior DUI Convictions, the driver may be eligible for a hardship reinstatement after five (5) years have passed from the date of revocation and after the period of incarceration ended if the following requirements have been met:
The driver has not been arrested for any drug related offense for at least the five (5) years period prior to the hearing;
The driver has not driven a motor vehicle without a license for at least the five (5) years period prior to the hearing;
The driver has not consumed any drugs or alcohol during the five (5) year period prior to the hearing;
The driver is required to install the ignition interlock device for a two (2) year period; and
The driver has completed DUI school and is being supervised under the DUI program for the entire remaining period of the revocation (the failure to report for treatment or counseling will result in the immediate cancellation of the hardship driver's license).
Of course, any prior DUI convictions would mean that a permanent revocation in a DUI Manslaughter case is just that: PERMANENT.Defenses
Due to the extremely harsh sentences in Florida, you must hire an attorney that knows the law and can use defenses in order to either mitigate or get a case completely dismissed or acquitted. For example, even though this is a serious offense, you are still presumed innocent and the state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. While I always suggest you remain silent in all criminal cases, if you do speak, then some statements you made may be protected by the accident-report privilege. Also, because these cases involve accidents the results of any Field Sobriety Tests you may have given could be challenged due to all the surrounding circumstances. Another important defense in DUI Manslaughter cases is causation. Even if it could be proven that you were impaired, the State still must prove that your actions "caused" the death of another human being. For example, if a person is merely injured at the scene and is taken to the hospital and dies of a heart attack there, that doesn't necessarily mean you can or would be convicted of DUI Manslaughter. This causation element is so important, in fact, that there have been recent cases in the Tampa Bay area where the prosecutor was forced to abandon the felony charge when a young child was hit and killed, because the child was the actual cause of the accident by running into the street, and not the alleged drunk driver.
Obviously, these cases are very complex and taken seriously by all parties involved, but by having an experienced DUI defense attorney at your side, I will make sure that all possible defenses are investigated, the appropriate experts are employed when necessary, and any mitigating factors are brought to the court's attention. Contact your St. Petersburg, Tampa DUI Manslaughter attorney today for a free consultation so that we can give you the best possible defense for your case.