Have you been arrested for DUI Manslaughter in Hillsborough, Polk, or Masco County? Such a serious charge requires the expertise of an aggressive DUI attorney. Contact Thomas C. Grajek, Attorney at Law if you have been charged with DUI Manslaughter in Tampa, Lutz or Lakeland Florida. I will discuss your arrest and the prosecution’s case with you, while working on a vigorous defense. While I believe that driving under the influence should never be taken lightly, I also believe in providing my clients with an experienced and skillful defense.
What is DUI Manslaughter?
Under Florida law, a person who drives under the influence of either alcohol or a controlled substance and causes an accident that results in another person’s death can be charged with DUI manslaughter.
The section of Florida statutory law that deals with this offense, Statute 316.193, outlines the three key components of this charge:
- Actual Physical Control: Florida law requires that it be shown that any DUI manslaughter defendant was in actual physical control of the vehicle that contributed to the crash; this means that they were physically inside the car (or on the motorcycle) and able to operate it. Note that the law does not require proof that a DUI manslaughter defendant was actually driving or even that the vehicle was turned on.
- Under the Influence: The defendant is considered to be under the influence of alcohol if they have a blood or breath alcohol level of 0.08 or greater at the time of the crash. Driving under the influence of controlled substances also satisfies this element of the charge, as demonstrated by observations of how the driver’s typical faculties are impaired.
- Resulting Death: Any death that results from the crash satisfies this component of the crime, even if the other driver contributed to the accident as well. For the purposes of this statute, the resulting death of an unborn child qualifies.
What are the Potential Penalties for a DUI Manslaughter Conviction?
As outlined in Florida Statute 316.193, DUI manslaughter is a felony charge. The degree of felony–first or second–depends on certain key factors.
Second Degree Felony
The base charge for DUI manslaughter is a second degree felony with several potential penalties:
- Up to 15 years in prison
- Up to 15 years of probation
- A maximum fine of $10,000
- The permanent revocation of your driver’s license
- Impoundment of the guilty party’s vehicle
- Required community service
- Completion of substance abuse treatment including a DUI substance abuse course
In addition, all DUI manslaughter charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence as outlined below.
First Degree Felony
A second degree felony for DUI manslaughter can be enhanced to a first degree felony if two additional elements are shown. First, the defendant must have either known or had reason to know that a crash actually occurred. Second, the defendant must have failed to render aid to the crash victims or to provide information to police regarding the crash.
Following a conviction for first degree felony DUI manslaughter sentence, possible penalties include up to 30 years in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000 in addition to all other penalties applicable to second degree felony DUI manslaughter.
Mandatory Minimum Sentence
The severity of this crime, which is ranked as a level 8 offense under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, means that a judge is required to imposed a minimum sentence upon conviction. The mandatory minimum sentence is typically 124.5 months (or approximately 10 years and 4 months) in jail. However, DUI manslaughter is unique among crimes carrying mandatory minimum sentences in Florida. In certain cases, a judge is permitted to impose a sentence that is less than the statutory minimum if mitigating circumstances are found. Due to Florida Statute 316.193(3)(c)(3), however, a judge’s discretion has a floor; this 2007 law imposes an absolute mandatory minimum sentence of four years on all DUI manslaughter convictions.
Possible Defenses to a Charge of DUI Manslaughter
If you are charged with DUI manslaughter in Florida, there are several possible defenses that can be raised.
Lack of Evidence of Actual Physical Control
A prosecutor only needs to show that a defendant had actual physical control of the vehicle, not that they were actually driving; however, this element of the offense still must be proven through evidence such as eyewitness testimony. Merely being the vehicle’s owner is not enough to prove actual physical control.
Improperly Administered Field Sobriety Test
A field sobriety test is a tool used by law enforcement to help determine if a driver is impaired and driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. However, the particular conditions surrounding the administering of such a test or evidence that protocol was not followed can be used to challenge this evidence in court.
Illegal Traffic Stop
Florida law permits police officers to stop a vehicle for two reasons: if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that driver of the vehicle is committing a traffic violation or if the officer has “probable cause” to believe that the driver has committed a crime. If the police officer did not act on one of these two reasons, the stop is illegal and none of the evidence acquired through the stop can be admitted in court. Often this results in the prosecution dismissing charges.
Lack of Probable Cause
A valid DUI arrest requires the arresting officer to have probable cause for believing that the driver was driving under the influence. Evidence that demonstrates that the officer did not actually have probable cause due to unreasonable conclusions or lack of evidence can lead to the arrest being judged illegal and to the evidence obtained being deemed inadmissible.
Inadmissible Breathalyzer Test Results
Breathalyzer machines are commonly used by law enforcement to test the breath alcohol levels of drivers suspected of DUI. However, the machines must be properly maintained and used in a precise and standardized way in order for the resulting breath alcohol determination to be admissible in court.
What Should I do if I’m Arrested for DUI Manslaughter in Florida?
Most importantly, do not speak to the police. Ask to have a Tampa DUI lawyer present for all discussions pertaining to your case, and do agree to sign any written statements. Call an attorney as soon as possible and wait for representation before speaking to anyone else.
If you have been arrested for DUI Manslaughter in Lakeland, Tampa or Lutz, call Thomas C. Grajek and let me start negotiating on your behalf immediately. I have extensive knowledge of DUI Manslaughter cases in Florida, as well as all pertaining drunk driving laws in Florida, and will work vigorously to examine all evidence against you and help you avoid any criminal charges.