Not every fatality that occurs on the roadway should result in an arrest or prosecution for DUI manslaughter. In many of these cases, officers try and turn conduct that would normally warrant only a traffic infraction into a felony DUI manslaughter prosecution only because a death resulted from the accident.
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Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you on these charges as soon after the crash as possible is critical. Never make a statement to law enforcement once a criminal investigation for DUI manslaughter begins until after you have spoken with an attorney.
In Hillsborough County, FL, the defendant is not eligible to post bond on any charge of DUI Manslaughter after the first appearance hearing. In these cases, it is important to have an attorney at the first appearance bond hearing so that you have the best chance of getting the bond set as low as possible.
Many of these cases involve a forced blood draw taken without a warrant. Under recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court in Missouri v. McNeely and Birchfield v. North Dakota, a warrantless taking of blood is “per se” unconstitutional.
Florida’s entire statutory scheme for forced blood draws and implied consent is in jeopardy.
Because a DUI manslaughter conviction results in a mandatory revocation of your license, Florida law provides that even an arrest for DUI manslaughter can also result in a license suspension under Florida Statute 322.27(1)(a) and 322.26, even before you go to court.
In fact, Florida Statute 322.27(1)(a) requires a law enforcement agency to initiate an action and provide information to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) within 24 hours after any traffic fatality.
The court might also impose a condition that you not drive a vehicle while your case is pending. If no formal charges are filed or if your case is reduced to a less serious charge, then your attorney can request a “show cause” hearing at the DHSMV to get the suspension lifted.
Attorney for DUI Manslaughter Prosecutions in Tampa, FL
If your rights were violated and your attorney files and litigates the appropriate motions, the blood evidence taken in your case might be suppressed which can result in the entire case being dismissed.
In other cases, the accuracy and reliability of the blood testing methods used in your case can be attacked at trial.
If you were arrested for DUI Manslaughter in the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, Hernando County, or Polk County, Florida, then contact an experienced DUI attorney at the Sammis Law Firm today to discuss your case.
During the free consultation with an experienced DUI defense attorney in Tampa, FL, we can discuss the charges pending against you, ways to avoid the typical punishments, and the best defenses that can be used to fight the accusations.
Call (813) 250-0500 today.
DUI Manslaughter Prosecutions under Florida Law
Under Florida Statute § 316.193(3)(c)(3), DUI manslaughter under is an accusation that the accused drove while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, and as a result of the DUI, the accused caused or contributed to the cause of the death of victim.
Florida Statute Section 316.193(3) provides:
- A felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
- A felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, if:
- At the time of the crash, the person knew, or should have known, that the crash occurred; and
- The person failed to give information and render aid as required by s. 316.062.
Preserving Evidence after a Manslaughter Accusation
At Sammis Law Firm, our attorneys understand the importance of hiring the most qualified expert witnesses, including an accident reconstruction expert or toxicologist in Florida, who will play a critical role in the defense of a DUI manslaughter case.
Florida law enforcement officers will conduct their own investigation to support the DUI manslaughter charges. But it is also important for the defense to quickly retain an expert to conduct an independent accident investigation and reconstruction to show defenses that exist in the case.
Our criminal defense lawyers take a scholarly approach to fighting DUI manslaughter cases including filing motions to suppress evidence, motions to dismiss criminal charges, and Motions in Limine to exclude prejudicial evidence at trial.
The key to obtaining the best result is fighting each aspect of the state’s case and gradual and systematically dismantling the prosecutor’s case piece by piece.
Furthermore, steps must be immediately taken to preserve all of the evidence. Your attorney must fight to protect your rights during the investigation. A good defense often requires:
- Fighting any effort by the State to obtain the results of any blood drawn for medical purposes;
- Having an attorney present for any interrogation by law enforcement;
- Taking pictures of the damage sustained by the vehicles involved in the accident;
- Taking pictures of the location where the accident occurred, including any marks left on the roadway;
- Obtaining witness statements of anyone who witnessed the accident; and
- Obtaining hospital medical records of anyone injured or killed in the accident.
Fighting the DUI Manslaughter Charge
If you have been arrested for DUI manslaughter in Florida, including Hillsborough, Polk, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee, or Sarasota County, contact Sammis Law Firm to discuss ways to aggressively fight the serious charges that have been made against you.
Your freedom and liberty depend on the actions that your attorney takes early in the case, as well as the strategy your criminal defense attorney uses throughout every stage of the investigation and prosecution in court.
Our criminal defense attorneys represent both men and women charged with serious driving offenses such as DUI manslaughter throughout the Tampa Bay area including Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, Dade City, Brooksville, Bartow, Bradenton, and Sarasota, Florida.
Call (813) 250-0500 today to speak directly with an attorney about your case.
Related Charges after a Crash Involving Death or Serious Injury
- Vehicular Homicide under Florida Law
Vehicular Homicide is a second degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of fifteen years in Florida State Prison, and a $10,000,00 fine. However, the offense may be enhanced to a first degree felony punishable by thirty years in prison if the driver willfully left the scene of an accident.
- Vehicular Manslaughter under Florida Law
Under Florida Statute § 782.071, vehicular manslaughter is an accusation that a driver killed another human being by operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another.
To prosecute a vehicular manslaughter charge, the state does not need to prove that the driver had the intent to harm anyone, but instead, that the operation of the vehicle was in a manner likely to cause the death or great bodily injury of another.
Keep in mind that convictions for both DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide based upon a single death cannot stand because they violate her constitutional right to be free from double jeopardy. See Houser v. State, 474 So.2d 1193 (Fla. 1985) and State v. Chapman, 625 So.2d 838 (Fla. 1993).
Recent Statistics in Florida DUI Manslaughter Cases
According to a recent news article, Hillsborough County has higher than average sentences for DUI manslaughter at 10.18 years in Florida State Prison. Palm Beach County came in higher with an average of 11.54 years in prison.
The study looked at more than 400 fatality cases resolved in Florida since 2012. The statewide average prison sentence is just under 10 years.
Although Miami-Dade had the highest number of cases, it also had the lowest average sentence which was just over 6 years. The average in Broward County was just under 10 years.
Pre-Trial Detention in DUI Manslaughter Cases in Florida
Florida Statute Section 907.041(4)(a)(c) allows, but does not require, the Court to order pretrial detention with no bond if:
- the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office filed a motion for pre-trial detention;
- the defendant is accused of the crime of DUI manslaughter;
- the defendant poses a threat of harm to the community; and
- the court makes a finding the defendant has previously been found guilty of, or has an adjudication of guilt withheld for either:
- driving under the influence in violation of 316.193(1)(a); or
- driving while the defendant’s driver’s license was suspended or revoked in violation of 322.34, F.S.
In other words, Section 907.041(4)(c), F.S., provides that a defendant may be detained pretrial if the court finds with substantial probability, based on a defendant’s history, that the defendant is charged with DUI manslaughter, as defined by s. 316.193, F.S., and that there is a substantial probability that the defendant committed the crime and that the defendant poses a threat of harm to the community, which can be supported by a finding that the defendant poses a threat of harm to the community based upon the presence of any of the following:
- The defendant has previously been convicted of any crime under s. 316.193, F.S., or of any crime in any other state or territory of the United States that is substantially similar to any crime under s. 316.193, F.S.;
- The defendant was driving with a suspended driver license when the charged crime was committed; or
- The defendant has previously been found guilty of, or has had adjudication of guilt withheld for, driving while the defendant’s driver license was suspended or revoked in violation of s. 322.34, F.S.
Causation in a DUI Manslaughter Case in Florida
The prosecutor will argue that Florida’s DUI manslaughter statute has an extremely low threshold for proving causation under the DUI manslaughter statute. See § 316.193, Fla. Stat.
Under the plain language of the statute, the State is not required to prove that the defendant’s intoxicated driving was the sole cause of the fatal crash.
As one court recently explained in Pryear v. State, 43 Fla. L. Weekly D491 (Fla. 1st DCA Feb. 28, 2018):
DUI manslaughter requires proof that a defendant operated a vehicle while impaired within the meaning of section 316.193(1), Florida Statutes (2013), and, “by reason of such operation, cause[d] or contribute[d] to causing . . . [t]he death of any human being . . . .” § 316.193(3)(c)3.a., Fla. Stat. (2013) (emphasis added).
“[T]he fact that someone is intoxicated and drives a particular vehicle which causes another person’s death should be enough to satisfy the elements of DUI manslaughter.” State v. Hubbard, 751 So. 2d 552, 563 (Fla. 1999).
“The causation element of the amended statute was interpreted by [the Florida Supreme Court] in [Magaw v. State, 537 So. 2d 564, 567 (Fla. 1989),] as not requiring that the conduct of the operator of the vehicle be the sole cause.” Hubbard, 751 So. 2d at 564 (emphasis in original).
“The statute requires only that the operation of the vehicle should have caused the accident. Therefore, any deviation or lack of care on the part of a driver under the influence to which the fatal accident can be attributed will suffice.” Magaw, 537 So. 2d at 567.
Id. at *5.
In Pryear, the court noted that the current version of the DUI manslaughter statute contains an even lower threshold for establishing causation than the version of the statute interpreted in Magaw and Hubbard. Id.
The previous version of the statute required that operating a vehicle while intoxicated “cause” a death, whereas the current version requires operating a vehicle while intoxicated “cause or contribute to” the victim’s death. See § 316.193(3)(c)3., Fla. Stat. (2013) (emphasis added).
How Do I Get a Hardship After a DUI Manslaughter Court Ordered Permanent Revocation?
In these cases, it is extremely important to get the case reduced to a less serious charge because if you are convicted of DUI manslaughter, then after the conviction, the court will order the DHSMV to permanently revoke your driving privileges (called the “permanent revocation”).
Before you can apply for hardship driving privileges you must:
- show proof of completion of an approved substance abuse education course;
- serve 5 years of the revocation period or from the release from incarceration;
- not have any prior convictions for DUI related offenses (having a prior DUI conviction would make you forever ineligible for a hardship permit);
- not have driven or consumed any drugs or alcohol within 5 years preceding authorization for early reinstatement; (if you tell the hearing officer you drove, then you will not be eligible for a hardship for another 5 years);
- not have been arrested for any drug or alcohol related offense within 5 years prior to the hearing date;
- be accepted into and remain in a SSSP for the remainder of the sanction period which is for the rest of your life;
- reinstatement must be restricted to “Employment Purposes Only” for not less than 1 year; or
- installation of an ignition interlock device for two years (although SSSP might require it for longer).
Additional requirements can be found in §322.26(2), §322.28(2)(d), and §322.271(4). The hardship license is only available if the defendant does not have any prior DUI convictions. The hardship is limited to employment purposes only for the 1st year.
Keep in mind that for other forms of manslaughter such as manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle, the requirements for hardship reinstatement include:
- Must wait one year from conviction date;
- Completion of ADI school;
- Must provide a copy of the crash report.
See §322.26(1)(b), §322.28(4)(a) & Bulletin 014-01.
Finding a Tampa Attorney for DUI Manslaughter
DUI defense attorney in Tampa, FL. With the average sentence of just over ten years in Hillsborough County, FL, the penalties are harsh in these cases.
Related charges including vehicular homicide, DUI with serious bodily injury, hit and run (leaving the scene) and DUI with property damage or non-serious personal injury.
The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm are experienced in fighting serious felony DUI cases. Whether your case involves a breath test, a legal blood test, or a medical blood test, we can help.
Call (813) 250-0500 to talk with an attorney today during a free consultation.
This article was last updated by Leslie Sammis on Friday, October 2, 2020.