DUI with Serious Bodily Injury
If you were arrested for felony DUI with serious bodily injury, contact an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. Any driving under the Influence (“DUI”) is serious, but when it is alleged that drunk driving causes serious bodily injury, the felony penalties are particularly harsh.
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In many cases, if the driver is taken to the hospital, the arresting officer will delay an arrest until after the blood test results are returned. In other cases, the officer might make an immediate arrest, and the person is subject to remote booking from the hospital.
The FDLE criminal lab might take several months to return the blood test results. Remember that the officers needed a warrant unless your blood was taken with your free and voluntary consent. The warrantless blood draw is always a highly contested issue in these cases.
After the lab results are returned, a prosecutor at the State Attorney’s Office might decide to file the charge by direct information.
The prosecutor might also notify you that it intends to issue a subpoena for your medical records if you were taken to the hospital after the crash.
Attorney for DUI with Serious Bodily Injury in Tampa, FL
If you were charged with DUI involving serious bodily injury, you might also be facing a civil lawsuit for damages caused to the victim who suffered serious bodily injury.
Your criminal defense attorney can also help you resolve the issues in the civil case as you work with your insurance company. If you were injured in the accident, you might also need representation in a civil lawsuit for the damages caused by any personal injury.
The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm take a full-service approach in these cases as we help our clients fight any administrative with DHSMV to protect the driver’s license, the criminal charges in court, and a civil lawsuit for monetary damages.
Call us at (813) 250-0500 to learn what you might need to do immediately to protect yourself after this serious accusation. Let us put our experience to work for you at every stage of the case.
Penalties in Florida for DUI with Serious Bodily Injury
Under Florida law, DUI with serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony charge with a statutory maximum penalty of 5 years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000.00 fine.
The charge is also serious because under Florida law (without a downward departure), the Court will impose a sentence under a sentencing score sheet if you are convicted.
When the total guideline sentence for this felony DUI charge is calculated under the Florida Score Sheet for the Criminal Punishment Code, the minimum prison sentence for someone with no prior record charged with this offense would be four (4) years and three months in Florida State Prison.
Even assuming you have no prior criminal history, DUI with serious bodily injury is a level 7 offense which adds 56 points to your score sheet. If the court also finds that the victim’s injury is severe (which is common in most felony DUI cases with serious bodily injury), then an additional 40 points would be added, bringing the total minimum sentence under the guidelines to 51 months in Florida State Prison.
If you have any other charges on your criminal record, the punishment can be even more severe.
Since the maximum prison sentence is 60 months in prison and the guidelines tend to be between 48 and 51 months, these cases tend to go to trial more often than other types of felony offenses that have lower guideline sentences.
In addition to the penalties discussed above, a conviction for DUI with serious bodily injury will result in a court-ordered minimum three-year suspension or revocation of your Florida driver’s license. The three-year driver’s license revocation does not begin until after you have finished any period of incarceration, jail, or prison.
Defenses in DUI with Serious Bodily Injury Cases
For these reasons, it is important to fight the charges at every stage of the case. In many cases, the driver is also injured in the accident, and the police take a blood draw at the scene, in an ambulance, or at the hospital. In certain circumstances, the police may take a blood draw while you are unconscious or after you refuse to submit.
In fact, many people do not realize that Florida law allows the police to take a sample of your blood using reasonable force when the police have probable cause to think that a person drove a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and caused another person to be seriously injured in the accident.
Many of these cases hinge upon whether the blood test results are admissible at trial because, without the blood test results, many of these cases are difficult to prosecute successfully.
“Serious bodily injury” is a term of art used repeatedly throughout the Florida criminal statutes. Florida law defines serious bodily injury as an injury to any person that causes the loss, impairment, or function of a body part or organ, serious personal disfigurement, or the substantial risk of death.
Not all injuries are serious bodily injuries. For example, in Galgano v. Buchanan, 783 So.2d 302 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001), the court found that a broken leg resulting in 5% permanent impairment did not constitute “serious bodily injury” under section 316.1933(1).
Unless the police officer that took the blood had probable cause that serious bodily injury occurred, no forced blood draw is allowed without a warrant (or a finding of exigent circumstances). Deciding whether the victim’s injury meets this definition is often a contested issue in the criminal case.
The Blood Test in a Bodily Injury DUI Case
In other cases, the police may compel the hospital to release blood samples taken for medical purposes. Many technical defenses can be used when the prosecutor tries to admit an alcohol concentration result into evidence at trial. Hospitals use serum blood for medical testing purposes, while analysis of blood for law enforcement purposes is limited to whole blood.
Serum blood is less reliable than whole blood for determining a person’s blood alcohol content. If your DUI case in Florida involves a blood test, your attorney must contest the test results.
Your attorney may decide to have the sample tested at an independent laboratory to determine that the sample is, in fact, your blood and to determine the true alcohol concentration in the sample. Law enforcement laboratories use gas chromatography to test the blood sample.
Motions to Suppress the DUI Blood Test
Your attorney can file motions to suppress the blood results on many grounds, including:
- The blood was taken without a warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances;
- Too much time elapsed between the accident and the blood draw;
- The arrest or the seizure of evidence was made without probable cause that a DUI-related crime had occurred; and
- The blood was taken without substantial compliance with the rules in Florida promulgated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for the blood withdrawal, storage, testing, analysis, or calibration of equipment at the toxicology laboratory that analyzed the blood.
Many technical defenses exist in cases where the driver’s blood was drawn after an accident. A mistake made by the law enforcement officer investigating the case might result in the suppression of evidence.
Search Warrant for Blood in a DUI with Serious Bodily Injury Case
In many serious bodily injury cases, law enforcement officers will secure a search warrant to draw blood from the person suspected of DUI.
The search warrant alleges that blood can be forensically analyzed for the presence of alcohol and/or controlled and/or chemical substances, and that is potential evidence for proving that the suspect did commit a felony violation of DUI – Serious Bodily Injury, F.S. Section 316.193(3)(c)(2).
In support of the search warrant, the officer conducting the investigation will show that the suspect was driving or in actual physical control, caused an accident and that serious bodily injury to a person other than the suspect occurred.
The officer will fill out an affidavit that alleges that based on the totality of the circumstances, the officer has reason to believe and does believe that the bodily fluids being sought within the warrant are contained on or within the person of the suspect, who is presently found in Hillsborough County, FL.
The officer will further state that he believes that forensic toxicological analysis will provide evidence to show that the driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the traffic crash and, in doing so, was in violation of the existing Florida Statute Statute prohibiting DUI Serious Bodily Injury, Florida Statute Section 316.193(3)(c)(2) when such bodily fluids are subject to seizure under F.S. Section 933.02.
The officer will also file a search warrant return that certifies that he received the search warrant and executed it by taking into custody and possession a blood sample from the subject.
Proving Causation in a DUI with SBI Case in Florida
When an automobile accident results in serious bodily injury or death, a driver is not chargeable with a felony merely because his vehicle was “involved in” the accident.
The felony for DUI with a serious bodily injury can be charged only if the driver, “by reason of [his] operation [of his vehicle] cause[d] or contribute[d] to causing” the accident. Fla. Stat. § 316.193(3)(c).
Causation in these cases is routinely established by eyewitness testimony, by scientific evidence resulting in the reconstruction of the accident, or both. But without sufficient evidence of causation, a driver is chargeable with nothing more than a misdemeanor DUI.
Does DUI Serious Bodily Require Another Person to be Seriously Injured?
In Smith v. State, 793 So.2d 1118, 1119 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001), the defendant was accused of being DUI and was the only person injured in an automobile accident. Florida Statute § 316.193(3)(c)2, made it a third-degree felony to cause serious bodily injury to another as a result of driving under the influence.
Section 316.193(3)(c)2 defined serious bodily injury as an injury to any person, including the driver, which consisted of a physical condition that created a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
Focusing on the rule of construction outlined in Fla. Stat. § 775.021(1), the Court held that the internal ambiguity had to be resolved in the defendant’s favor. Therefore, the Court held that the law does not authorize a conviction for DUI with serious bodily injury where only the defendant had been injured. Id. at 1119.
In Adams v. State, 941 So. 2d 553 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006), the Court held that “a defendant could not be convicted of DUI with serious bodily injury when the only person that sustained an injury was the defendant.” Id. at 554.
Lawyer for DUI with Serious Bodily Injury in Hillsborough County, FL
If you have been arrested for felony DUI with serious bodily injury after a car crash in violation of Section 316.193(3)(c)(2), F.S., contact an experienced DUI Defense Attorney in Tampa that handles these types of cases.
The police may attempt to question you at the scene, in the ambulance, or in the hospital about the circumstances leading up to the accident. Anything you say can and will be used against you.
If you retain an attorney early in the case, the attorney can assist you in dealing with the police. An attorney is often in the best position to present your side of the story and favorable evidence about you and the incident to the police on your behalf.
We represent clients charged with DUI throughout Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County and the surrounding counties in the Tampa Bay area, including Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, and Polk County, FL.
Call (813) 250-0500 to speak with an attorney at Sammis Law Firm.
This article was last updated on Friday, June 16, 2023.