It can happen to anyone
Over the years, I've seen a lot of first-time offenders, clients who have never had a run-in with the criminal justice system, face DUI Manslaughter charges. It can happen to anyone that's driving over the legal limit and is in an accident where he or she, "directly or indirectly causes the death of another."
Possible penalties for DUI Manslaughter
DUI Manslaughter is classified as a second degree felony in Florida and carries up to 15 years in Florida state prison. In addition, DUI Manslaughter scores high in Florida's Criminal Punishment Code, which means that someone who's never even been arrested before is suddenly facing 124.5 months in prison, on the low-end of the sentencing guidelines!
The 4 year mandatory minimum
But there's more: under section 316.193(3), Florida Statutes, “A person who is convicted of DUI manslaughter shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 4 years.” State v. Yeomans, 172 So. 3d 1006, 1008 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015). Much like in drug trafficking cases, and pursuant to State v. Vanderhoff, 14 So.3d 1185, 1189 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009), only the State Attorney has authority to waive a mandatory minimum sentence.
Downward departures and waivers
Put in plain English, if you or a loved one are arrested for DUI Manslaughter, you'll be facing up to 15 years in prison, but you'll score out to 10 years, 4 months.
If you file a motion for downward departure and convince the judge to go below the 10 years, 4 months, the best he can do is give you the mandatory minimum sentence of 4 years (unless your attorney can convince the Assistant State Attorney to "waive" the mandatory minimum).
Just what is DUI Manslaughter?
These cases are notoriously difficult to take to trial, as the elements of the crime, as listed below, make it an almost "strict liability" offense— particularly element 3. as noted below.
Pursuant to Florida Statute 316.193(1) and 3(c)(3), the crime of DUI Manslaughter is committed in Florida when a person:
Drives a vehicle, or is found to be in actual physical control of a vehicle, within the state of Florida,
And the person is either:
Under the influence of alcoholic beverages or any chemical or controlled substance, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired; or
Has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher; or
Has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher.
And causes the death of another person — either directly or indirectly.
Defenses to DUI Manslaughter
In most, if not all, prosecutions for DUI Manslaughter, there is a "blood draw" and subsequent analysis of the blood. There are several things that come into play from a defense perspective:
First, there may be a viable motion for suppress the blood, as Florida law prohibits officers from taking blood unless there's serious bodily injury, or death — and probable cause to believe you were operating a vehicle while under the influence. If there was no probable cause to support the blood draw, the evidence may be suppressed.
Second, the blood draw rarely takes place right after the accident. Therefore, it's almost impossible for the State to prove your blood alcohol content at the time your were driving. Think about it, a blood test in the hospital or in the ambulance 2 hours (or more) after an accident can't establish that you were over the limit at the time you were driving.
Third, the blood draw (and its' subsequent storage) may not have comported to Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Standards. Police and paramedics have to adhere to these strict guidelines before and after administering any chemical test. Failure to adhere to FDLE standards could result in a motion to suppress evidence.
The above defenses and many others may be available to you. Which is why it's critically important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to develop an effective defense strategies and hold the State Attorney's Office to their burden of proving the crime of DUI Manslaughter beyond and to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt.
There is hope
If you or a loved one is arrested and charged with DUI Manslaughter, please call our 24-hour telephone number 305-461-1066 to set up an appointment and free consultation so we can assess your particular case and provide you with the best legal advice on how to proceed. Your meeting with me will be strictly confidential and subject to the attorney-client privilege.
I want to hear your side of the story.
State and Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
55 Merrick Way ~ Suite 212
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
305-461-1066 (24 Hours)
We are solely a Criminal Defense Law Firm. That's all we do and all we have done since 1987.