What Penalty Am I Facing if someone dies in a DUI accident? DUI Manslaughter?
In the past, the Florida penalties for a DUI, in which a person died, fluctuated wildly. One 20-year old young woman received a 24-year prison term, for a drunk driving crash which killed two, while a 57-year old man received only 10 years for the same crime. Yet another young woman killed one person in a DUI crash, then killed another in a hit-and-run case while she was out on bail for the first case. This young woman received four years in prison. As you can see, there seems to be little consistency among judges when sentencing those who kill another person while driving under the influence.
There is a 4-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for a DUI manslaughter conviction, which is a second degree felony, under Florida statute 316.193(3)(c). With more than 400 of these cases resolved in the state since 2012, the statewide average for a conviction of DUI manslaughter is about 10 years in prison, although some Florida counties have historically been harsher than others. The reasons associated with the disparity in sentencing for DUI manslaughter cases are complex, with the outcomes being swayed by such factors as:
- The skill of the defendant’s attorney;
- The strength of the evidence;
- The crash circumstances;
- The defendant’s prior criminal history;
- The level of media coverage, and
- The desires of the victim’s family members.
The four-year minimum mandatory prison term was added in 2007, after concerns were raised about judges being too lenient on DUI manslaughter defendants. Regardless of the circumstances, any traffic accident which results in a fatality is a tragedy for all those involved. When a DUI is involved, law enforcement tends to prosecute the accused vigorously, with no regard to intent. Obviously nobody should get behind the wheel of a car when they are impaired, however if you find yourself being charged with a DUI manslaughter, you are entitled to a vigorous, skilled defense.
Because of the media storm around DUI manslaughter cases, it is rare that a Florida prosecutor will agree to a plea deal, even if the case is a weak one. Because of this, it is imperative to speak to an experienced Florida DUI attorney as soon as possible. Because DUI manslaughter is a felony, the police are allowed to forcibly carry out a blood draw, without your consent. In addition to the minimum mandatory sentencing, a person convicted of DUI manslaughter will have his or her driver’s license permanently suspended. If that person has no prior DUI convictions, he or she may be eligible for a hardship reinstatement after five years have passed from the time of the revocation.
Points Which Determine Prison Time for DUI Manslaughter
The Florida Department of Corrections released Florida sentencing guidelines in the form of a scoresheet preparation manual. When a person is arrested for a felony crime, that crime is assigned a certain level as a primary offense. The level is then assigned a specific number of points. Should the defendant score above 44 points, he or she will be sentenced to time in a Florida state prison for a certain number of months—unless the Judge makes the decision to adjust the number of months downward, based on mitigating circumstances.
DUI manslaughter is a level 8 offense, and a second-degree felony (with a level 10 offense being the most serious). A level 8 offense, under the scoresheet preparation manual’s sentencing guidelines, is assigned 74 points. A prior criminal record can add additional points to that total, and a legal status violation will add an additional four points (escape, fleeing, failure to appear, incarceration, pretrial intervention or diversion program, etc.).
Thirty points can be added to the total for a prior serious felony conviction. Enhancements can also add additional points. Therefore, as an example, a conviction for DUI manslaughter adds 74 points. According to the formula, if no mitigating circumstances exist, 74 – 28 = 46 x .75 = 34.5 months in prison, however since this crime has a minimum mandatory of four years, then the defendant would be sentenced to four years.
Potential Defenses to Florida DUI Manslaughter Charges
Of course the actual defense your attorney will use depends on the circumstances and facts surrounding your specific charges, but the following defenses may be applicable in your situation:
- You were not properly read your Miranda Rights, therefore any potentially incriminating statements you may have made might not be admissible in court;
- It has not been proven you were in actual physical control—that is, that you were actually driving the vehicle which caused the accident;
- The field sobriety tests were not properly administered according to accepted protocol;
- There is some question regarding the police officer’s observations and interpretations as to your level of intoxication;
- You were not warned of the penalties involved in declining a chemical test;
- The Breathalyzer test was not administered according to accepted protocol, or there were other problems associated with the test, and
- A breath, blood or urine test was not administered during the proper timeframe.
How a Florida DUI Attorney Can Help
It is essential that you contact a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. The sooner you have a skilled attorney from The Law Place in your corner, the sooner that attorney can begin building your defense, and ensuring your rights are properly protected. A conviction for DUI manslaughter can lead to harsh penalties, including prison time, fines and the loss of your license, but can also alter your life in many other ways.
Even after you have served your prison term, you may be unable to obtain a job because of your criminal record, and may also be unable to obtain a student loan, rent a home or own a firearm. There is also a significant social stigma attached to the crime of DUI manslaughter which you will have to face for a very long time. Your experienced Florida DUI attorney from The Law Place is the best chance you have for a more positive outcome to your charges.
Florida Sample Interactive Sentencing Guideline
The Law Place has created an interactive sentencing guideline. This will assist individuals with calculating how much prison time they may be facing. You can find that program HERE.