West Palm Beach DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorney

DUI manslaughter occurs when an individual causes or contributes to the death of another person or unborn child while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. DUI manslaughter is a separate offense from simple DUI or murder charges. If convicted, the defendant can face serious legal consequences including fines, imprisonment, and a loss of driving privileges. 

Prosecutors in Florida take DUI manslaughter cases very seriously due to the potential loss of life and reckless behavior allegedly exhibited by the accused person. Police officers will use various strategies to determine whether the driver was impaired, such as field sobriety exercises, chemical tests, and eyewitness testimony.

It is important to understand the charges and potential penalties if you are facing a DUI manslaughter offense. With the right criminal defense attorney, you can work towards getting the charges against you reduced or dismissed. 

Violent Crimes South Florida Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know is facing charges for DUI or DUI manslaughter in Palm Beach County, your first move should be reaching out to Ian Goldstein Law. Our firm has a broad knowledge of the legal landscape and can help you get ahead in your case. Our team can review your case details and start strategizing possible defenses for your case. To receive a free consultation today, contact our office at  (561) 600-0950.

DUI Manslaughter Definition 

Florida Statute Section 316.193 defines DUI manslaughter as the offense a person commits when they operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances, which results in the death of another person or unborn child. 

To convict a defendant of DUI manslaughter in Florida, the State must prove the following elements beyond reasonable doubt: 

  • The driver was in actual physical control of the motor vehicle; 
  • The driver was operating the motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances to the extent that their normal faculties were impaired or; 
  • The driver’s breath-alcohol or blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.08 or higher at the time of the accident; and
  • The accident resulted in the death of another person or unborn child. 

Florida Statute Section 775.021 defines an “unborn child” as a human being, at any stage of development, while in the mother’s womb. 

“Actual physical control” means the driver had the immediate ability to operate a motor vehicle. Evidence to prove actual physical control includes the location of the driver’s keys, or that the impaired person was found in the driver’s seat. 

Penalties for DUI Manslaughter in Florida

Florida law classifies a DUI manslaughter offense as a second-degree felony. The penalties for a second-degree felony in Florida include the following: 

  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Up to 15 years of imprisonment 
  • Up to 15 years of probation

A defendant accused of DUI manslaughter who failed to provide their information, fled the scene, or failed to render aid at the scene of the accident will face a first-degree felony. The penalties for a first-degree felony in Florida include the following: 

  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Up to 30 years of imprisonment 
  • Up to 30 years of probation 

How Can Police Tell a Defendant is Under the Influence? 

If police have probable cause to believe you are operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances, they may request you complete field sobriety exercises. The three most common field sobriety exercises include: 

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
  • Walk-and-Turn
  • One-leg Stand
  • Rhomberg Alphabet

In addition to field sobriety exercises, law enforcement may request drivers suspected of DUI to submit a chemical DUI sobriety testesting. This can include a breath, urine, or blood test. 

Florida’s Implied Consent Law codified under Statute Section 316.1932 explains that a person who accepts the privilege of driving or operating a motor vehicle shall give their consent to submit a breath or urine test after being lawfully arrested for DUI. 

The driver can refuse to take the breath or urine test. However, law enforcement must then tell the accused person that failure to submit to such a test results in an automatic license suspension for one year. A second or subsequent refusal results in an 18-month driver’s license suspension. 

Florida Statute Section 316.1939 further states that if the driver refuses chemical testing after being informed of the penalties for the refusal of a breath, urine, or blood test, or if they have previously been suspended or fined for the failure to submit to such a test, then they may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor include up to $1,000 in fines and up to one year in jail. 

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code ranks each criminal offense at its level of severity. DUI manslaughter is considered a Level 8 offense; however, it goes up to a Level 9 offense if the person responsible fails to render aid at the scene of the crash or fails to provide their information. If convicted, a defendant facing a DUI manslaughter charge must be sentenced to a mandatory minimum four years of imprisonment, and may be sentenced to up to fifteen years imprisonment.

Additional Consequences for DUI Manslaughter

A DUI conviction carries additional consequences, including: 

  • Revocation of driver’s license;
  • Vehicle immobilization;
  • Ignition Interlock device (IID) installation;
  • DUI driving school; 
  • Community service; and
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Victim impact panel 

Double Jeopardy 

Under the Fifth Amendment, the clause of double jeopardy provides that a defendant cannot be convicted of the same criminal offense twice. However, a defendant who is accused of leaving the scene of a DUI manslaughter accident or failing to provide information or render aid after the accident can be convicted of both DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident without violating the principles of double jeopardy. 

DUI Manslaughter Defenses 

After getting arrested for a DUI manslaughter offense, you may feel defeated and as if you have no options. This charge implies that someone has died, which can be a traumatic experience for anyone. However, it is important to note that even if you have already been charged with the crime, it does not equate to a conviction. By working with an experienced defense attorney, you can discuss the following possible DUI manslaughter defenses: 

  • Illegal Traffic Stop – If a police officer pulls you over, it must be because they either have reasonable suspicion that you committed a traffic infraction, or that you have committed a crime. All the evidence obtained during the traffic stop can be dismissed or suppressed if a defense attorney can prove they were mistaken in the reason for conducting the traffic stop. 
  • Insufficient Probable Cause – The only way law enforcement can request you take a DUI test is if there is probable cause to believe you are under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. A defense attorney can help to prove the probable cause did not exist or was based on insufficient evidence or unreasonable conclusions. This can result in the evidence obtained being suppressed. 
  • Improper Field Sobriety Exercises – Field sobriety exercises are used to help police officers determine whether a driver is operating their vehicle while impaired. However, there are many factors which may affect the admissibility of these exercises in court. An experienced and skilled defense attorney can help argue the tests were unreliable and therefore are inadmissible. 
  • Inadmissible Breath Test Results – One of the more common methods of DUI testing is the breathalyzer. These tests require very specific standards and procedures.  Failure to maintain the machine or follow the testing requirements can result in the test results being suppressed. 

To find out which defense is best applicable to your case, contact an experienced South Florida defense attorney in your area. 

Contact a South Florida DUI Manslaughter Attorney 

If you are facing criminal charges for driving under the influence or a DUI manslaughter offense, it is extremely important that you prioritize speaking with a legal professional. An experienced attorney can assist by reviewing the case details, providing years’ worth of knowledge and experience, and strategizing a strong defense to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

The attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law understand the stress and anxiety that comes with dealing with criminal prosecution. We intend to stand by your side throughout this trying time and ensure that all your rights are protected. If you want an attorney to fight for you and your case, call our firm at (561) 600-0950 today to receive a free consultation.