DUI manslaughter, codified under section Florida Statute Section 316.193, is defined as the act of causing or contributing to the death of another human being while operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. DUI’s can be enhanced in Florida for repeat offenders and for drivers who cause varying levels of injury or property damage. DUI manslaughter, predictably, sits at the top of an escalating ladder of consequences for DUI crimes that have victims.
For the prosecution to secure a conviction for DUI manslaughter, the following elements must be established beyond any reasonable doubt:
The first two elements define the lesser included offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Proof of causation (the third element) requires testimony from an expert witness- usually an accident reconstructionist and a forensic pathologist.
The crime of DUI manslaughter exists at the intersection of the lowest level of mens rea (criminal intent) and the highest level of criminal result: the death of a human being. As such, Florida courts have long struggled to find appropriate outcomes when adjudicating these cases. If you or a loved one are facing these accusations, reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tampa, Florida.
The penalties for DUI manslaughter include:
In the state of Florida, DUI manslaughter is a second degree felony. Such felonies are usually punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, but the maximum penalty may be higher if a defendant “scores out” higher based on their criminal punishment code scoresheet. With Florida DUI manslaughter cases, that is often a real possibility. DUI manslaughter is a level 8 offense, higher than the level seven of manslaughter by intentional act. With points assessed for the death of a single victim, most defendants are looking at over ten years as a minimum sentence. Even with a downward departure, the law requires a mandatory minimum four year prison sentence. Such a requirement is usually reserved for cases like firearm or drug trafficking charges.
The third element of causation is most often disputed in cases where a sober driver would also have hit or killed the victim. Such a strategy could lead to the conviction for misdemeanor DUI while avoiding a conviction for DUI manslaughter. There is an opportunity to challenge or exclude expert testimony the state will have to rely upon for a conviction.
Additionally, any defense to a misdemeanor DUI is available in a DUI manslaughter case. This means the state will have to “wheel” the defendant as the driver of a vehicle through eyewitness testimony or other evidence. Impairment (or an unlawful alcohol level) can be disputed at trial or in a pretrial hearing. Often, blood draws are used in DUI manslaughter cases because the defendant finds himself at a hospital after a traffic crash, where breathalyzers are not readily available. The use of an expired blood kit or improper testing could alter the results. If any of these small deviations occur in the standard testing protocol, the results can appear inaccurate and may be inadmissible.
The effectiveness of any defense will depend on the unique facts and circumstances of each case.
The evidentiary defenses to a DUI manslaughter charge include the following:
A DUI manslaughter charge is a very serious one that can largely impact your future. Getting convicted of DUI manslaughter has severe consequences, including high fines and potentially lengthy prison sentence. If you or a loved one has been accused of committing a DUI manslaughter crime in Tampa, Florida, Hillsborough County, or the surrounding Tampa Bay areas, contact an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney today. It is important to know your rights and how to go about defending your case. Get in contact with Elsea Law Firm, P.A. to schedule your free consultation.