DUI Manslaughter

In Florida, almost any fatal accident that involves a driver who could be convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) at the time of the accident also results in a conviction for DUI manslaughter. The prosecution does not need to prove that the driver's intoxication caused the accident.

The standard a prosecutor must meet to secure a conviction is lower than that of ordinary manslaughter or vehicular homicide cases. Florida DUI manslaughter convictions come with severe penalties, including lengthy prison sentences and significant fines.

DUI Manslaughter Lawyer in West Palm Beach, FL

If you have been charged with alleged DUI manslaughter in Florida, you will want to make sure that you have legal representation. Meltzer & Bell, P.A. can fight to get the best possible outcome for you with the fewest possible penalties.

Our Palm Beach County DUI manslaughter attorneys represent clients in such communities as West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Wellington, Jupiter, and many others.

You can receive a complete review of your case by calling (561) 557-8686 today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

DUI Manslaughter Charges in Florida

Almost any fatal car accident can result in a charge of DUI manslaughter if you meet the legal standard for a conviction of DUI. In Florida, you can be convicted of DUI by either of two standards:

  • If you have a breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or above while driving a motor vehicle (also called a "per se" DUI); or
  • If your normal faculties impaired by alcohol, drugs, inhalants, or controlled substances while driving.

The term "normal faculties" is defined by Fla. Stat. § 316.1934 as including the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, make judgments, and normally perform general mental and physical activities of daily life. If it can be shown that you lack full possession of normal faculties, you will be considered impaired.

It is therefore entirely possible to be charged with a DUI manslaughter under Florida law if a police officer claims your faculties to be impaired even when your BAC was not over the 0.08 limit, or if alcohol was not the direct cause of the accident.

Getting a conviction of DUI manslaughter has a lower threshold for the prosecution to meet than in a normal manslaughter or vehicular homicide case: one of simple negligence. Furthermore, the prosecution is not even required to prove that the driver’s drinking caused the accident.

The law requires only that the operation of the vehicle caused the accident and the driver was intoxicated. Therefore, any lack of care on the part of a driver under the influence on which a fatal accident can be blamed can result in a conviction of DUI manslaughter.

Some examples of situations that have resulted in a conviction of DUI manslaughter include, but are not limited to:

  • Running into another car while under the influence of prescription drugs;
  • Running a red light while under the influence of alcohol; or
  • Turning directly in front of an oncoming car while having a blood-alcohol level over twice the legal limit.

In such a situation, the prosecution does not need to prove that the person ran a red light because they were under the influence of alcohol, only that they were under the influence of alcohol at the time they negligently caused the fatal accident by running the red light.

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Penalties for DUI Manslaughter in Florida

Normally, DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony, and conviction can result in up to:

  • 15 years in prison;
  • $10,000 fine; and/or
  • Permanent revocation of your driver's license.

If the driver knew, or should have known, that the crash occurred and failed to give information and render aid as required by Florida law, the charge increases to a first-degree felony, and conviction can result in up to:

  • 30 years in prison;
  • $10,000 fine; and/or
  • Permanent revocation of your driver's license.

Causation in a DUI Manslaughter Case in Florida

Under Florida law, the crime of DUI manslaughter requires proof that a defendant operated a vehicle while impaired within the meaning of section 316.193(1), Florida Statutes (2013), and, “by reason of such operation, cause[d] or contribute[d] to causing ... [t]he death of any human being ....” § 316.193(3)(c)3.a., Fla. Stat.

“[T]he fact that someone is intoxicated and drives a particular vehicle which causes another person's death should be enough to satisfy the elements of DUI manslaughter.” State v. Hubbard, 751 So.2d 552, 563 (Fla. 1999). Furthermore, “[t]he causation element of the amended statute was interpreted by [the Florida Supreme Court] in [Magaw v. State, 537 So.2d 564, 567 (Fla. 1989),] as not requiring that the conduct of the operator of the vehicle be the sole cause.” Hubbard, 751 So.2d at 564.

The prior versions of the DUI manslaugther statute required that operating a vehicle while intoxicated “cause” a death, see Hubbard, 751 So.2d at 562; Magaw, 537 So.2d at 566. The current version of the DUI manslaughter statute in Florida requires operating the vehicle to “cause or contribute to” the victim's death. See § 316.193(3)(c) 3., Fla. Stat. On the other hand, the current version of the statute "requires only that the operation of the vehicle should have caused the accident. Therefore, any deviation or lack of care on the part of a driver under the influence to which the fatal accident can be attributed will suffice.” Magaw, 537 So.2d at 567.

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Finding a DUI Manslaughter Lawyer in Palm Beach County, FL

Were you arrested for alleged DUI manslaughter in Florida? Meltzer & Bell, P.A. defends clients facing these charges in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Greenacres, Lake Worth, Royal Palm Beach, and Riviera Beach.

Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell have experience with these cases on both sides of the aisle as a former prosecutor and former public defender, respectively. You can have our West Palm Beach DUI manslaughter attorneys review your case by calling (561) 557-8686.

Call to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.

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