West Palm Beach DUI Manslaughter & Vehicular Homicide Lawyer
Motor vehicle crashes and collisions are a regular occurrence in West Palm Beach and in other areas. They can result from traffic, weather, and road conditions, vehicle malfunctions, or due to driving behaviors such as speeding, tailgating, or using cell phones, texting, and other types of distractions. However, car accidents can quickly become complicated where alcohol or drugs are involved. Law enforcement agencies are quick to investigate possible DUI charges, especially when a death or an injury results to another person. In these situations, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side.
If you or someone close to you is charged with DUI, even if they have not been involved in an injury accident, it is vitally important to contact Scott Berry Law, P.A. for help as soon as possible. Our West Palm Beach manslaughter & vehicular homicide lawyers have more than 15 years protecting clients, and can help defend your freedoms and your rights in these situations.
When Florida DUI Charges Can Be Pressed
According to statistics from Behavioral Health of The Palm Beaches, more than 4,000 people in our local area are arrested on charges related to driving under the influence each year. Before beginning a DUI investigation, a police officer must have a reason to believe the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The DUI investigation itself often begins when a vehicle is stopped for any number of reasons. These can occur as the result of DUI checkpoints, or in the aftermath of a car crash or collision.The typical DUI case often involves a police officer who stops a driver for speeding, failing to signal, having an expired tag, or any number of other basic traffic infractions. Once stopped, the police officer may smell alcohol or note other signs the driver is under the influence and the investigation commences.
Understanding the Law’s Nuances
While a basic DUI charges will be treated as a misdemeanor, everything changes when a car accident occurs, particularly if death or serious bodily injury is involved. DUIs, while very serious, are relatively easy to work through. They are misdemeanors and typically result in probationary sentences with expensive and time-consuming conditions. While jail is possible, it is usually unlikely, particularly for first-time offenders and, while the costs and penalties can be significant, life goes on.
DUI Manslaughter and DUI causing serious bodily injury are different animals entirely. They are felonies, rather than misdemeanors and the likelihood of incarceration goes up dramatically, even for first-time offenders. If you are charged with any of these offenses, it is critical you contact an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Defining Vehicular Homicide vs. DUI Manslaughter
The Florida Integrated Report Exchange System (FIRES) reports that roughly 5,500 DUI related car accidents happen throughout the state each year, resulting in over 400 fatalities.DUI manslaughter charges are generally brought when alcohol is determined to be a factor in a fatal accident. Vehicular homicide is often added to the list of charges when a person is believed to have been responsible for another person’s death after an accident. However, it can be a standalone charge as well. The primary difference is that the government does not have to prove a driver charged with vehicular homicide was impaired at the time of the accident. They do have to provide evidence the charged person was driving recklessly and that behavior led to the accident. Like DUI manslaughter, a person convicted of vehicular homicide is subject to a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Because so many issues are involved in these types of cases, it’s always important to say nothing to anyone about the accident until you’ve discussed the situation with an experienced West Palm Beach DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide lawyer.
The Importance of Testing
During a DUI investigation, a police officer may request different kinds of tests. The most common tests are the roadside exercises. The roadsides are a series of physical activities an officer will ask you to perform when he or she suspects you have been drinking. Examples of these tests are the walk and turn, the one leg stand, the Romberg alphabet, and the finger-to-nose. Each of these tests are supposed to be divided attention tasks to test your ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time. Even sober, these are not easily performed. The officer has a list of things he or she is looking for as you perform the task and will note whenever you do one of these things incorrectly. The officer will later testify that your mistakes are what indicated you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
After the roadsides are completed, the officer will likely arrest you and bring you to the police station for further testing. At the BAT, the officer will request a sample of your breath to determine your blood alcohol content. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) advises that you do have a choice when it comes to consenting to BAC testing. However, if you refuse to take this test, your driver’s license will be suspended for a period of 12 months for a first offense and a period of 18 months for a second offense. What they do not tell you though is that if you take the test and blow above the legal limit of .08, your driver’s license will also be suspended for a period of 6 months for a first offense. They also don’t mention that your high breath reading will be used to convict you at trial and that it is often more difficult for your lawyer to convince a jury that you are not guilty once you have blown into their machine.
Where serious bodily injury or death is involved, police may require an actual blood test. This has become more complicated in recent years as the United States Supreme Court has determined that in many of these cases, a warrant is necessary before the officer can draw blood. For many years, it was believed that any time an office believed there was alcohol or drugs involved in a case where there was an accident with serious bodily injury or death, they could take your blood without a warrant. The Court has recently ruled against them on this issue, but officers continue to try.
If you are involved in a DUI, particularly one involving serious bodily injury or death, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can explore whether the police officers properly conducted the testing they inevitably did in your case.
Florida DUI Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide Statutes
At Scott Berry Law, P.A., we work aggressively to defend you against allegations of driving under the influence and other charges you face as the result of motor vehicle accidents. Our more than 15 years of experience in the field and our reputation as West Palm Beach DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide lawyers help to protect your rights in any traffic stops and in the event of an arrest, while our legal expertise helps to provide the best possible chance of avoiding a criminal conviction.
Our hands on approach ensure you stay informed about the progress of your case and allows you to take an active and involved role in your own defense. To help you better understand the charges and potential penalties you may be facing, the following highlights key portions of the Florida Statutes, which may apply in your situation:
Florida Statute, Section 782.071. Vehicular homicide
Vehicular homicide.—“Vehicular homicide” is the killing of a human being, or the killing of an unborn child by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another.
(1) Vehicular homicide is:
(a) A felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(b) A felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, if:
1. At the time of the accident, the person knew, or should have known, that the accident occurred; and
2. The person failed to give information and render aid as required by s. 316.062.
This paragraph does not require that the person knew that the accident resulted in injury or death.
(2) For purposes of this section, the term “unborn child” has the same meaning as provided in s. 775.021(5).
(3) A right of action for civil damages shall exist under s. 768.19, under all circumstances, for all deaths described in this section.
(4) In addition to any other punishment, the court may order the person to serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital that regularly receives victims of vehicle accidents, under the supervision of a registered nurse, an emergency room physician, or an emergency medical technician pursuant to a voluntary community service program operated by the trauma center or hospital.
History.—s. 16, ch. 74-383; s. 6, ch. 75-298; s. 12, ch. 86-296; s. 14, ch. 96-330; s. 9, ch. 98-417; s. 1, ch. 99-153; s. 2, ch. 2001-147; s. 5, ch. 2014-194.
Florida Statute, Section 316.193, DUI Manslaughter
Under this section of the statutes, Florida Uniform Traffic Control Laws state:
A person who is convicted of DUI manslaughter shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 4 years.
(4) Any person who is convicted of a violation of subsection (1) and who has a blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level of 0.15 or higher, or any person who is convicted of a violation of subsection (1) and who at the time of the offense was accompanied in the vehicle by a person under the age of 18 years, shall be punished:
(a) By a fine of:
1. Not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000 for a first conviction.
2. Not less than $2,000 or more than $4,000 for a second conviction.
3. Not less than $4,000 for a third or subsequent conviction.
(b) By imprisonment for:
1. Not more than 9 months for a first conviction.
2. Not more than 12 months for a second conviction.
Exploring All the Evidence is Crucial
In any accident involving serious bodily injury or death, traffic investigators will be reviewing the facts related to the accident and reconstructing the events to determine what factors contributed to the incident. Defense attorneys understand the process and also take the opportunity to conduct their own investigations. That’s extremely important when DUI manslaughter or vehicular homicide charges are likely to result.
If you’ve been involved in an automobile accident resulting in serious injuries or fatalities, it’s important to contact an experienced West Palm Beach DUI manslaughter & vehicular homicide lawyer for advice and help immediately. With the potential consequences involved, having an attorney at your side throughout the process is a virtual necessity. Waiting until charges have actually been filed can delay your defense, so get in touch with an attorney for help today. Call Scott Berry Law, P.A. at 561-281-7155 or contact us online to set up a consultation now.