Most homicide prosecutions involve criminal acts that included a defendant’s intention to kill another person, even if that intention was only momentary. Manslaughter is different. You can be charged and convicted for manslaughter even when you never meant to cause someone’s death.
What Is Manslaughter?
The Florida criminal statute against manslaughter defines it as follows:
The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification according to the provisions of chapter 776 and in cases in which such killing shall not be excusable homicide or murder, according to the provisions of this chapter, is manslaughter, a felony of the second degree, . . .”
Manslaughter is a crime committed by someone who acts recklessly, with more than mere negligence. Intentionally committing, or encouraging another person, to commit a grossly negligent act, for which there is no legal justification or excuse, that results in the death of another person is manslaughter.
Poor Decision — Tragic Consequences
No one intends to kill another person when they begin to drink alcohol at a bar, or even when they become intoxicated. But getting behind the wheel of a car or truck when your “normal faculties are impaired,” or when your blood or breath alcohol level exceeds 0.08, is an intentional act. The same is true if a driver is impaired by drugs, even prescription drugs.
Drunk or drugged drivers whose actions result in the death of others are the object of universal social condemnation. They are often perceived as remorseless and deserving of extremely harsh punishment. But experienced criminal DUI defense lawyers know that drivers who cause others’ death in drunk driving accidents feel inconsolable guilt for decades. The taking of another life haunts them.
If you or a family member or a friend are facing Florida DUI Manslaughter charges anywhere in the Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater metro area, you need to contact skilled, aggressive criminal defense lawyers who know how to defend against the charges piece-by-piece. Only after years of litigating DUI charges on both sides of the courtroom does a lawyer develop a comprehensive strategy in DUI cases.
Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law have extensive experience prosecuting and defending countless DUI cases in Hillsborough County and elsewhere. Stechschulte Nell, among the few certified criminal defense lawyers in Florida, is fully equipped to conduct a thorough investigation and an effective defense to protect you from any unnecessary or avoidable conviction. Consultation is free and can be scheduled within minutes.
Florida DUI Manslaughter Penalties
In Florida, a DUI is typically charged as a misdemeanor and carries strict penalties including revocation of the driver’s license, significant fines, associated court fees, and up to a year in prison with probation. The sentence also includes driving reeducation and counseling for alcohol or substance use disorder.
All the misdemeanor penalties, including the graduated increase in penalties for repeat offenders and for those whose blood alcohol level exceeds 0.15 or those who had an accident, are designed to deter the driver from reoffending.
Any person convicted of DUI could have had an accident, and any accident could have killed someone.
The penalties in Florida for DUI Manslaughter include the following:
- state prison for at least 4 years and up to 15 years (second-degree felony) likely sentence under guidelines approximately 10 years in prison
- fine of up to $10,00
- probation for up to 15 years
- driver’s license revoked for life (possible hardship license after 5 years following revocation or from release from prison).
In many DUI manslaughter cases, defendants also face other very serious charges. The most common accompanying felony is “Leaving the Scene of an Accident, Death Resulting.”
Why do people run from accident scenes? The predominant theory is that they feel a combination of guilt and fear. Were they driving recklessly? Is their license invalid? Do they have arrest warrants for other offenses? Or are they trying to hide the fact of their intoxication?
Whatever the reason, leaving the scene of an accident is illegal. Doing so in circumstances when someone is killed in the accident is a first-degree felony carrying a 30-year maximum prison sentence.
Leaving the scene of a deadly accident has a maximum prison term twice as long as DUI manslaughter.
Defending DUI Manslaughter & Leaving the Scene of an Accident Death Resulting
Only the most experienced criminal defense lawyers should be hired to represent a defendant facing either one or both of these serious felonies. Defending the DUI manslaughter allegation requires the ability to defend every individual component of the DUI charge.
- Was the defendant the operator?
- Were there reasonable grounds to suspect the operator was impaired by alcohol or drugs as opposed to injuries sustained in the accident?
- Did accident-related injuries interfere with the defendant’s performance of standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs)?
- Did the police officer administer the SFSTs properly, or were they so poorly administered that their reported results are unreliable?
- Was there probable cause to arrest the operator for DUI and to require blood, breath, or urine tests?
- Is there any physical evidence at the scene of alcohol or drug use?
When a driver leaves the scene of an accident in which someone died, they are often not apprehended until hours later. By the time they are identified, located, and taken into custody, any reliable evidence of intoxication is probably gone. Even obvious intoxication at the time of arrest hours cannot show whether they were in that state when driving or began drinking after the accident.
Fleeing an accident resulting in death prevents prosecutors from proving DUI at the time of the accident. That prosecutorial weakness is why leaving the scene of a fatal accident is punishable by 30 years in prison and the penalty for DUI manslaughter is 15 years. The legislature hopes to dissuade impaired drivers from leaving the scene of deadly accidents.
Stechschulte Nell Defends DUI Manslaughter in Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater
Any driver involved in a car accident in which another person is killed suffers an extraordinary emotional trauma, even drivers who were impaired by alcohol or drugs. Social condemnation, humiliation, and guilt often leave DUI manslaughter defendants emotionally scarred and outcasts in the community.
As professional criminal defense attorneys, Ben Stechschulte and Amy Nell bring years of courtroom experience and legal skill to every client’s defense. Only lawyers who truly believe in the humanity of every defendant and commit themselves to fight for their clients without judgment can provide the level of expertise needed in DUI Manslaughter cases.
Call for a case review today; 813-280-1244.