Driving while under the influence of alcohol is unfortunately one of the most commonly charged criminal offenses. Every day, lots of people around the country have a little too much to drink and then get behind the wheel to drive somewhere. And every day, people are pulled over on suspicion of DUI.
The consequences of a DUI are serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly. There is inherent danger in drinking and driving. You are putting your safety and the safety of other people at risk when you get behind the wheel.
If you are charged with a DUI in Florida, and are convicted of the offense, you will have to pay fines, do community service, deal with a suspended license, and possibly spend up to six months in jail if it is your first conviction. And this is not to mention, you will also have to pay for all of the expensive administrative fees that come with a DUI. Not to mention the additional ramifications that come with a criminal conviction.
And that’s assuming that no one gets hurt. What happens if you compromise the safety of others? What if your drinking and driving causes a crash that results in injuries or even death?
According to Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD), someone is injured in a drunk driving accident every two minutes. Every two minutes. By the time you finish reading this, someone will have been injured in a drunk driving crash. What’s worse is that every day, 28 people are killed due to drunk driving accidents.
If you are over the legal limit of alcohol – 0.08 blood alcohol concentration – and you get into a crash that harms someone, you can be charged with far worse than a “simple” DUI. You could be charged with a felony DUI, which would have harsher punishments and consequences upon a conviction.
DUI/Serious Bodily Injury
Under Florida Statute 316.1933, serious bodily injury is defined as:
“An injury to any person, including the driver, which consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”
So by causing serious bodily injury, your misdemeanor DUI charge can be upgraded to a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
If anyone dies because you were driving under the influence — dies including an unborn child – you can be charged with DUI manslaughter. DUI manslaughter is a second degree felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Leaving the scene of an accident is also a crime. But leaving the scene of an accident where someone was killed and failing to provide aid will result in a first degree felony charge, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Under Florida Statute 782.071(1)(b), vehicular homicide is defined as:
“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.”
Vehicular homicide, like manslaughter, is a second degree felony. Or, it would be a first degree felony if you leave the scene of the crime.
But what is the difference between DUI Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide if both result in someone’s death?
A DUI Manslaughter charge is one in which the driver is alleged to be impaired and causes or contributes to causing a death. The charge of Vehicular Homicide, however, is based on an allegation that the driver operated his or her vehicle in a reckless manner likely to cause death or serious harm to another.
Impairment is not an essential element of a Vehicular Homicide charge.
Defending Against These Serious Charges
It may seem hopeless if you’ve been charged with one of these serious DUI offenses, but with the help of a skilled Florida DUI lawyer, you can fight the charges and work to protect your future and your freedom.
A qualified attorney will be able to look at all sides of your case and determine:
- The cause of the accident
- Proof of who was driving the car
- What your BAC actually was
- Whether the BAC was obtained lawfully
- If you were negligent
- What witnesses have to say
- What experts have to say
As soon as you learn about your DUI charge, you should immediately contact a knowledgeable Florida criminal attorney who will be able to intervene and begin investigating your case.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.