FELONY DUI & MANSLAUGHTER

In the Circuit Court DUI’s are charged as felonies based upon the number of prior convictions or because there has been a death or serious bodily injury. In the case of Felony DUI, any fourth offense qualifies as a third degree felony, as does a third offense with ten years of second conviction. If there is an accident and someone, including the accused, is seriously injured, the DUI is charged as a third degree felony. If there is an accident and someone is killed as a result, that is DUI manslaughter. DUI manslaughter and the offense charged is a second degree felony. Third degree felonies carry a maximum prison sentence of 5 years with a maximum $5000.00 fine. A second degree felony carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 year and a maximum 10,000.00 fine. However, in each case the sentence is determined by application of the Florida Criminal Code Sentencing Guidelines.

INNOVATION AND SKILL

A person facing DUI-related charges in the Circuit Court must be extremely careful in choosing a lawyer. Unlike, being charged in County Court for Misdemeanor DUI, the consequences and penalties are much more serious and life-affecting.

In the years a lawyer has represented those charged with these more serious offenses, he has taken a no-nonsense approach towards the formulation and preparation of successful defense strategies. The use of innovation and skillful execution to attack any prosecution is intended to make the client feel at ease that the right choice has been made.

In all Felony DUI cases, a good lawyer has been able to bring his years of experience and expertise to bear to obtain the results his clients can expect. His knowledge and familiarity of all police investigative procedures, including the use of field sobriety exercises and the Intoxilyzer breath test machine, sets him apart in the field of DUI defense.

DUI MANSLAUGHTER/SERIOUS BODILY INJURY

It should be understood that this type of prosecution is unlike any other in the field of criminal defense and requires a completely different skill set from anything related the typical DUI case.

In nearly every DUI MANSLAUGHTER/SERIOUS BODILY INJURY prosecution the State employs the very best DUI investigators to gather evidence against the accused. Also, the accused must contend with the fact that a blood draw has been obtained and analyzed. The results are very often damaging and disheartening. The analysis is performed in a police-run laboratory and is done to detect the level of alcohol or the presence of drugs.

The State employs experts to analyze and interpret the results. These opinions are always intended to place the accused in the worst possible light. It takes special knowledge and expertise in the field of laboratory science and forensic toxicology to effectively neutralize this type of evidence. A lawyer’s expertise in these complicated areas is well recognized and documented. He has lectured other members of the Bar on these issues as well as being published in legal periodicals. This is in addition to the wealth of experience he has gathered in these types of cases from investigating and preparing defense strategies for dealing with the various police experts called into court.

The analysis of the actual crash is also a major focus of the police because an important element of the Manslaughter/Serious Bodily Injury charge is CAUSATION. That means the police must be able to prove that the accused caused or contributed to the cause of the death or injury while driving impaired or over the limit.

The lawyer that takes on this type of case MUST have expertise and experience in the areas of accident reconstruction and laboratory science. An effective defense strategy must attack the two main types of expert testimony. First, the opinion of the accident investigator that the accused caused the crash, and second, the opinion of the toxicologist that the blood analysis results are reliable and that the accused’s blood alcohol level was above the limit at the time of the crash or that his blood concentration of drugs caused him to be impaired at the time of the crash. Defending against this type of evidence in not for the inexperienced. Without adequate knowledge, experience or expertise, the lawyer is taking an enormous risk on behalf of the client.

The lawyer must also understand the law of the legal or medical BLOOD DRAW. Any defense of a DUI Manslaughter/ Serious Bodily Injury prosecution MUST include a MOTION TO SUPPRESS the results of the blood analysis. This is critical. This is often the means by which the lawyer can achieve the desired result for the client without having to risk going to trial and having the client spend thousands of dollars for the use of his own expert witnesses.

However, if a jury trial is required the lawyer must have a network of expert witnesses who work at reasonable rates and are equipped with the necessary credentials to withstand any attack by the prosecution.

This type of charge is extremely serious and requires close attention to the correct choice in legal representation. It is of critical importance to seek out an attorney that offers the knowledge, expertise and experience necessary to achieve the right result.

Serious Traffic Offenses

FLEEING AND ELUDING

In recent years the Florida legislature has increased the severity and punishment for many criminal traffic offenses that were once considered misdemeanors.

The most dramatic changes have come to the penalties for fleeing and eluding a police officer. Before the recent change in the statute the most severe punishment for this offense was a year in the county jail. This sentence was rarely, if ever, imposed. The person charged could expect probation and community service and perhaps a letter of apology to the police officer.

ALL THIS HAS CHANGED.
The offense of fleeing and eluding a police officer is now treated as a third degree felony punishable up to five years in the state prison and a $5000.00 fine. The person who is guilty of this offense will be automatically adjudicated. That means a criminal record as a convicted felon. In addition, the license is automatically suspended for two years.

If certain aggravating factors are included the severity of the crime and its punishment are also dramatically increased. For example, if the driver is accused of driving recklessly during the pursuit that offense is now a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in the state prison. If it is alleged that the driver stopped causing the police to stop and then starts the pursuit again that is also charged as a second degree felony.

RECKLESS DRIVING

If it is alleged that a person charged with reckless driving caused a serious bodily injury that offense is charged as a third degree felony. If a death results the offense is charged as VEHICULAR HOMICIDE, a second degree felony .

Any person who intentionally drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property has committed the offense of Reckless Driving. If charged as a second degree misdemeanor the penalties escalate from sixty days in jail to six months.

If while committing this offense the person injures another or damages property it is treated as a first degree misdemeanor. At this level it is punishable by 364 days in the county jail and a thousand dollar fine.

If there occurs serious bodily injury then it is a felony of the third degree punishable by a maximum five years in the state prison and a five thousand dollar fine.

If the court has reason to believe that the use of alcohol contributed to the violation of this section then the court shall direct the person convicted to attend the DUI substance abuse program, or DUI School.

Of course, penalties can also include probation and community service.

AGGRESSIVE CARELESS DRIVING

The Florida legislature has recently defined the combination of two or more of the following offenses as “Aggressive Careless Driving”:

Speeding, as defined in Florida Statute 322.27;

Unsafe or Improper Lane Change, as defined in Florida Statute 316.085;

Following Too Closely, as defined in Florida Statute 316.0895

Failing To Yield the Right Of Way, as defined in Florida Statutes 316.079, 316.0815, or 316.123;

Improper Passing, as defined in Florida Statutes 316.084 or 316.085;

Violating a Traffic Control Device and Signal Devices, as defined in Florida Statutes 316.074 or 316.075.

Being charged with any of these offenses is serious business. Careful attention must be paid to selecting the right lawyer capable of obtaining the right result.

LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT

If no serious injury or death is involved this offense is charged as first degree misdemeanor. However, if there is a serious bodily injury it is charged as a third degree felony. Or, if there is a death, it is charged as a second degree felony.
The law in the State of Florida pertaining to the duty to remain and render aid, if necessary, at the scene of an accident is extremely strict and violations can be costly. Under Florida Statute 316.027, if someone involved in an accident where another person is injured it is a felony of the third degree not to stop and render aid or provide information as required by Florida Statute 316.062.

If someone is involved in a crash that results in death and fails to remain at the scene and provide information as required by Florida Statute 316.062 it is a felony of the first degree and punishable by a maximum term of thirty years in the state prison and a ten thousand dollar fine. If a person that violates this section is also driving under the influence as set forth in Florida Statute 316.193, the law requires a minimum mandatory prison sentence of two years in the state prison.

These penalties are in addition to the requirement that the person convicted must also be ordered to pay restitution as a condition of probation. The statute also authorizes the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to revoke the drivers license of anyone convicted under this section.

Florida Statute 316.062 requires anyone involved in an accident to remain at the scene and provide their name, address and vehicle registration. Upon request a drivers license must also be exhibited. The person must also render to any person injured in the crash reasonable assistance, including the carrying, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary.

Needless to say, that in Florida an accusation of leaving the scene of an accident can have far reaching and devastating consequences. Especially, if someone involved is injured or deceased.

RACING ON THE HIGHWAY

This offense remains a first degree misdemeanor, however, now there is an automatic revocation of the drivers license for one year for a first offense or two years for a second offense.

In 2002 the law regarding Racing on the Highway changed dramatically. Prior to 2002, Racing on the Highway was considered a civil infraction-punishable by a fine and potential ramifications of your driving privileges for specified time periods such as suspension of drivers license. In 2002 this all changed. Today a charge of Racing on the Highway is considered a criminal traffic infraction-punishable by not only fines and loss of driving privileges, but also incarceration, probation, and impoundment of your automobile or motorcycle at your expense.

It is important to note that fines in the event of a Racing on the Highway charge can exceed $1,000 on top of impoundment fees that lead to expenses from being without transportation, probation fees and increased insurance fees- the fees can become overwhelming. It may seem like too much of an expense to retain a criminal defense attorney until you contrast the expenses of facing the charges unrepresented and the long term ramifications on your driving record and lifestyle-call Carlos Canet today for your consultation.

As seen, the legislature has taken dramatic steps to punish those more severely than before for committing serious traffic offenses. Consequently, the defense of these crimes is critical if the most severe punishments are to be avoided.