Driving under the influence (DUI) is a grave offense in almost every jurisdiction. However, when a DUI results in bodily harm or injury to another, the legal consequences escalate considerably. Florida, with its vibrant nightlife and extensive road networks, witnesses a significant number of DUI cases annually. In this blog post, we’ll delve deep into understanding the implications of DUI with injury charges in Florida and the importance of seeking legal counsel.
Florida’s Stance on DUI With Injuries
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a grave offense across the U.S., with Florida being no exception. While any DUI charge is severe, the implications intensify considerably when the act leads to injuries. Florida has strict penalties for DUI offenses, especially when they result in injury to others. If you or a loved one find yourselves involved in a DUI case with injuries, understanding the legal landscape is crucial.
Florida’s DUI Laws: An Overview
In Florida, anyone operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher can be charged with a DUI. It’s important to note that even a first-time DUI offense without any injuries can lead to significant fines, imprisonment, probation, and a mandatory driver’s license suspension.
DUI With Injuries: Stepping up the Severity
When a DUI results in an injury to another person, the consequences for the driver become significantly more severe. Florida law distinguishes between injuries that are not serious and those that qualify as “serious bodily injury.”
- DUI with Non-Serious Injuries: If someone is convicted of a DUI that caused or contributed to causing injuries (that are not “serious bodily injuries”), they could be found guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties for this can include fines up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.
- DUI with Serious Bodily Injury: If the DUI results in “serious bodily injury” to another, the offender can be charged with a third-degree felony. “Serious bodily injury” refers to an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, serious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of a body part or organ. A conviction can lead to fines up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
If someone dies as a result of the DUI offense, the charge elevates to DUI manslaughter, a second-degree felony. This charge can result in up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. If the offender knew, or should have known, about the crash and failed to provide information or render aid, it becomes a first-degree felony, which can lead to up to 30 years in prison.
Apart from the criminal consequences, a DUI with injuries can also lead to:
- A prolonged driver’s license suspension or permanent revocation.
- Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.
- Required community service hours.
- Mandatory attendance in DUI school or rehabilitation programs.
- Increased insurance rates or policy cancellation.
- A civil lawsuit for damages from the injured party.
Defense and Legal Support
Given the severe consequences of a DUI with injuries charge, obtaining skilled legal representation is essential. A qualified attorney can examine the nuances of the case, including the validity of the BAC tests, the legality of the traffic stop, and other potential defenses.
Categories of DUI With Injuries
In Florida, a DUI that results in injuries can be categorized under:
- DUI with Property Damage or Minor Injury: If the DUI results in damage to property or minor injuries, it is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. This could mean penalties of up to $1,000 in fines and up to one year in jail.
- DUI with Serious Bodily Injury: If someone other than the driver suffers “serious bodily injury,” the offense is elevated to a third-degree felony. This could result in up to $5,000 in fines and up to 5 years in prison.
- DUI Manslaughter: In the unfortunate event that the DUI leads to the death of another (including unborn children), the driver can be charged with DUI manslaughter, a second-degree felony. This entails penalties of up to $10,000 in fines and up to 15 years in prison.
Legal Repercussions Beyond Jail Time
While the jail terms and fines are explicit, there are additional consequences that can profoundly impact one’s life:
- License Revocation: Even a first-time DUI with injuries can result in a minimum license revocation of one year.
- Mandatory Rehabilitation: The court may mandate DUI School or a similar rehabilitation program.
- Vehicle Impoundment: Impoundment or immobilization of the offender’s vehicle is possible.
- Restitution: The offender may be ordered to pay restitution to the injured party for medical expenses, lost wages, or property damage.
- Criminal Record: A felony DUI charge results in a permanent criminal record, which can significantly affect employment opportunities and other civil rights.
Defending Against DUI With Injuries Charges
Given the severe repercussions, building a robust defense is paramount. This could involve:
- Challenging the DUI Stop: The defense might argue that law enforcement didn’t have a valid reason for the initial traffic stop.
- Questioning Blood Alcohol Level Accuracy: Highlighting problems with the breathalyzer machine, its calibration, or how the test was administered can cast doubt on the accuracy of the BAC result.
- Evaluating Field Sobriety Test Validity: Field sobriety tests can be subjective. The defense might challenge the validity of the test or how it was conducted.
- Accident Reconstruction: In cases where it’s unclear who caused the accident, expert witnesses can reconstruct the scene to provide clarity.
Contact an Experienced DUI Lawyer at Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A. for a Confidential Consultation About Your Case Today
DUI with injury charges in Florida are profoundly severe, reflecting the state’s commitment to road safety and its compassion for victims of such offenses. If you or someone you know faces such charges, understanding their gravity is crucial, as is seeking experienced legal counsel.
At Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., we have extensive experience navigating the intricacies of Florida’s DUI laws. We believe in a meticulous approach, ensuring every aspect of your case is considered and the best possible defense strategy is employed. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation.