What is the Outcome for a Juvenile Charged with DUI and DUI Manslaughter?

November 22, 2023 Criminal Defense, Drunk Driving/DUI, Juvenile Offenses

Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol is extremely dangerous to yourself and others on the road. Not only can you cause property damage and serious injuries, but accidents caused by drunk drivers can also lead to the unexpected and untimely death of innocent victims. In the state of Florida, this is considered DUI manslaughter.

DUI manslaughter has harsh penalties for adult defendants, but what about for juveniles? The state of Florida has specific laws and penalties in place for individuals under 21 who drive under the influence, which we will cover on this page. We will also provide details on the laws and penalties for DUI manslaughter, along with an example case in Florida.

Under 21 DUI in Florida

An individual has committed a DUI offense when the definition codified under Florida Statute Section 316.193 is met, explaining that the person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired, or they have a breath-alcohol or blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol.  

You can find the standard DUI penalties in Florida on our informative page here.

Florida Statute Section 322.2616 states that it is unlawful for any person under the legal drinking age of 21 to be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle if they have a breath-alcohol or blood-alcohol level of 0.02 or higher.

Due to an underage DUI already implying that a law has been broken (Florida Statute Section 562.111 provides that it is a second-degree misdemeanor for any person under 21 to consume alcohol), law enforcement are given jurisdiction to detain and request the juvenile to submit to DUI testing if they have probable cause that the under 21 person is operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other unlawful substances.

Additionally, a person under 21 who is suspected of DUI and has a BAC of 0.02 or higher will have their license suspended. Florida Statute Section 322.2616(2)(a)-(b) explains that a driver’s license will also be suspended for a person under 21 who does not submit to lawful testing.

  • A driver under 21 who was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while having a BAC level of 0.02 or higher can have their driving privileges revoked for 6 months. However, a second or subsequent offense can result in losing driving privileges for one year.
  • A driver under 21 who refuses to submit to lawful breath or blood testing for a suspected DUI results in an automatic loss of driving privileges for one year. However, a second or subsequent refusal to lawful testing results in the loss of driving privileges for 18 months.

If the under 21 driver was found to have a BAC level of 0.05 or higher, their driver’s license will remain suspended until they complete a substance abuse course offered by a DUI program licensed by the FDLE. The course includes a substance abuse evaluation of the driver. Important: If the driver was under the age of 19, then their substance abuse evaluation will be notified to their parents or guardians. If the substance abuse course is not completed, then their driver’s license will not be reinstated.

To find out more about the indirect consequences of an under 21 DUI offense, read our page here.

Aggravated DUI

The penalties are more severe for a driver who has a BAC level of 0.15 or higher, which is often referred to as aggravated DUI.

Florida Statue Section 316.193 explains that a person convicted of DUI who had a BAC level of .15 or higher, or any person who had a minor in the vehicle at the time of the DUI offense will face the following penalties, regardless of the defendant’s age:

  • First conviction – Fine between $1,000 and $2,000 and up to 9 months in prison
  • Second conviction – Fine between $2,000 and $4,000 and up to 12 months in prison
  • Third or subsequent conviction – Fine of at least $4,000

DUI Manslaughter

Florida Statute Section 316.193(3) explains DUI manslaughter as the offense when any person, regardless of age, who commits a DUI offense and by such operation, contributes to causing the death of any person or unborn child.

DUI manslaughter is considered a second-degree felony, with a conviction carrying up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison. However, if the person charged with DUI manslaughter knew the crash occurred and failed to provide their personal information or render aid at the scene of the wreck, they can face a first-degree felony. A conviction for a first-degree felony carries up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

When a person is charged with DUI manslaughter, it is important to understand that a conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison.

Example Case

The following example case provides a look at the outcome for a juvenile defendant who recently accepted a plea deal for four counts of DUI manslaughter that occurred when he was only 16 years-old.

According to a local report, Alex Garcia was driving a Tahoe at the high speed of 111mph on West Flagler Street in Miami on New Year’s Day 2021. Around 4am Garcia collided with a car near 79th Avenue, resulting in the death of all four people inside the other vehicle.

During Garcia’s bond hearing in July 2023, the State played a surveillance video that showed how fast he had been driving that night. Florida Highway Patrol Cpl. Christine Gracey spoke directly to Garcia in the courtroom:

“See, this is what you did. You. You have no right to call this tragedy an accident.

[Then addressed to Garcia’s mother:] You knew he didn’t have a license, you knew he was drinking, and by your own admission, you gave him the keys. Shame on you.”

The plea deal accepted by Garcia included a 14-year prison sentence, followed by two years of house arrest and eight years of probation.

Brian Kirlew, Garcia’s defense attorney, stated that Garcia told him, “It was the right thing to do.”

DUI Defense Lawyer in Tallahassee, FL

A juvenile charged with a DUI offense will need legal representation. It’s important for a minor who was charged with a DUI, or the parents of a minor charged with DUI or DUI manslaughter to fully understand the possible outcomes of a conviction. By hiring a DUI defense attorney experienced in juvenile criminal cases, you’ll receive legal guidance and defense strategies to fight the charges against you.

Pumphrey Law Firm has extended experience with juvenile criminal cases. You can read more about the importance of legal representation for minors in our blog post here. Contact us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave us an online message to receive a free consultation.

Written by Karissa Key

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