Why Aren’t Fatal Drunk Driving Accidents Considered Murder?

June 30, 2022 Criminal Defense, Drunk Driving/DUI, Violent Crimes

DUI manslaughter is a very serious criminal charge in the state of Florida. A regular DUI is when a person is driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The charge gets escalated to DUI manslaughter if the individual’s reckless driving resulted in a crash, which then resulted in the death of another human or unborn child.

If a person dies in a car accident by a drunk driver, it is common that the family and friends of the deceased to feel as if the penalties for DUI manslaughter are not steep enough. Specifically, some may argue that the driver who got behind the wheel intoxicated should be charged with murder instead.

So why isn’t DUI manslaughter the same as murder? The answer lies within the language. When the word manslaughter is used in a criminal case, it implies that there was not any malicious intent. There was no premeditation, and the individual accused of manslaughter was not aware that another person would die.

On the other hand, murder implies that the individual acted with malice aforethought. There are various forms of murder, which range from first-degree murder: premeditated murder, felony murder, and homicides committed during drug crimes. There is also second-degree murder, which is intentional killing, just without the premeditation requirement.

Driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous. A person drunk driving can injure themselves or others, often resulting in the loss of life. However, even if the accused person is driving under the influence, the reason they are not charged with murder is because they did not intend to hurt or kill anyone. The charges for DUI manslaughter can still be harsh in trying to ensure that the accused person is responsible for the outcome of the crash and the death of another person.

The details of DUI manslaughter and its penalties and defenses are outlined further below.

DUI Manslaughter

Florida Statute Section 316.193 defines driving under the influence in the state. The law states that a person is guilty of a DUI if they have been driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle within the state while being under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance, or any controlled substance which affected the driver to the extent in which their normal faculties were impaired.

If the individual caused the death of any person or unborn child while operating a vehicle and under the influence of alcohol or other illegal substances, it is considered a DUI manslaughter. The penalties for a DUI manslaughter vary depending on several factors.

If the driver knew or should have known that the crash occurred but left the scene or failed to give information and give aid in the crash, it is considered a first-degree felony. This is punishable with up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison. If the driver stayed at the scene and cooperated with any aid or any information required, it is considered a second-degree felony. This is punishable with up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

Additional penalties for a DUI manslaughter include the possibility of getting your driver’s license suspended, or even a permanent revocation of the driver’s license.

Possible Defenses to DUI Manslaughter

After getting charged with DUI manslaughter, it may feel like there is no hope for your case. However, it is still your right to challenge the charges. The best way to build a strong defense for the DUI manslaughter case is to work with a skilled defense attorney in your area.

When a DUI occurs, either the police, a nurse, or a paramedic are required to gather a test to determine the driver’s blood alcohol concentration. If the test was a breathalyzer or a urine test, the reliability and accuracy can be challenged at trial. This is why it is common that the driver would receive a DUI blood test after the crash.

In addition, the accident report can be used to challenge a DUI manslaughter case. It is under Florida law that the officers read you the Miranda rights, unlike in a normal DUI roadside investigation. If the police officers fail to do so, the blood test results may be excluded or suppressed from the trial.

To find out more about DUI manslaughter regarding collateral issues, double jeopardy, and other factors—read our informative page here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one have been accused of DUI manslaughter, prioritize reaching out to a DUI Manslaughter defense attorney in your area. It may seem stressful and nearly impossible to deal with a DUI manslaughter charge, but it is important that you never assume that a case cannot be challenged or won. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across Florida for various crimes. We will work vigorously to defend your DUI manslaughter case and strategize a strong defense. For a free consultation call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

Written by Karissa Key

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