A DUI charge related to an accident which resulted in a person’s death is referred to as DUI manslaughter. DUI manslaughter is a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison. DUI manslaughter is the most serious of all of the DUI charges. A DUI manslaughter can be enhanced to a first degree felony per Florida Statute 316.062 if the accused knew or should have known that there was an accident, but failed to give information and render aid. A first degree felony is punishable by up to thirty years in prison.
In order to obtain a conviction for DUI manslaughter the Prosecutor will have to prove the three elements of DUI plus the additional element of operation of a vehicle causing or contributing to the death of another person. What this means is that there is a causation element in all DUI manslaughter cases. Causation means there needs to be a causal connection between the operation of the vehicle and the death of the victim. Courts have interpreted the causation requirement in DUI manslaughter cases as being satisfied by the showing of any deviation or lack of care on the part of a driver under the influence to which the fatal accident can be attributed.
The causation requirement presents an interesting question that is currently being debated in the criminal court system – should evidence of other possible causes of death beyond the defendant’s operation of the vehicle be allowed? In one case the Fourth District Court of Appeal refused to hear argument that failure to use a child restraint seat caused the victim’s death. In another case the Fourth District Court of Appeal has refused to hear evidence that improper medical care caused the victims death and the Second District Court of Appeal refused to hear evidence that the victims rejection of life saving medical treatment caused the death. On the other end of the spectrum the 4th District Court of Appeals has held that a defendant in a DUI manslaughter case had a right to argue to the jury that the victim’s pneumonia, rather than the defendant’s actions, caused the death. The allowable evidence regarding causation is a continually evolving area of law in Florida.
DUI manslaughter is an extremely serious offense. If you have been arrested for DUI manslaughter in Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral, Port Charlotte or Punta Gorda you need an experienced Criminal Defense lawyer on your side fighting for you. Contact a DUI Defense Lawyer from Viacava & Cantor today at 239-672-8934 (Fort Myers) or 941-388-7810 (Sarasota) if you have been arrested for DUI manslaughter in order to schedule a free consultation and to discuss the specific facts of your case.