In many cases, a person is charged with a DUI offense in Florida because they were pulled over while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If a person is suspected of causing a collision while inebriated but the police have no proof that the individual drove the car involved in the crash, a warrant may be issued to acquire evidence such as blood samples. A Florida court recently released a ruling in a DUI case, reversing an order suppressing evidence gathered through several search warrants and explaining the probable cause the State must show to get a warrant. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, it’s a good idea to talk to a seasoned Florida defense lawyer about your alternatives.
The Accident and the Investigation That Followed
According to reports, at around 2:30 a.m., a deadly collision occurred at an intersection in Orange County. One vehicle’s passenger and driver both perished as a result of their injuries. The defendant, who was in the driver’s seat at the time of the accident, was the owner of the second car involved in the collision. He had seat belt burns over his chest, and the defendant’s passenger said that he was inebriated and had consumed too much alcohol to drive.
Allegedly, the defendant was taken to the hospital, where he refused to give a blood sample. A warrant was acquired by the officer investigating the accident, allowing him to seize a sample of the defendant’s blood. A second warrant was issued a few days later to allow the office to seize evidence from the defendant’s vehicle, and a third warrant was issued a month later to seize a DNA sample from the defendant to see if it matched DNA from the automobile. The defendant filed a petition to suppress the evidence collected through the warrants, claiming that the police did not have probable cause to obtain them. The application was granted by the trial court, and the State appealed.
A person charged with a crime has the right to a fair and impartial trial. This means, among other things, that if a judge demonstrates bias or evidence suggests that the judge is otherwise unable to rule in an objective manner, the defendant can file a motion for recusal. In a recent Florida ruling, a court discussed the grounds for granting a motion for disqualification in a matter in which the defendants were charged with DUI offenses. If you are accused of driving while intoxicated, it is in your best interest to speak to a skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.
The Facts of the Case
It is reported that defendants were each charged with DUI crimes, and their cases proceeded before a county judge. Due to the fact that the judge had ex parte communications with the State Attorney’s office regarding another matter in which a defendant was charged with DUI, they each filed motions for disqualification. Their motions were denied, after which they filed writs of prohibition, which were denied as well. They then sought certiorari review of the order denying their petitions.
Grounds for Granting a Motion for Disqualification
The appellate court explained that its review was limited to determining whether the trial court granted the defendants procedural due process and applied the appropriate law. In other words, whether it adhered to the essential requirements of law. As such, a district court should only grant certiorari relief when the lower court failed to uphold a clearly established tenet of law, resulting in a miscarriage of justice. Continue Reading ›
If you are charged with DUI in Florida, you may be facing serious consequences depending on your blood alcohol content, whether you have had previous DUIs, and a number of other factors. However, if you are driving while intoxicated and cause the death or serious injury of another person you may face an even harsher sentence. That’s why it is so important to work with an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney if you are charges with DUI manslaughter or another crime.
If you are convicted of DUI manslaughter in Florida you will be required to spend a certain amount of time in jail. The Florida Criminal Code classifies DUI manslaughter as a crime with a mandatory minimum sentence. That means that there is a certain amount of time that everyone convicted of DUI manslaughter must spend in jail and the judge does not have the discretion to lower that sentence (though they can order more time be served). In Florida, the mandatory minimum sentence is four years for DUI manslaughter.
Though the mandatory minimum sentence is four years, those convicted of DUI manslaughter in Florida can get up to fifteen years in prison and fifteen years of probation. However, the presumptive amount of jail time for a DUI manslaughter conviction is a little over ten years in prison. Those convicted of DUI manslaughter may also have to pay up to $10,000 in fines, have their vehicle impounded, and have their driver’s license revoked permanently. Continue Reading ›
The rule against double jeopardy generally bans judges from convicting a person multiple times for the same crime. A recent case out of Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals provides some interesting insight into how the double jeopardy protection applies in Florida DUI and reckless driving cases. That includes cases in which the person charged with the crimes was involved in a car accident. As the court explains, a driver can be convicted of both DUI and reckless driving, but he or she can’t be convicted of multiple counts of DUI or reckless driving if the crash involves only one victim.A defendant was charged with several crimes related to his involvement in a car accident that left one person severely injured, according to the court. He pleaded guilty to five offenses, including DUI with serious bodily injury, DUI with property damage, reckless driving with serious bodily injury, and reckless driving with property damage. At a later sentencing hearing, the trial judge rejected his argument that he couldn’t be convicted separately on the various charges because of double jeopardy protections. The judge sentenced him to an unidentified period of time in jail, followed by probation.
On appeal, the Fourth District agreed with the defendant that the trial judge violated the double jeopardy rule. The court began by explaining that multiple DUI convictions can stem from the same accident when there are multiple victims injured in the crash. But the court added that “there can be but one conviction for each victim, regardless of whether that victim sustains property damage, serious bodily injury, or both.” That’s because both charges are essentially varying degrees of the same offense. In other words, the court said the defendant could not be charged with both DUI with serious bodily injury and DUI with property damage when the same person is the victim of both the injury and the property damage.
Blood alcohol tests are often a key part of Florida DUI cases. Although police officers generally have to get a warrant or your consent to submit to such a test, there are a number of exceptions to that rule. The state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal recently explained one of those exceptions.A defendant was charged with DUI manslaughter with failure to render aid and vehicular homicide with failure to render aid, stemming from a late-night car accident near West Palm Beach. The other driver involved in the crash died after his vehicle ended up in a nearby canal. The defendant, who the court said left the scene of the crash on foot and called 911 nearly an hour after the crash, argued that a problem with the throttle on his car had caused the collision. He also asked a court to throw out the results of a blood alcohol test taken after the crash, which showed that he had a blood alcohol content of more than 0.17 percent. A toxicologist estimated based on that test – which happened hours after the accident – that his BAC was as high as 0.23 percent at the time of the collision. That’s nearly three times the legal limit.
A deputy picked the defendant up and took him to the crash scene after he called 911. He told the police officer that he’d stopped a stop sign and hit something – he wasn’t aware what – after proceeding into an intersection. He said he then went home to call the police. The officer said he smelled of alcohol, and his speech was slurred. Although he refused a blood alcohol test when he was taken to the hospital, his blood was drawn and tested anyway. A trial judge later rejected his request to exclude the blood test evidence. Although the cops didn’t have a warrant at the time, the judge said the test was justified by “exigent circumstances.”
Florida police and courts take driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol very seriously. A DUI conviction can come with stiff penalties, including jail time, heavy fines, and the loss of driving privileges. The consequences of a conviction are particularly severe in cases involving repeat offenders and those in which the person charged caused an accident while they were intoxicated behind the wheel. Just take the recent case of a Clearwater man whom a federal court recently decided will be staying in jail for decades.The case centered on an accident that happened in April 2010. Clearwater police were after the defendant on an unrelated misdemeanor warrant and received a tip that he was hanging out at a local bar. An officer observed the defendant’s truck in the bar parking lot and pulled the truck over shortly after he saw the defendant leave in it. When the officer approached the vehicle, however, the defendant sped away. A chase ensued, during which the defendant ran a red light and collided with a taxi cab. The cab driver died in the accident.
The defendant, whose driver’s license had already been revoked, was taken to a hospital, where a blood test showed that he had a blood alcohol content of about 0.17 percent, more than twice the legal limit. He was convicted of DUI manslaughter and other offenses and sentenced to 20 years in jail. He later asked the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to scrap the conviction. He argued that prospective jurors in the case had inappropriate conversations with a representative of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the cab driver’s family, in which they discussed some of his previous convictions for DUI.