Articles Posted in DUI

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.

Car at NightA 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.

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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.

beer glassesA 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.”

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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.

ball and chainThe 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.

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