DUI, Reckless Driving, and Double Jeopardy in Florida

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.

The court also said “the same logic applies to the statutory construction of reckless driving.” The defendant could not be charged with both reckless driving with serious bodily injury and reckless driving with property damage.

Still, the court said the judge could convict and sentence the defendant for both DUI and reckless driving, even though both crimes stemmed from the same accident and involved the same victim. “There is no constitutional prohibition against multiple punishments for different offenses arising out of the same criminal transaction as long as the Legislature intends to authorize separate punishments,” the court explained. In this case, the court said state lawmakers made clear that they intended for DUI and reckless driving to be treated as separate crimes.

If you or a loved one has been charged with DUI or another crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced defense lawyer. Clearwater DUI attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of crimes. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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