The decision to get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is one that can have lasting consequences, both for the driver and for anyone else on the road. A DUI conviction in Florida means the possibility of steep fines, the loss of driving privileges, and jail time. Since the stakes are high in these cases, the law offers a person charged with DUI a number of possible defenses. That includes the rule against double jeopardy, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal recently explained. The rule essentially states that a person can’t be convicted of the same crime twice.
A defendant was allegedly driving under the influence of illegal substances when she was involved in a car crash. She rear-ended another car, according to the court, causing serious injuries to two people in the other vehicles. She was charged with driving under the influence with serious bodily injury and driving while license suspended with serious bodily injury. She eventually pleaded guilty to all four offenses, each of which is a third-degree felony. She was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The defendant later appealed the convictions, arguing that the trial judge violated the rule against double jeopardy. She said both the DUI and DWLS charges were based on the same injuries and therefore could not be charged twice.
The Second District agreed. The court said the dual convictions were impermissible under the “single homicide” rule established by Florida courts over the years. The basic premise is that “Florida courts have repeatedly recognized that the legislature did not intend to punish a single homicide under two different statutes,” the Second District explained. That thinking has also been extended to DUI manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter cases. That includes a 1993 decision by the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Cooper v. State, a case in which the court said a drunk driver could not be convicted of both DUI manslaughter and DWLS causing death, which violated double jeopardy.
In this case, the Second District said the fact that the victims were not killed in the crash didn’t make a difference. “[The defendant’s] dual enhancements for causing serious bodily injury for each victim violate the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy,” the court said. As a result, it upheld the two convictions for DUI with serious bodily injury and overturned the DWLS with serious bodily injury convictions.
If you or a loved one has been charged with DUI in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced attorney. Tampa DUI lawyer Will Hanlon is a seasoned attorney who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (813) 228-7095 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.