Jacksonville’s citizens like to have fun, but like most, when alcohol is involved, the risks of harm are increased considerably. Unfortunately, when intoxicated people get behind the wheel of a car, someone else may suffer a life-changing injury. However, all is not lost for the person responsible for the crime. One in a situation like should obtain an experienced attorney to fight for one’s case and ensure one’s rights and defenses are known and protected.
According to WTSP Channel 10 News, James Brennan of Tampa has been charged with DUI-manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident involving death, and driving with a suspended license. Brennan’s arrest came after he struck Michelle Wells, a driver of a scooter, from behind with his van. Brennan fled the scene, parked his van, and then proceeded to run on foot. Brennan was arrested shortly after.
Being arrested for a DUI in Jacksonville can be scary. Drunk-driving is considered a criminal offense in Florida, and therefore can result in one being subject to harsh penalties, including fines, community service, probation, vehicle impoundment, loss of driving privileges and even imprisonment, if convicted. As if all of these experiences are not bad enough, when someone is injured or killed because of the DUI, the punishments escalate considerably.
A DUI-manslaughter charge is a 2nd degree felony with a 4 year minimum mandatory sentence. The Florida Criminal Punishment Code requires the imposition of 120 “victim injury points” when a death occurs in one of these cases. Because of this system, the accused will be looking at a minimum guideline sentence of approximately 10.5 years. In many cases like this, the loved ones of the victim will be pushing the State Attorney’s Office or the Judge to punish the defendant “to the maximum extent of the law”, or a 15 year maximum sentence. The typical defendant of a DUI-manslaughter charge has a very minimal record, if any, and instantly faces a long prison sentence. No one plans on getting a DUI. Certainly no one plans on killing a friend or stranger while driving drunk. The difference in the two DUI’s is merely luck.
In the case of a DUI-manslaughter or a potential DUI-manslaughter, law enforcement will usually do a blood draw. The officers will usually hand a pre-packaged blood draw kit to a paramedic at the scene of the accident or medical personnel at the hospital if the driver is hurt and goes to the hospital. There is an anomaly in the system at this point. Blood draw results take months to come back from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The driver cannot be arrested on DUI-manslaughter until the results come back.
One ironic result in a situation like this is that the driver who kills someone actually waits a period of months usually until he or she is arrested on a warrant—a warrant with a very high bond. Meanwhile, the driver who is assumed to be impaired based upon field sobriety exercises or just the officer’s observations is arrested, jailed, then given the breath test.
Even if that person has no alcohol in his system, in Duval County he remains in jail until the next morning and a Judge will ask him how he would like to plead to a DUI. Who knows what the DUI-manslaughter defendant does in the time period until his blood results come back? This might allow the potential DUI-manslaughter defendant to drive again, possibly impaired. However, this is not the case for the entry level first-time DUI offender. The first-time offender will receive immediate punishment. One can never be too careful.
Not every death that occurs on the highway should result in an arrest or prosecution for a DUI manslaughter charge. Conduct that might be cause for only a traffic ticket becomes conduct worthy of a felony DUI manslaughter prosecution only if the state thinks they have evidence of impairment. The impairment can be proven if the prosecution can prove the driver had actual physical control of the vehicle, there was a death, and the impaired driver contributed to the death . One in a situation like this should not delay in hiring an experienced Jacksonville DUI manslaughter defense attorney who will fight the case and ensure that your rights are protected.
Nobody plans to get a DUI. Most people are just trying to get home. The best advice any lawyer can give is to not drive after you have consumed any alcohol. Find another way to get home or stay off the roads. One’s best advice is to never drive when one has consumed alcohol.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
Additional Source:Family Remembers Family Member Killed on Scooter, WTSP Channel 10 News