Florida DUI Law: What Constitute Double Jeopardy?

The double jeopardy clause of the United States Constitution is an important component of criminal law.  It is unconstitutional in essence to retry a criminal defendant for the same offense. This principle may seem very straightforward but can be extremely complex in the context of a driving under the influence.  The case of Labovick v. State, 958 So. 2d 1065 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 2007) offers insight into how this relatively simple sounding legal principle can become quite complicated depending on the facts of a particular Florida DUI case.

In Labovick, defendant appealed his conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) manslaughter/failure to render aid and DUI, arguing that convictions for both offenses violated double jeopardy principles, because the statutory elements of DUI were subsumed by the greater offense of DUI manslaughter/failure to render aid.

At the plea proceeding, defense counsel advised the trial court that he objected to any adjudication, conviction, or sentence on the DUI count on double jeopardy grounds.  The court held that DUI was a continuing offense for which only one conviction could be maintained for each episode. Defendant never stopped driving his car at any point during what amounted to a single episode.  Although separate convictions could lie for causing injury or death to different victims, only one conviction could be maintained for each episode of driving under the influence (DUI).  Thus defendant’s dual convictions were barred by double jeopardy. The DUI conviction was vacated.

This example of the applicability of a double jeopardy defense to DUI shows how complex this principle can be based on the specific facts of your DUI criminal case.  Labovick did not stop his vehicle and make another trip while still intoxicated so the court concluded that this was a single course of conduct and constituted only one DUI offense.  However, the act of causing death and failing to render aid was a separate criminal act and constituted a distinct offense.

In fact, Labovick likely would have faced a separate charge for each victim if multiple victims had been serious injured or killed.  This DUI defendant was able to avoid some criminal liability by effectively asserting a double jeopardy defense.  What it means is that in the State of Florida only one DUI conviction can result for each episode or incident of driving under the influence.  However, the defendant also caused a death and was convicted of DUI manslaughter/failure to aid for the separate and distinct offense of causing a death while driving under the influence.

If you are charged with a DUI offense, the Labovick case illustrates that sometimes the prosecutor may “overcharge” the case.  An experienced Florida DUI defense attorney may be able to use a double jeopardy defense to reduce the consequences and challenge such overcharging.  If you are charged with a DUI anywhere in Florida, our experienced DUI defense law firm may be able to help.  We invite you to call us today.

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