A fatal alcohol-related accident in Florida can be a devastating and life-changing event. The lives of both the accident victim and the intoxicated driver as well as that of their families are likely to be changed forever. Much is written about the effect of drunk driving accidents on drivers and pedestrians that are killed as well as the impact on the drunk driver who may spend years in jail. However, auto accidents caused by someone who is driving under the influence of alcohol can involve another victim rarely contemplated by most – an unborn fetus. If you are involved in a fatal accident with someone who is pregnant, you may face criminal liability not just for the death of the mother but of the pregnant mother’s unborn child.
Most drivers involved in Florida DUI fatality accidents are not bad people but normal law-abiding citizens who make a tragic mistake. A person charged with vehicular homicide may be a parent to a small children, a college student loved by his or her parents and a successful productive member of our society. While people are quick to voice condemning tones toward those are involved in a fatal accident while under the influence of alcohol, many of those same voices become quite hushed when the same people are asked if they have ever climbed behind the wheel after drinking. The public condemnation, personal anguish and damage to one’s reputation of a fatal DUI accident is even more devastating when the victim is considered particularly vulnerable such as a child or unborn fetus.
Vehicular homicide is defined under Florida law to include “the killing of a human being, or the killing of a viable fetus by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another” [emphasis added]. If you are involved in an accident in Florida with a pregnant mother, you can be prosecuted not only for the death of the mother but for the death of the unborn fetus. The emotional, legal and financial consequences of such a conviction can affect a person long after any period of incarceration. The Florida Vehicular Homicide Statute requires that the fetus be viable outside the womb for you to also be charged with the death of a fetus.
The criminal offense of vehicular homicide in Florida is sometimes called “vehicular manslaughter” because you can be convicted even if you do not know that the accident caused injury or death. An even more troubling aspect to being charged with vehicular homicide in Florida is that it can result from an accident that would have been inconsequential had not someone suffered injury or death. This means that if you are involved in a car accident at a relative low rate of speed, you can still be charged with vehicular homicide if your blood alcohol level is over the legal limit in Florida of .08 percent.
Under Florida criminal law, vehicular homicide is a second-degree felony, which is punishable by a maximum sentence of fifteen years in state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. If you knew or should have known that the accident occurred and fail to stop to render assistance as well as provide information as required under Florida law, the penalty can be enhanced to a first-degree felony punishable by up to thirty years in state prison.
If you are involved in a fatal car accident in Florida while driving under the influence of alcohol you face life-changing charges. However, the fact that you have been charged does not mean that a conviction is inevitable. There are many defenses that may help keep you out of jail and lead to either dismissal or reduction of the charges. If you have been arrested for vehicular homicide, our experienced DUI vehicular homicide attorneys can assess your situation and advice you of your rights and potential defense strategies.
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Hiring a Florida DUI attorney to aggressively defend you can help you obtain the best possible result in your case. Call our toll-free, Florida DUI Helpline at 1 (800) 687-2252 or search our Florida DUI Lawyer directory for a law firm near you (by appointment only).
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