Getting into a car accident is always an unpleasant experience. However, there’s a wide range between a minor fender bender and a catastrophic crash that results in serious bodily injuries. Add in a person who was driving under the influence, and now you’re dealing with criminal activity. But, what exactly, is considered to be too drunk to drive? Is there a legal definition for serious bodily injury? What are the penalties for seriously harming someone while driving under the influence?
What is a DUI in Florida?
Florida Statute 316.193 establishes that anyone who has been operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or chemical substances — to the extent that such consumption impairs the driver’s faculties — is considered to be guilty of DUI. If a person is high from illicit drugs or prescription medications, it will count as a DUI.
When it comes to alcohol, a person is considered to be too drunk to drive if their blood alcohol level (BAC) is 0.08 or above. How many drinks it takes to reach that level depends on a person’s weight, height, gender, whether they’ve had food with their drinks, how fast their metabolism is, and whether they’re taking any medications.
What is serious bodily injury in Florida?
Florida Statute 316.027 defines the term serious bodily injury. To be considered as such, the damage has to include any or all of the following:
- A physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death
- Serious personal disfigurement
- Loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ
Florida law also establishes the responsibilities of a driver who causes serious bodily injury. Specifically, you are required to immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident — or as close to it as possible. You shall then remain at the scene and provide your name, address, and registration number of your car to the driver or occupant of the other car. You are also required to show your driver’s license to the police who arrive at the scene, and render aid to any person injured in the crash. This includes carrying or making arrangements for their transportation to a physician, surgeon, or hospital.
What are the penalties for a DUI with serious bodily injury in Florida?
Failing to comply with the duties stated above is a second-degree felony. The penalties for such a crime are a fine of up to $10,000 and a maximum of 15 years in prison. The penalty becomes even more severe if you leave the scene of the accident and are later caught. In such an event, you will be charged with a first-degree felony, with a fine of up to $10,000 and 30 years imprisonment.
If you remain at the scene and render aid, but the DUI accident results in a person dying, you may also face DUI manslaughter charges. This is also a second-degree felony.
How can an attorney help?
A DUI lawyer can help you reduce the impact of a DUI conviction on your life. For example, if you were not feeling drunk when you got behind the wheel, an attorney could question the accuracy of the device used to measure your blood alcohol level. A lawyer can also interrogate the law enforcement officer who pulled you over. If you refused a breathalyzer at the time of the arrest, your lawyer could examine the accuracy of a subsequent urine or blood test. This is done with the help of experts in those subject matters — who could be brought in to testify in court if necessary.
While you could still face charges for reckless driving if your lawyer can prove you weren’t legally under the influence, the penalties you’d face could be reduced. Specifically, a driver guilty of reckless driving that resulted in serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony. The penalty for such a charge is up to $5,000 in fines and up to five years in prison.
Another way an attorney can help is by trying to negotiate with the prosecutor so that you could plead guilty to a lesser charge. This works for both parties because the penalties are reduced, and the overworked prosecution doesn’t have to expend time and resources getting ready for trial. However, every case is different, and the only way to determine whether your charges could be diminished is to consult with an experienced DUI attorney.
Call Clark Law If You Have a Personal Injury Claim in Tampa Bay
If you or someone you love has suffered a personal injury, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.