We hear about accidents happening from drunk driving or buzzed driving all the time. Like most people, you probably never imagined that you would get into an accident after going out. If you got behind the wheel and had an accident after having a few drinks, and someone got seriously injured, you will likely be charged with DUI with Serious Bodily Injury. It is very important that you take steps now to protect your legal rights and your future.
My name is Tim Flaherty. Since 2001, I have practiced in Crestview as a criminal defense attorney. Brandy Merrifield is my partner. Criminal & DUI defense have always been our only areas of practice. Whether you have been arrested, or you are under investigation, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 398-8098. As Crestview DUI with serious bodily injury defense attorneys, we can give you advice, right away, that could greatly help your case.
Advice for someone suspected of DUI with Serious Bodily Injury in Crestview
The first piece of advice we will give you if you were involved in an accident where someone was seriously injured is DO NOT TALK TO THE POLICE. Do not agree to answer ANY questions without your attorney. The police can and will use anything you say against you in court.
The second piece of advice we will give you is do not volunteer to provide samples of your breath, urine, or blood. The police may have the legal authority to take your blood without your consent, but that doesn’t mean you have to voluntarily agree to it. We are NOT suggesting that you resist the police in any way; we are merely advising you not to volunteer to give them incriminating evidence.
What are the elements the State must prove for a charge of DUI with Serious Bodily Injury?
The State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The first element is the underlying charge of DUI. To prove this element, the State will have to prove that you were in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, while under the influence of alcohol or chemical substances, to the point that your normal faculties are impaired.
- The second element is that you caused or contributed to an accident that led to serious bodily injury to someone else, or yourself.
What sentence am I facing for DUI with Serious Bodily Injury in Crestview?
DUI with Serious Bodily Injury is a third degree felony with a maximum penalty of 5 years in state prison. Other penalties include thousands of dollars in fines and court costs, up to 5 years probation, and restitution. Your driver’s license will be suspended for 3 years, and that period doesn’t start until you are released from prison. If you are convicted, it is also mandatory that the Judge declare you a convicted felon for the rest of your life.
Under the Florida Punishment Code Scoresheet, DUI with Serious Bodily Injury is a Level 7 offense with 56 sentence points. This calculates to a sentence of 21 months in prison as a minimum, with a maximum of 5 years.
In addition to the 56 points, the State can also add victim injury points that can affect the possible sentence. The 3 levels of victim injury points are Slight (4 points), Moderate (18 points), and Severe (40 points).
Here is how the sentence is calculated with victim injury points:
With Slight Injury
56 + 4 = 60 points. 60 – 28 = 32. 32 x 0.75 = minimum of 24 months in prison.
With Moderate Injury
56 + 18 = 74 points. 74 – 28 = 46. 46 x 0.75 = minimum of 34.5 months in prison.
With Severe Injury
56 + 40 = 96 points. 96 – 28 = 68. 68 x 0.75 = minimum of 51 months in prison.
How serious does the injury have to be to qualify as serious bodily injury?
In order to qualify as serious bodily injury, Florida law requires that the injury, “consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”
What will an attorney do for me if I am charged with DUI with Serious Bodily Injury in Crestview?
Something to keep in mind. There are plenty of lawyers in Crestview and Okaloosa County who claim to be “DUI lawyers.” That is NOT what you need in this situation. You need an attorney with experience defending serious felony cases. You are facing a mandatory prison sentence and a lifetime felony conviction. This is a lot more serious than a misdemeanor in county court.
One possible defense we will explore is whether or not the injury is serious enough to enhance the DUI to a felony. A few years ago, we defended a young man involved in an accident in Crestview. The driver of the other car suffered compound fractures in both legs. We filed a motion in court to dismiss the felony element of the case due to the injuries not being serious enough to enhance the DUI to a felony. The Judge agreed and the client was able to enter a plea to simple misdemeanor DUI. Before that hearing, the State was seeking a prison sentence.
Every defense that we build for our clients is unique and customized to a client’s particular case. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to serious felony work. Having said that, there are some common factors that we review in every case, including:
- A careful analysis of all police reports, witness statements, and video evidence;
- A thorough review of medical records to determine if the injuries are serious enough to charge a felony;
- Development of mitigating evidence;
- Filing of pretrial motions to suppress evidence, dismiss the case, or reduce the charge;
- Depositions of state witnesses with a court reporter; and
- Preparation for trial
Here are a few more issues that we will look at:
Field Sobriety Testing
In any DUI case, law enforcement will try to get the impaired driver to perform field sobriety tests to develop probable cause. These tests are very difficult to perform under the best of circumstances. If you were just in an accident, it can be almost impossible. We will challenge the field sobriety tests in your case.
If someone was seriously injured in a DUI accident, the police are legally allowed to forcefully take the suspect’s blood. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will know how to effectively challenge this evidence in court.
Accident Report Privilege
The accident report privilege is a law the protects people. It says that statements you make to the police regarding a traffic accident cannot be used against you. It was designed to encourage people to cooperate with the police in their investigation of a traffic crash.
Sometimes, during the crash investigation, the police will begin to suspect that someone is impaired, or otherwise criminally responsible. At that point, they must make it clear that they are ending the crash investigation and starting a criminal investigation. If they fail to make this distinction clear, we can file a motion to exclude ALL incriminating statements.
Get the help you need from a Crestview Felony DUI Attorney
If you are convicted of DUI with Serious Bodily Injury, you WILL go to prison for at least 21 months. You owe it to yourself and your family to do everything possible to prevent this from happening.
Now is not the time to shop around for the attorney who is the cheapest, or someone who makes empty promises just to get your money. Now is the time to do your homework, and research attorneys in Crestview and Okaloosa County who have experience defending serious felony cases.
Contact a Crestview Felony DUI Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged with a Felony DUI in Crestview, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 398-8098 for a free consultation.