We hear about accidents happening from drunk driving or buzzed driving all the time. Like most people, you probably never imagined that it would be you who got into an accident after going out with family or friends. 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. I’ve been a Destin Criminal & DUI defense attorney since 2001. Brandy Merrifield is my partner. If you have already been arrested for DUI with Serious Bodily Injury, or the police are investigating you, we can help. Call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 460-7470 for an immediate free case review from one of our Destin DUI with serious bodily injury lawyers.
What should I do if the police want to talk to me about a DUI with Injury in Destin?
If you had an accident and someone was injured, the police may try to contact you to ask you questions. Do not agree to talk to them without a lawyer with you. The police will act like they are trying to help you, but they will use your cooperation against you.
What does the State have to prove to convict me of DUI with Serious Bodily Injury in Destin?
In any criminal case, the State has the burden of proof. That means it is their job to prove every element of the crime beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. The elements for DUI with Serious Bodily Injury are:
- The State must be able to prove the offense of DUI. In order to prove a charge of DUI, the State must show that the defendant was in actual physical control of a vehicle, and that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances to the point that their normal faculties were impaired.
- In addition to the DUI element, the State will also have to prove that the defendant caused or contributed to an accident where someone suffered serious injuries.
What is the penalty for DUI with Serious Bodily Injury in Destin?
DUI with Serious Bodily Injury is punishable by up to 5 years in state prison. If convicted, there are other possible penalties including a mandatory felony conviction, 5 years probation, a 3 year driver’s license revocation, restitution, and several thousand dollars in fines and court costs.
It is also important to understand that Florida Sentencing Guidelines play a large role in determining the possible prison sentence. Under the Florida Punishment Code Scoresheet, DUI with Serious Bodily Injury is a Level 7 offense with 56 sentence points.
Here is how the sentence is calculated under the guidelines:
56 points – 28 = 28. 28 x 0.75 = 21 months in prison as a minimum sentence.
Depending on the level of injury, there are victim injury points that can be added to the score, which raises the minimum sentence. There are 3 levels of victim injury: Slight, Moderate, and Severe.
With victim injury points, the sentence is calculated as follows:
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.
What type of injury is serious enough to be considered Serious Bodily Injury?
Under Florida law, Serious Bodily Injury is defined as an injury that “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.”
How will you defend me against a charge of DUI with Serious Bodily Injury?
This is an important point. There are attorneys in Destin and Okaloosa County who advertise themselves as “DUI lawyers”. That is the last thing you need. What you need is a dedicated defense team with extensive experience in defending serious felony cases.
If you are convicted, you WILL go to prison and you WILL be a convicted felon for the rest of your life.
At Flaherty & Merrifield, all we do is Criminal & DUI defense. A large percentage of our cases are in felony court. We have represented clients accused of all serious felonies, up to and including first degree murder. Over the years, we have developed defense strategies that get results for our clients.
Here is an example of how we used that experience to help a client who had been accused of DUI with Serious Bodily Injury:
We represented a client a few years ago who had been in an accident that resulted in the victim suffering horrific fractures in both of his legs. The State was seeking over 2 years in prison. After many hours of research, we found case law that discussed whether compound fractures were serious enough to qualify as Serious Bodily Injury. We filed a Motion to Dismiss. We argued that the injuries weren’t serious enough to satisfy the element of the offense requiring Serious Bodily Injury. The Judge granted the Motion and the felony was dismissed.
Here is another example:
A couple years ago, we defended a client who was involved in a very serious single-car accident. His girlfriend was in the car with him and she was VERY seriously injured. She had to have brain surgery, and had ongoing complications that were likely to stay with her for the rest of her life. Because of the severity of the injuries, the State was seeking the maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. We took a different approach in that case. We scheduled the case for a sentencing hearing. We brought in character witnesses and an extensive amount of mitigating evidence. We also made a legal argument that our client qualified for a Downward Departure sentence. The victim also gave very emotional testimony. After a sentencing hearing that lasted for several hours, the judge agreed with our argument for Downward Departure and sentenced our client to probation with no jail or prison time.
Obviously, every case is different, but the two examples above show that we are able to adapt our strategy to the unique facts and circumstances of our client’s case. There is NOT a one-size-fits-all strategy that works in all cases.
In order to put you in the best possible position for a favorable outcome, we will review the following in your case:
- Analysis of police reports, bodycam videos, and witness statements;
- Examine the medical records to see if we can attack the severity of the injuries;
- We will have you gather character references, school records, military records, etc;
- If applicable, we will file a Motion to Suppress or a Motion to Dismiss;
- We will question all State witnesses under oath at a deposition; and
- We will prepare the case for trial in case we are not able to negotiate an acceptable plea, or get the charges dismissed or reduced.
Some other legal issues we will review:
Field Sobriety Testing
Field Sobriety Tests are designed to be failed. That’s why the police use them. That is especially true with someone who was just in a serious car accident. The tests are, in theory, designed to test someone’s balance and coordination, but if the person was just in an accident, those things will be affected. If field sobriety tests were given in your case, we will be looking to attack the results in court.
The police can legally take someone’s blood if the person was involved in an accident with serious injury or death. Having said that, those results can still be challenged in court if protocols were not followed correctly.
Accident Report Privilege
This privilege was put in place to encourage people who were involved in an accident to be open and honest with the police as they investigate the crash. The privilege means that the police can’t use those statements against you in court.
If the police want to be able to use someone’s statements against them, they have to make it clear that they are ending the accident investigation and starting a criminal investigation. If they fail to make that distinction clear, we can file a motion to exclude your statements in court.
Contact a Destin DUI Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged with DUI with Serious Bodily Injury in Destin, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 460-7470 for a free consultation.