The United States Constitution protects criminal defendants from unjust outcomes. For example, the Fifth Amendment prohibits a person from being prosecuted twice for substantially the same crime. In spite of the protections offered by the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment, it is not uncommon for a criminal defendant to be convicted for multiple variants of the same offense. In such instances, one of the convictions should be vacated, as demonstrated in a recent Florida opinion issued in a DUI case. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to speak with a St. Petersburg DUI defense attorney about your rights.
The Factual and Procedural History of the Case
It is alleged that, in 2014, the defendant drove his truck through a red light and collided with a man driving a scooter. The man suffered critical bodily harm in the crash. The defendant left the scene of the accident but was later found by the police at his apartment. When the police spoke with the defendant, they noticed he demonstrated signs that he was impaired by alcohol.
It is reported that a breath test indicated that the defendant’s BAC exceeded the legal limit, and a urine test was positive for cocaine. The defendant was charged with numerous DUI offenses. The case proceeded to trial, and the defendant was found guilty as charged. He subsequently appealed his convictions for DUI causing damage to a person and DUI causing serious bodily injury on the grounds they violated double jeopardy.
Protections Against Double Jeopardy
The court agreed with the defendant and remanded the case for further proceedings. In doing so, it explained that it is well-established that more than one conviction arising from one violation of the DUI statute does not violate double jeopardy if the incident caused several people harm. In the subject case, though, the defendant’s convictions arose out of a single act of driving while intoxicated and striking a single victim.
As such, the defendant argued that his convictions were impermissible under a statutory exception to the same elements test that barred dual convictions for crimes that represent different degrees of the same offense as provided by statute. The court explained that the statute does not need to use the word degree in order for the exception to apply as other statutory designations like the word aggravated could indicate degrees. The court ultimately adopted the defendant’s reasoning, and found that his dual convictions violated double jeopardy.
Meet with an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
While many DUI offenses are considered misdemeanors, some DUI crimes are charged as felonies that carry significant penalties. If you are accused of a DUI crime, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to discuss your options for protecting your interests. The experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorneys of Hanlon Law are well-versed in what it takes to obtain favorable outcomes in DUI cases, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us at 727-897-5413 or through the form online to set up a meeting.