DUI Manslaughter in Florida

If accused of DUI Manslaughter in Florida, you need to know the:

Definition of DUI Manslaughter

Under Florida Statute 316.193(1) and (3)(c)(3), the crime of DUI Manslaughter is committed in Florida when a person:

  1. Drives a vehicle, or is found to be in actual physical control of a vehicle, within the state of Florida;
  2. And the person is either:
    1. Under the influence of alcoholic beverages or any chemical or controlled substance, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired; or
    2. Has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher; or
    3. Has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher.
  3. And causes the death of another person, either directly or indirectly.

Actual Physical Control

Actual Physical Control means a person must be physically in or, in the case of a motorcycle, on the vehicle and have the capability to operate the vehicle, regardless of whether the person is actually operating the vehicle at the time.

Penalties for DUI Manslaughter

The crime of DUI Manslaughter is classified as a Second Degree Felony and assigned a Level 8 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.

If convicted of DUI Manslaughter in Florida, a judge is required to impose a mandatory-minimum sentence of 124½ months in prison in addition to the following penalties:

  • Up to fifteen years in prison.
  • Up to fifteen years of probation.
  • Up to $10,000 in fines.
  • Permanent driver's license revocation.
  • Community service.
  • Impoundment of the driver's vehicle.
  • Completion of a DUI Substance Abuse Course.
  • Completion of a psychosocial evaluation and substance abuse treatment.

Mandatory Minimum Sentence Requirement

DUI Manslaughter is one of the rare crimes where a downward departure sentence may be justified because of mitigating circumstances surrounding the offense. If a judge finds a basis to impose a downward departure sentence, the judge can impose a sentence below the presumptively required sentence of 124 ½ months in prison.

However, a judge's ability to impose a downward departure sentence is capped by Florida Statute 316.193(3)(c)(3), which requires a person convicted of DUI manslaughter to be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of 4 years imprisonment.

Defenses to DUI Manslaughter

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, common evidentiary defenses that are raised in a DUI Manslaughter case are:

Illegal Traffic Stop

The law is very clear that a law enforcement officer may only stop a vehicle for one of two reasons:

  1. If the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the driver is committing a traffic infraction; or
  2. If the officer has probable cause that the driver committed a crime.

However, many times it can be shown that the officer was mistaken in his reason for conducting a traffic stop. If this is proven, all of the evidence obtained as a result of the illegal stop is suppressed and the prosecutor is forced to dismiss the DUI case.

Example of Illegal Traffic Stop

An officer stops a vehicle for an expired license plate and subsequently arrested the driver for DUI.

If it can be shown that the officer was mistaken in his conclusion that the license plate was expired, the judge will find that the officer made an illegal stop and suppress any evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop. This will force the prosecutor to dismiss the DUI case.

Improper Field Sobriety Tests

In most DUI cases, law enforcement will administer Field Sobriety Tests prior to arresting the driver. The purpose of these tests is supposedly to assist the officer in determining whether a person is impaired.

And while everyone knows that the tests are designed to make a person fail, there are several avenues to challenging the officer's testimony about these tests:

  1. Is the officer familiar with the driver's true balance and coordination?
  2. Does the driver have any physical disabilities or injuries, such as a bad back or bad knees, which affect the driver's ability to perform the tests, thereby making them unreliable and inadmissible.
  3. Is the officer qualified to perform the specific Field Sobriety Test? Some Field Sobriety tests, such as the HGN test (eye following pen test), may only be relied upon when conducted by certified alcohol recognition experts. [2]
  4. Were all of the tests deemed reliable by the courts. Some tests, such as the reverse alphabet test, are not admissible in court.

Insufficient Probable Cause

In order to arrest a driver for DUI, an officer must have probable cause to believe that a driver was under the influence of alcoholic beverages or controlled substances to the extent that the driver's normal faculties were impaired.

If it can be shown that the officer's probable cause conclusion was based on insufficient evidence or an unreasonable conclusion, then the driver's arrest will be deemed illegal and any subsequent evidence will be suppressed, resulting in the prosecutor dismissing the DUI.

Example of Insufficient Probable Cause

Sometimes an officer's sole reason to arrest a driver for DUI is based on the odor of alcohol.

However, the odor of alcohol by itself has been ruled an insufficient reason for an officer to believe that a driver is “under the influence” of alcoholic beverages to justify an arrest for DUI. [3]

Example of Unreasonable Probable Cause

If video of the Field Sobriety Tests objectively reveals that the driver performed satisfactorily in contradiction to the officer's written report, many judges will find the officer's conclusion that the person was impaired to be unreasonable.

As a result, the judge will suppress the arrest evidence and any subsequently obtained evidence, forcing the prosecutor to dismiss the DUI.

Inadmissible Breath Results

The Breathalyzer machines used by law enforcement are tightly regulated and subject to strict maintenance requirements in order to be deemed admissible. Additionally, the testing must be done in a very specific, standardized manner.

The failure to either properly maintain the machines or to conduct the tests in accordance with required procedures can result in the breath alcohol results being ruled inadmissible, no matter how high the breath alcohol results were.


The failure of an officer to perform any of these simple steps may result in the breath alcohol results being thrown out.

  • Did the officer conduct a 20 minutes straight observation prior to administering the breath alcohol test?
  • Did the officer instruct the driver to "keep blowing" during the breath test?
  • Did the officer calibrate the machine properly prior to conducting the breath alcohol test?
  • Did the officer read Florida's Implied Consent Law or incorrectly state the law?

Contact Orlando DUI Attorney Richard Hornsby

If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of DUI Manslaughter in Central Florida or the Greater Orlando area, contact Orlando DUI Attorney Richard Hornsby today.

The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.


  1. Smith v. State, 793 So. 2d 1118 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001)
  2. State v. Meador, 674 So. 2d 826, 836 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996)
  3. State v. Kliphouse, 771 So. 2d 16, 23 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000)