Dealing with DUI

DUI Manslaughter

DUI Manslaughter is a very emotionally charged situation. As with anything there are always two sides to the story. You have the family of the person that was killed wanting justice for the loss of their loved one and then on the defendant's side you have them questioning why the prosecutor is trying to send their family member to prison for so long.

This is one of the hardest situations to balance. On one hand you have the loss of a life or serious injury and on the other someone who may not have ever had a speeding ticket--yet one bad choice led to a fatal irreversible mistake that they will live with for the rest of their life.

When is a DUI considered DUI manslaughter?
Death is considered DUI manslaughter when a person is driving under the influence (DUI) and because of operating a vehicle they cause another human being to die. There are several different aspects that are important to understand when faced in this situation.

For example: just because a person who is accused drank an alcoholic beverage or consumed a controlled substance and then proceeds to drive and breaks a law while driving does not give enough evidence to be charged with DUI Manslaughter. Many states statues specify that a person is guilty if while under the influence of alcohol they are impaired and or they have an unlawful blood alcohol level, and while operating a vehicle cause someone to die.

DUI-with serious bodily injury is when by operation of a motor vehicle, while under the influence someone receives serious bodily injuries. Most state statues specify serious bodily injury as an injury that causes a substantial chance of death, serious disfigurement or impairment and loss of any function of the person's body or organs.

Below are some examples of cases:

  • State v. Wieskamp, 490 N.W.2d 566 (Iowa App. 1992) (defendant's intoxication not proximate cause of accident due to fact that decedent was laying in middle of unlighted portion of highway at night in black clothing)
  • State v. Morris, 705 So. 2d 634 (Fla. 2d Dist. Ct. App. 1997) (causation established where intoxicated defendant allowed minor passenger who had no driver's license to drive vehicle, leading to a fatal accident)

When is DUI considered murder?
If the accused was severely intoxicated the prosecution sometimes attempts to file murder charges verses manslaughter charges. More often than not the indictments are undoubtedly overcharged, and are more in response to political pressures. One example of a DUI murder prosecution is United States v. Chippewa, 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 5458 (defendant could be convicted for second degree murder for alcohol related accident where defendant showed extreme indifference to human life by ignoring two stop signs while driving intoxicated).

Typically a DUI manslaughter conviction can lead up to 15 years in prison and not more than $10,000 in fines as well as a possible civil suit from the victim's side. A very popular recent case occurred on March 14th, 2009 when Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth was driving drunk and struck and killed Mario Reyes. He pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter and came to a private financial settlement with the family of the man killed. He made a plea deal and will serve 30 days in prison; he will then be on probation for eight years and on house arrest for two years (during which he will be enabled to still play football).

This short of a prison sentence is a rarity, so if you are faced with the unpleasant situation of being charged with DUI Manslaughter make sure to contact a knowledgeable attorney that specifies in defending DUI Manslaughter cases. Given the harsh regulations and policies you want strong representation so you can have every advantage on your side to enable you to pick up the pieces and learn to live again.