A DUI with bodily injury may be harshly punished in Broward County. In a recent appellate decision, the defendant had rear-ended a car while she was under the influence of unlawful substances. This caused serious bodily injuries to two passengers. With regard to each passenger the defendant was convicted of DUI with serious bodily injury as well as driving on a suspended license with serious bodily injury.
The defendant pled no contest to third degree felony charges and a second-degree misdemeanor charge for not carrying appropriate liability insurance. Five-year consecutive sentences were put in place for the felony counts.
Among other arguments, she argued that her convictions violated the constitution’s rule against double jeopardy. The appellate court explained the case was controlled by an earlier case involving a double jeopardy challenge to dual convictions for DUI with serious bodily injury and driving without a valid license for serious bodily injury, with both convictions arising from the same injury. In that earlier case, the defendant had argued the convictions shouldn’t be allowed because they penalized him twice for causing injuries to one victim with one act. For example, dual convictions for a single death that occurs because of a DUI are a double jeopardy violation. In this case, the defendant’s dual DUI convictions were similar to those in that case because put in place two punishments for a single injury to a single victim by one act of driving under the influence.
In the instant matter, the defendant’s convictions had been enhanced for the act of causing serious injury while driving under the influence. The prosecutor argued that the earlier case law was improperly determined because it extended a rule that was supposed to prevent dual punishments for a single homicide to dual punishments for a single injury. It argued that in another case, convictions for reckless driving and driving on a suspended license that were enhanced because they caused serious bodily injury to a single victim didn’t put the defendant in double jeopardy. In that case, the court hadn’t extended the reasoning related to a homicide case to a serious injury case.
The appellate court explained that the single homicide rule, as the case law on which it relies calls it, is based on the idea that the legislature doesn’t intent to penalize a single homicide under two different laws. It applies even in situations where a double jeopardy analysis might not grant relief. It was initially adopted to stop dual convictions for DWI manslaughter and vehicular homicide based on a single death. The rule was based on ideas of fundamental fairness that recognize it’s not fair to impose several punishments for a single killing. The appellate court noted that in case law, the idea of fundamental fairness also prevented enhancements to double convictions for a single act that causes serious bodily injury.
In this matter, the defendant’s convictions for driving on a suspended license causing serious injuries were enhanced by another version of the enhancement statute. Just because the defendant hadn’t killed the victims in a rear-ending did not distinguish the instant case from the cases decided on the basis of the single homicide rule. The appellate court found the dual enhancements also violated the double jeopardy rule. The convictions for DUI causing serious bodily injury were affirmed but the convictions for driving on a suspended license causing serious bodily injury were reversed. The case was remanded so the lower court could enter convictions for simply driving on a suspended license.
If you are accused of a DUI causing bodily injury in Broward County, you should consult the Hoffman Firm. The Hoffman Firm represents clients around the greater Broward County area. Our firm offers a free, confidential consultation that will allow our lawyer to review your case and help you understand all of your legal options. Call The Hoffman Firm at (954) 524-4474 or (800) 223-1866, or contact us via our online form.