I was in an accident and charged with DUI Property Damage, what now?
A first DUI in Florida already carries serious penalties including a mandatory adjudication, meaning a DUI conviction will never be erased from your permanent criminal record. If you are arrested for DUI and were also involved in an accident as a result, Florida law allows for enhanced penalties.
DUI with property damage or non-serious injuries is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up one year in jail. DUI that causes serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony and you can be sentenced for up to five years in prison.
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DUI law is complex—adding an accident component makes it more so! Seek the help of an experienced drunk driving defense attorney in Miami.
DUI property damage can occur after the most insignificant of fender benders or after extremely serious accidents. After arriving on scene and assessing the accident, police officers may then inform a suspect that a criminal investigation for DUI is about to begin and drivers suspected of being under the influence may be asked to submit to sobriety exercises, breath test or even blood tests depending on the circumstances.
How can I defend myself if I was arrested for DUI after an accident?
There are many defenses to a charge of DUI. Besides challenges to the breath test results, refusing to take a test or administration of the field sobriety exercises, there are three common defenses or issues in a DUI case that involves an accident:
- Wheel witness: In order for the prosecutor to prove you were DUI, they need to prove all elements, including the most basic one that you were actually driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle at the time of the accident not just that you were around the scene or arrived after the accident. In these cases, the state often has to call a “wheel witness” to testify that the person being charged with DUI was the person they saw driving or behind the wheel of the car when the crash occurred or immediately after (i.e. they saw the person exiting the vehicle or can identify them as the driver).
- Accident Report Privilege: Florida law says that when an officer is investigating an accident and then suspects the driver of being under the influence, he must “change hats” before a DUI or criminal investigation begins. When you are involved in an accident, you are required to provide your name, license, address and registration. You are also required to give a statement and submit written reports. The accident report privilege is in place so that you can comply with this law and still be afforded your constitutional protection against self-incrimination. Therefore, (1) any statements during an accident investigation are not admissible and cannot be used as evidence in administrative hearings (DMV) or criminal or civil trials, and (2) if the officer is going outside the course of the accident investigation, he must give the driver an indication and must read Miranda.
- Roadside Sobriety Exercises: It can oftentimes be difficult for the prosecutor to prove that poor performance on field sobriety tests was the result of alcohol consumption or drug impairment as opposed to simply being shaken up or injured as a result of the accident. Injuries sustained during the accident can cause the same type of indicators as alcohol impairment such as difficulty balancing or successfully completing other exercises.
Don’t trust your DUI case in the hands of just any lawyer. Find a skilled DUI defense attorney in Miami that will look at all aspects of your case, not just make you plead guilty. Call me today (305)707-7345 to discuss your case, I’m here to help. My firm focuses on the defense of drunk driving cases and promise to leave no stone unturned in defending your DUI with property damage case. If you would rather tell me what happened in writing, fill out the DUI Intake Form, and I will get in contact with you immediately to discuss your case, goals and possible defense.