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Miami Herald Article Shows Disparity When It Comes To DUI Manslaughter Sentencing

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An article in the Miami Herald demonstrates how widely sentences in DUI manslaughter cases can vary,

In some instances, people accused of DUI manslaughter received less than the four-year mandatory minimum sentence. These sentences were as low as 30 days in county jail, though many were in the 2-3 year range.

On the higher side, defendants saw sentences of 25 years or more. The infamous "Wrong Way" driver who killed two people on the Sawgrass Expressway in 2013, received 24 years from a Broward Circuit Judge.

In her case, however, she killed two people. Most DUI manslaughter defendants who take the lives of more than one person will see significant prison time.

The article states, and I agree, that the most significant factor in sentencing (most of which is by way of plea bargaining) is the input of the victim's family. If the families of the victims are okay with a certain plea, most of the time the State Attorney's Office will abide by their wishes.

Other factors to consider are the strength of the evidence and the skill of the criminal defense attorney.

DUI manslaughter is not proven by demonstrating that the accused drove while impaired and another person died. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused's impairment caused the accident. Given the facts, this is sometimes difficult to prove.

A prosecutor will take into account the strength of their case, but all in all, nothing is more powerful in obtaining a good plea than when the victim's family is willing to give the accused a second chance.

Eric Matheny is a Miami DUI manslaughter attorney and a Broward DUI manslaughter attorney.