What the Florida Supreme Court’s Recent Decision to Abandon the “Single Homicide” Rule Means for Criminal Defendants
The Florida Supreme Court recently abandoned what had been known as the “single homicide” rule in criminal cases. The rule was first put in place by the Court several decades earlier to prevent the state from convicting a defendant for a single homicide under two different criminal statutes. This was deemed necessary to comply with the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against double jeopardy.
In December 2020, however, the state Supreme Court announced the single homicide rule no longer applied. The specific case before the Court, State v. Maisonet-Maldonado addressed a scenario where a defendant was charged with both “vehicular manslaughter” and “fleeing and eluding causing serious bodily injury or death.” These are separate crimes under Florida law, but they were both applied to the same homicide.
Appeals Court Reinstates “Fleeing or Eluding” Conviction in Death of Five-Year-Old Child
More recently, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal confronted a similar case. In Eugene v. Florida, a police officer decided to initiate a traffic stop of the defendant for speeding. When the officer started to pursue, the defendant sped up and “took off.” The defendant continued to accelerate even after the officer displayed his flashing lights and siren.
As the pursuit continued, the defendant was “driving out of control,” according to the Fourth District’s opinion, and he ran off the roadway, striking and killing a five-year-old child. After the police finally apprehended the defendant, prosecutors charged him several crimes, including both vehicular homicide and fleeing or attempting to elude an officer causing serious bodily injury or death.
A jury convicted the defendant of all charges. But during sentencing, the trial judge threw out the “fleeing or attempting to elude” charge, holding that it violated double jeopardy under the single homicide rule. While the defendant’s appeal was pending, the Florida Supreme Court issued its Maisonet-Maldonado decision.
Applying that ruling as binding precedent, the Fourth District reversed the trial court’s decision to reverse the defendant’s conviction for fleeing or attempting to elude an officer causing serious bodily injury or death.
The basic reason the Supreme Court said these dual convictions do not violate double jeopardy was that vehicular homicide requires proof the defendant killed someone, while the fleeing or eluding charge does not. Fleeing or eluding may involve death, but it also includes cases where someone is only seriously injured. Conversely, a person may commit vehicular homicide without trying to flee the police. These differences were significant enough to justify charging and convicting a defendant with both crimes, even though they arise from the death of the same victim.
Speak with a Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Today
In any criminal case, you can expect prosecutors to try and pile on as many charges as possible. This is often a tactic to try and secure a plea bargain. But whatever the reason, you have the right to contest any criminal case brought against you. An experienced An experienced Tampa criminal lawyer can help. Contact the Faulkner Law Group, PLLC, today if you need to speak with an attorney right away.