-Summary by Alison Bowlby
On December 10, 2020, in State of Florida v. Marsh, SC18-1108, the Supreme Court consolidated a Second District Court of Appeal case with a Fourth District Court of Appeal case, and a Fifth District Court of Appeal case to determine whether dual convictions of driving under the influence violated double jeopardy, the concept that you cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Dual convictions in this context refers to receiving a conviction of “driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury” and “driving with suspended license.” The Court held that these dual convictions did not violate the ban against double jeopardy.
In Marsh, the Defendant rear-ended another car, causing serious harm to two passengers. She was convicted of both driving under the influence (DUI) and driving with a suspended license for each of the two passengers she harmed, giving her a lengthy sentence. The Second District held that under the “single homicide rule,” Marsh could not be subject to double jeopardy. However, upon review and consolidation of both the Fourth and the Fifth District Court of Appeal cases, the Supreme Court determined that the “single homicide rule” did not apply in the DUI context. Hence, the Court applied a different analysis, asking whether each offense “contains an element not contained in the other,” and thus would constitute a different offense from the first. If the offenses contain at least one different element, they are considered distinct, and are not subject to double jeopardy.
The Court then examined Florida Statute § 775.021(4), which states that when one commits an act “of one or more separate criminal offenses,” they “shall be sentenced separately for each criminal offense.” Next, the legislative intent makes it clear that each offense, even if conducted in the course of the same act, will be treated as distinct and sentenced accordingly. The only exceptions listed in the statute include offenses that have the same exact elements, offenses of the same degree, and offenses that are a part of a larger offense. Next, the Court examined both the DUI statutory language and the driving with a suspended license statutory language. Since a DUI and driving with a suspended license are two offenses with clearly different elements, they are not subject to double jeopardy. Further, neither of the two offenses fall into one of the listed exceptions.
The Supreme Court ultimately concluded that Marsh could be convicted of DUI as well driving with a suspended license as to each of the two individuals that she caused severe bodily harm. Hence, she would not be subject to double jeopardy and could be found guilty on all four counts. In addition, the Fourth and Fifth District Court cases were affirmed to the extent that they were consistent with this determination. Interestingly, all Florida Supreme Court justices concurred in the judgment, showing unanimous support for this decision.