| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

There’s a school of thought that believes smiling in your mugshot following a criminal arrest is a good idea. Public officials charged with crimes sometimes do this as a way of showing defiance or that they consider the charges politically motivated. But even private citizens are known to smile when the police take a mugshot, perhaps because they do not want to “look guilty” or they simply do not think they’ve done anything wrong.

The danger of smiling in a mugshot, however, is that it invites negative press coverage–especially if the person is accused of a crime that seriously injured someone else. It’s one thing to smile in the face of a white-collar corruption charge. It’s quite another to look happy when you’re accused of manslaughter.

Woman Faces 15 Years for Fatal Ocala Accident

One Florida woman is learning this lesson the hard way. She is currently facing a DUI manslaughter charge in a case that drew national attention after she smiled in her initial booking mugshot. The charge arises from a fatal May 18 auto accident in Ocala.

According to news reports, the defendant was driving her vehicle through the intersection of U.S. 27 and Northwest 60th Avenue when it rear-ended a Hyundai. The impact was hard enough to force the Hyundai into the back of a third vehicle, a horse trailer. A passenger in the Hyundai, a 60-year-old Ocala woman, died as a result injuries sustained in the accident.

According to the arresting officer, the defendant claimed “she dropped her phone” and that caused her to divert her attention from the road, leading to the fatal accident. But the officer said he observed the defendant’s eyes were “glossy” and speech “slurred,” and decided to conduct field sobriety tests. Later, law enforcement reportedly determined the defendant’s blood-alcohol content was 0.172 percent. This is more than twice the legal BAC limit of 0.08 percent.

Florida troopers initially charged the defendant with drunk driving that caused “serious bodily injury to another.” This is a third-degree felony under Florida law. But following the victim’s death–and the subsequent public outcry over the defendant’s “smiling mugshot”–prosecutors refiled the charged as DUI manslaughter, a second-degree felony that carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.

Do Not Smile–But Do Contact an Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer

The defendant’s attorney attempted to perform damage control with the press regarding the “smiling mugshot.” She insisted her client was “a good-hearted person, a wife, mother and friend who is devastated by what happened.” Not surprisingly, the victim’s family was not feeling charitable. The victim’s daughter, who was also injured in the accident, told the media the defendant “needs to rot in hell.”

Such sentiments are perfectly understandable. But they also have no legal bearing on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. While smiling mugshots may inflame victims and the media, they are not a substitute for evidence.

That said, if you are arrested and charged with DUI or another serious crime, it is in your own best interest to treat the matter seriously and somberly. Do not worry about looking good in your mugshot. Instead, contact a qualified Orlando DUI manslaughter defense attorney who can help keep you out of jail. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at (407) 377-0150, if you have been arrested and need immediate legal assistance.

Author Photo

Andrew Moses

Andrew has been practicing criminal law his entire career. After graduating from law school he began working as an Assistant State Attorney prosecuting cases in Orange and Osceola Counties. During his time as an Assistant State Attorney, Andrew handled all types of cases ranging from misdemeanors to such serious felonies as drug trafficking and armed robbery. His experience as a prosecutor helped him gain perspective of the criminal justice system and how the government established its cases.

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