If you have been arrested for a DUI in Port Charlotte and it is your first offense, you are probably facing misdemeanor charges, and defendants should be aware that any criminal conviction – even a misdemeanor – can have serious, long term effects. You can expect an increase in insurance rates, difficulty in finding employment and housing, as well as many other consequences. It is therefore crucial that following any DUI arrest, your first step should be to contact an experienced lawyer, no matter how serious you think your potential charges are.
At The Law Place, our team has decades of combined experience in handling DUI cases and has represented countless individuals who have been accused of driving under the influence in Port Charlotte and Florida as a whole. Using our skills and knowledge of Florida law, we can build a strong defense that seeks to have your charges reduced and protect your driver’s license.
For a free consultation, contact our law firm at (941) 444-4444. Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Driving Under the Influence in Port Charlotte, FL.
According to official data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV), in 2017, there were as many as 5,125 alcohol-related traffic accidents in the State of Florida alone, 350 of which resulted in fatal injuries. In fact, statistics show that drunk driving is the most common cause of fatal car accidents in the state, accounting for 26% of all car accident-related deaths.
Because drunk driving can have such devastating consequences, law enforcement officers in Florida make no allowances for anyone who is suspected of this offense. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement recorded 32,177 arrests for DUI in 2018 alone.
Misdemeanor Port Charlotte DUI
According to Florida Statute 877.111, a person is guilty of a DUI if they are in control of a vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol or any other substances to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired, or they have a breath or blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more. This includes any substances under Florida Statute 893.
It possible to be charged with misdemeanor DUI in Port Charlotte whether you are caught driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs – from wine and beer to marijuana and prescription drugs – the only criteria for these charges is that your normal faculties are impaired.
Penalties for Misdemeanor DUI in Port Charlotte, Florida
In Port Charlotte, Florida, penalties for misdemeanor DUI charges will heavily depend on whether you have been convicted of the same offense before. For example:
First Offense Misdemeanor DUI
If this is the first time you have been convicted of a Port Charlotte DUI, depending on the circumstances of your case, you could face the following penalties:
- A fine between $500 and $1,000.
- Driver’s license revocation for six months to one year.
- A minimum of six months in jail.
- Vehicle impoundment or immobilization for ten days.
- One year of mandatory reporting probation.
- Probation conditions will include mandatory attendance at an approved DUI alcohol safety education class.
- Substance abuse evaluation and any recommended treatment.
- A minimum of 50 hours of community service.
Second Offense Misdemeanor DUI
If this is the second time you have been convicted of a DUI in Port Charlotte or any other state, depending on the circumstances of your case, you could face the following penalties:
Second offense more than five years after a prior conviction:
- A fine between $1,000 and $2,000.
- Driver’s license revocation for six months to one year.
- Up to nine months in jail.
- Vehicle impoundment or immobilization for thirty days.
- Reporting probation with the same mandatory conditions as above.
Second conviction within five years of a prior conviction:
- Mandatory 10-day jail sentence.
- Driver’s license revocation for sixty months.
Third Offense Misdemeanor DUI
For any third or subsequent DUIs, in Port Charlotte or any other state, depending on the circumstances of your case, you could face the following penalties:
Third offense more than ten years after a prior conviction:
- A fine between $2,000 and $4,000.
- Driver’s license revocation of six months to one year.
- Up to one year in jail.
- Vehicle impoundment or immobilization for ninety days.
- Reporting probation with the same mandatory conditions as above.
Third offense within five years of a prior conviction:
- A mandatory thirty-day jail sentence.
- A mandatory one hundred and twenty-month driver’s license revocation period.
- This qualifies as a felony DUI in Florida.
For any driver who has very high blood or breath alcohol levels (0.15 percent or more) or has young passengers in their vehicle (under 18 years of age), these fines may be doubled, and the maximum jail sentence for a first offense is increased to nine months, or 12 months for a second offense.
These penalties will be determined by the facts of your individual case. This is why it is so important to talk with a DUI attorney about your situation. Call The Law Place for a free case evaluation, and one of our experienced attorneys can help you to understand your potential charges.
When Is a DUI a Felony Crime in Port Charlotte, FL?
Under some circumstances, a Port Charlotte DUI can be charged as a felony. For example:
Multiple Port Charlotte DUI Offenses
As mentioned above, even though individual drunk driving offenses in Port Charlotte, Florida, are often charged as misdemeanors, if you are convicted more than once, you could face felony charges. These charges are usually reserved for anyone who commits a third DUI within 10 years of the date of a previous DUI conviction.
Serious Bodily Injury
A Port Charlotte DUI that results in non-serious injuries is usually charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. However, If the car accident victim’s condition worsens, you could find yourself facing felony charges.
If another person loses their life in a car accident that was caused by your drunk driving, you could be charged with DUI manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony as per Florida Statute 316.193. In Florida, the penalties associated with a second-degree felony include fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
A felony conviction in Port Charlotte, Florida, should be avoided at all costs, and anyone who is facing these charges should consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Common Port Charlotte DUI Defenses
The defenses available in your Port Charlotte DUI case will depend on the specific facts of your case. Some defenses could result in the exclusion of the evidence, whilst other defenses might lead to a total dismissal of the charges.
Illegal Traffic Stop
As per the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. constitution, any arrest or search and seizure must be reasonable. In other words, any police officer that stops you must have reasonable suspicion that you have committed a criminal offense or have probable cause. For example:
- DUI checkpoints & roadblocks – The Fourth Amendment heavily scrutinizes DUI Checkpoint cases in Port Charlotte, Florida. Under these circumstances, an officer has no suspicion of drink driving when the stop is made. Instead, the driver is randomly stopped if they travel through a DUI roadblock. Always consult with an attorney before you enter a plea in a DUI checkpoint case.
- Weaving within a lane– Just because a driver is weaving within a lane, it does not mean they have committed a traffic offense. If you were stopped for this reason alone, your case could be dismissed under the Fourth Amendment.
- Anonymous tip – An anonymous tip from another driver or citizen is not usually sufficient grounds for a stop in Port Charlotte, Florida, if the officer does not also make their own observations of impaired driving.
After a DUI stop in Port Charlotte, FL., an officer may perform a search of the suspect’s body or vehicle.
If any physical evidence is seized, such as receipts of recent alcohol purchases, an open container of alcohol, drugs, or drug paraphernalia, it could be suppressed or thrown at trial if the circumstances of the search are found to have been unreasonable.
Officers usually rely on consent for a search or argue that the smell of alcohol or drugs such as marijuana justified it, but this can be contested in court.
To arrest a driver for DUI in Port Charlotte, FL., the officer must have probable cause to believe that the suspect was under the influence whilst either driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle.
The arresting officer will usually state that observations such as the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, a flushed face, bloodshot or glassy eyes, difficulty exiting the vehicle, or swaying while standing, were reasonable grounds for an arrest. If these observations are not sufficient grounds for the arrest, then all evidence gathered could be suppressed.
If you are arrested in Port Charlotte and taken into custody for questioning, the officer must read you your Miranda warnings. If they do not, any statements you make during the questioning can be suppressed.
Officers who conduct roadside DUI investigations may not be obligated to read Miranda warnings until after the arrest has been made. However, if you are taken to another location for any field sobriety exercises or are questioned after an accident, any failure to read Miranda warnings could result in suppression of any statements you make.
Right to a Speedy Trial
According to Florida Statute 918.015, every person in Florida has a right to a speedy trial. Florida’s Speedy Trial Provisions state that this should be no more than 90 days after an arrest for a misdemeanor DUI charge (175 days for a felony DUI charge). If a prosecutor in Port Charlotte takes too long to file charges, this could result in a speedy trial violation. This can also happen if the blood/breath alcohol test results are delayed.
In some cases, there is no actual proof that the DUI suspect was driving or in “actual physical control of a vehicle.” Perhaps you exited the vehicle before the officer arrived at the scene. If the officer or any other person did not see who was driving, then the prosecutor may fail to prove a key element of the Port Charlotte DUI case.
Disputing the Prosecutor’s Case
A Port Charlotte, FL., DUI attorney may have grounds to dispute the prosecutor’s case for the following reasons:
Field Sobriety (Agility) Tests
- The officer failed to correctly administer or grade the tests/ exercises.
- The officer failed to take into consideration any medical problems.
- There were language barriers because the suspect did not speak English as their first language.
Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing
- Florida driver’s license holders automatically consent to submit to an approved chemical test if suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance due to implied consent. If you refuse to submit to testing, the officer is required to read your “implied consent warnings.” If they fail to read them in full, this may result in the evidence of the refusal being suppressed at trial.
- The test was not refused willfully.
- Blood test samples must be made available to the defense for retesting to confirm or disprove the test results.
- If there are grounds to suggest that results are not reliable because a sample was contaminated, it can be excluded from the evidence. Laboratory technicians must follow strict procedures when processing blood samples.
- A urine test is considered to be completely unreliable when used to determine blood alcohol content.
- If a urine test is used to test for prescription drugs, results may be inadmissible due to the fact that the drugs in the system cannot be quantified.
- If a urine test is used to measure marijuana consumption, it may be inadmissible at trial because exact THC levels cannot be determined accurately.
- It is well-documented in the scientific community that false positives in DUI urine tests are common.
This is just a small selection of possible defenses to a Port Charlotte, FL., DUI charge. To find out more about the best DUI defense strategies available to you under Florida law, call The Law Place for a free consultation.
Call The Law Place for a Free Consultation With a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been accused of driving under the influence in Port Charlotte, FL., it is critical that you talk to an experienced attorney.
At The Law Place, Our team of Port Charlotte DUI lawyers have decades of experience in handling DUI cases and can fight to secure a reduction of your charges or a dismissal of your case.
Schedule a confidential, free consultation with a DUI lawyer today by calling (941) 444-4444. Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.