If you have been arrested for a DUI in Florida you need to contact the Florida DUI Attorneys at The Law Place for immediate help on your DUI arrest. The Law Place has law offices in Sarasota, Tampa, Orlando and Clearwater. Call today for a free case evaluation.
Driving under the influence, or DUI, in Florida is a serious charge that carries a range of punishments upon conviction. Consequences and the specifics of your charge will be impacted by any prior criminal record, your blood alcohol content, the presence or absence of minors in your vehicle and whether you were involved in an accident at the time of your DUI.
How to fight your DUI in Florida
Fighting your DUI in Florida
In addition to the expensive and life-altering penalties that can result from a DUI conviction, having a DUI on your record can get in the way of future job opportunities and other personal and professional pursuits. Regardless of the details of your case, it is essential that you do all you can to fight this serious charge.
Take the first step in protecting your good name. Call The Law Place to schedule a free, no-obligation review of your case today.
Pre-Investigation of your DUI
Pre-Investigation in a Florida DUI
Over the years our office has been involved in several cases that involve a DUI with serious bodily injury or a death also known as a DUI manslaughter. The earlier that we can get retained on a case like this the better it may be for the client at the end of the road.
Why is it so important to get a lawyer involved?
DUI manslaughter and DUI serious bodily injury cases come with some major minimum mandatory penalties if they can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Often an individual may be involved in an accident involving death and a law enforcement officer or trooper is on a fishing expedition to gather evidence prior to deciding whether to arrest somebody. This gathering of evidence could include search warrants for vehicle contents, credit card receipts, blood results, or for someone’s residence. Without having a skilled DUI lawyer that understands the burden that has to ultimately be proven by a State Attorney beyond a reasonable doubt, you are at an extreme disadvantage when the government is coming after you to try to secure this type of evidence. Not to mention the fact that 911 calls, witnesses, and or video evidence could be destroyed or erased. Since we have handled so many of these cases, The Law Place understands the process and procedure that needs to be done on these types of cases. The preservation of evidence is critical. One of the lawyers within our office, AnneMarie Rizzo, is a lawyer scientist who has extensive experience with the analyzation of blood samples. Hiring us prior to a possible arrest could make a big difference in how the case will be resolved at the end of the day. Feel free to contact The Law Place whether it’s on the weekends or after hours, as we always have a lawyer on board to assist.
Resolving a DUI Without a Trail
Resolving a Florida DUI Without a Trail
Our office prepares every case as if it’s going to trial. At the end of the day, that does not mean that we try every case. As a matter of fact, depending on the client and the certain facts of the case we may end up resolving the case by getting into a plea agreement with the State Attorney. Why would we do this? In certain circumstances our clients might be concerned about jail or their driver’s license and we might be able to negotiate something that satisfies all of their needs. A very low percentage of cases actually result in trial. We understand a trial can be very stressful, make our client very nervous, and depending on the facts of the case it may not be a “trial case”. In fact, the client may be hiring us to negotiate with the State Attorney and to negotiate a deal that involves minimum mandatory penalties without the need for a trial. Once all the evidence is gathered in any criminal or DUI case, we communicate with the client to discuss all of the defenses and any holes in the state’s case. At the end of the day it is the client’s decision whether to accept the plea deal from the State Attorney or whether to continue to push the case to a trial posture. We work for our clients in any criminal situation, our clients are always the pilot and we are the co-pilot. We never do anything against our clients’ interests and we take that very seriously. In the event that you’re facing a criminal or DUI charge and you want to discuss a negotiation or a plea negotiation with us feel free to give our office a call and speak to one of our skilled attorneys and we will do everything we can to get you through this with the best possible result.
Driver's License Suspension After a DUI
What happens to your driver’s license after a DUI in Florida?
A DUI arrest immediately triggers the process by which the State of Florida and the DMV will try to take your license. It is important that you speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney immediately to learn what you need to do to protect your driving privileges.
BAC above .15 and/or a Minor in the Car
Florida DUI with a Breath or Blood Test Above a .15 and or a Minor in the Car
The State of Florida has carved out an enhanced penalty where the BAC (Blood/Breath-Alcohol Level) is above a .15 or at the time of the arrest there was a juvenile under the age of 18 in their vehicle.The legal limit in the State of Florida is a .08 and anything above that limit is a presumption of impairment. With that being said, Florida has enhanced penalties at the .15 threshold level. That means that the Florida legislature has said that the penalties for such convictions are more enhanced under those scenarios than would be under a DUI below a .15. The penalties will include 12 months of probation with special conditions to include a minimum mandatory fine of $1,000, the possibility of a 9-month county jail sentence, level 1 DUI school, a victim impact panel, a loss of driver’s license for 6 months to a year, a minimum of 6 months with the ignition interlock device, a minimum of 50 hours of community service, the payment of court costs, and a 10-day vehicle immobilization or impound. Those are all minimum mandatory penalties that one can expect if you are convicted for a first offense DUI enhanced with a breath or blood alcohol level of above a .15 or having an individual in your vehicle under 18 years of age. Even though the enhanced DUI penalties are more severe than you would find on a first offense standard DUI, you can potentially still apply for hardship license to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles assuming that level 1 DUI school is complete by the time the court case is resolved. If your breath or blood alcohol level is barely over a .15 there is a possibility that the State Attorney will stipulate at the time of resolution of the case to a level below a .15 thereby not triggering the enhanced penalties.
Second DUI Within 5 Years
Florida Second Offense DUI Within 5 Years
A second offense DUI within five years of the most recent conviction creates a whole set of complex problems. On a second offense DUI conviction within 5 years the court shall impose a minimum sentence of 10 days in the county jail. Florida legislature has allowed for residential treatment programs in lieu of county jail time if the State Attorney and the Judge agree to such an alternative sentence. Therefore, if the State Attorney’s office is seeking, for example, 30 days in the country jail for a second offense within 5 years you may be able to serve time in a residential treatment program. Typically, these programs are 28 days and you must remain at the program until it’s complete. If the state decides to give you day-for-day credit, then potentially you may not serve any time in the county jail for a second offense within 5 years. Aside from any possible county jail time, you must also consider your driver’s license. On a second offense DUI within 5 years, the minimum mandatory loss of driver’s license is 5 years. The Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles will not grant you a hardship license for at least one full year. That means you will serve one full year on a hard-time suspension with absolutely no opportunity to get a hardship license during that time. After that one year expires, you can apply through your local DUI school and local BAR (Bureau of Administrative Review) office for a restricted or work permit. The Department of Motor Vehicles contracts out with the local DUI schools to monitor you while you’re in the special supervision program, which is administered by the local DUI school. You will remain in that special supervision program for the balance of those 4 years. That program would require you to do a random urinalysis and be specially supervised, including installing the ignition interlock device. The other court penalties of a second DUI within five years include, mandatory probation, fines, loss of driver’s license for five years, the possibility of community service hours, having to complete level 2 DUI school (20-hour class), a victim awareness program, as well as any other penalties that the court feels are necessary to make sure that you maintain your sobriety during the time of your probationary term. Speaking to skilled DUI lawyer who deals with these types of cases is critical.
Am I Facing Jail Time for a First Time DUI?
Am I Facing Jail Time for a First Time DUI?
What penalties am I facing for a first offense DUI?
A DUI in the State of Florida is typically a misdemeanor as long as there is no serious bodily injury or a fatality. The penalties are set by Florida statute and the legislature has said that if you are convicted of a first time DUI you will have your driver’s license suspended for 6 months to a year, pay a fine of $500 to $1,000, you will complete a minimum of 50 hours of community service, 12 months of probation, up to 6 months in the county jail, 10-day vehicle impound, payment of court costs, and you will complete a DUI school and any recommended counseling. This school cannot be done online; it must be done in person. Also, most jurisdictions will require a victim impact panel. This is a program where the person speaking has been the victim of a DUI or has a family member that has been a victim of a DUI. This is typically run by a MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) office. If you are put on probation, this consists of you reporting to a probation officer once a month to make sure that you are doing everything that the court orders you to do. A violation of probation could result in serving county jail time, unless there are aggravating factors where you have an extensive criminal history. The probability of jail time on a first offense DUI really depends on the State Attorney and the county in which the case is pending.
Driving for 10 Days Following Your DUI Arrest
Driving for 10 Days Following Your DUI Arrest
Upon your release from jail following your DUI arrest you should have received a citation. That citation is typically yellow or white and will serve as a full driver’s license for 10 days from the date of the arrest. Yes, that means you can drive with that ticket on you at all times as if you had a full license for 10 days. Within that 10-day time period you must make a decision on what to do with the status of your driver’s license. We will describe for you the two different scenarios that you can opt for following your DUI arrest.
Option #1 on a first offense DUI is not to challenge your driver’s license suspension. This is what we refer to as a waiver of your right to challenge your license suspension. What happens in this scenario is that the Department of Motor Vehicle’s special office called the Bureau of Administrative Review (referred to as “BAR”) will look at your driving history and determine your eligibility to waive your right to challenge your license suspension. On a first offense DUI, with a breath test above a .08, if you decide you want to waive your right to challenge your license suspension then the BAR office will mandate you to register for level 1 DUI school and they will conduct an evidentiary hearing with them. They will then clear you to go to a driver’s license office or tax collector’s office to obtain a business purposes only license once you pay a reinstatement fee. That business purposes only license will last you for a period of 6 months, assuming you took a breath test for a first offense DUI or until the criminal case is resolved however that may be. If you refused to submit to a breath test, then the Department of Highway Safety Motor Vehicles will take action to suspend your driver’s license for a period of 12 months. The process is very similar in that you would need to register for level 1 DUI school within the first 10 days, have an evidentiary hearing with the Bureau of Administrative Review and, they will then clear you in their system and then tell you to go to a driver’s license office to pay a reinstatement fee to obtain your business purposes only license. That business purposes only license will last you for one year or until the criminal case is resolved. This option became available to licensed drivers on July 1, 2013 and is a good option for individuals with no prior DUI’s. The downside is you will permanently have an administrative suspension listed on your driving history. This could cause a rise in your insurance even though there is no DUI conviction on your record. The upside is that you can continue to drive while the criminal case is pending.
Option #2 is to request a formal review hearing. A formal review hearing is a process through the local Bureau of Administrative Review office where by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will issue you a temporary permit, which is typically a piece of paper with a red stamp. This will restrict your driving to business purposes only under Florida statute 322.271 1 (c) 1
A driving privilege restricted to business purposes only means a driving privilege that is limited to any driving necessary to maintain livelihood, including driving to and from work, necessary on-the-job driving, driving for educational purposes, and driving for church and for medical purposes.
For a period of 42 days you can drive for the above reasons.Within those 42 days the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles pursuant to Florida Statute 322.2615 will conduct an administrative hearing to determine whether there was probable cause to arrest you and whether or not you had a lawful breath test above a .08 or a refusal to submit to a breath test after because requested to do so by a law enforcement officer. Depending on that hearing, which can be very difficult
to win, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will either invalidate your suspension or uphold the suspension of your driver’s license. If they uphold your suspension on a first time breath test case, you will be forced to go 30 days with no driving whatsoever. If they invalidate your suspension you will get your full driving privileges restored. In a refusal case, if they uphold the suspension, you will go 90 days with no driving, commonly referred to as “hard time”. If you win the administrative suspension you will get your driving privileges restored in full while the criminal case is pending.
The intricacies and details of challenging and not challenging within the first 10 days can be very complex. It is recommended that you speak to an experienced DUI lawyer, someone who can go over the specific facts of your case and go over ways in which to deal with your driver’s license suspension.
DUI Testing in Florida
Field Sobriety Test
Field Sobriety Tests in Florida
After I was pulled over, I was asked to exit my vehicle and submit to a field sobriety test before I was arrested. I said yes, and I did not know at the time that these field sobriety tests were voluntary so I agreed to do them.
Law enforcement in the State of Florida uses several different types of sobriety tests or exercises in determining possible impairment. Florida is unique because they do not use a PBT (portable breath test) when determining probable cause for an adult DUI. Instead, they rely heavily on field sobriety tests or exercises in determining possible impairment.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test in Florida
Usually the first field sobriety test is referred to as the “horizontal gaze nystagmus test”. This test is also known as the “eye test” and it allows the Florida law enforcement officer to look in someone’s eyes to determine whether or not they exhibit indicators of possible impairment. Since we have two eyes the maximum number of clues after three tests is six. The first clues within the horizontal gaze nystagmus test are referred to as lack of smooth pursuit. An officer will hold a pen or stimulus in front of your face and move it back and forth between your left and right eye. If your eye begins to jerk, kind of like what you would see when windshield wipers are being operated on a dry windshield, then that is clues #1 and #2. The second test that a law enforcement officer will use is called maximum deviation. Meaning that a law enforcement officer will hold a pen, stimulus, or finger out until they see the whites of both your left and right eye. If they see your eyeball start to jerk that will be two more additional clues. The next exercise is called onset, and in this exercise they will hold a pen, stimulus or finger at approximately 45 degrees and they will wait to see whether or not your eyes jerk back and forth. Following their observation on the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, they will typically do some additional tests.
Walk & Turn Test
Walk and Turn Test in Florida
The second test is usually the walk and turn test, where you will be asked to maintain the instructional position of putting your right foot in front of your left foot then taking nine steps down imaginary or actual line, pivoting and taking nine steps back. If at any point you walk off the imaginary line or you do not walk heel to toe, the officer will make observations to that effect and those will be indicators of possible impairment.
Typically, the last standardized field sobriety exercise that they use in the State of Florida is the one leg stand. During the one leg stand, the officer will require you to lift the leg of your choice and to bend while your arms are down by your side and you are staring at your raised foot. If you begin to jump, put your hands up like a plain, or put your leg down, those are indicators of possible impairment that the officers are trained to observe. We are well aware that these exercises, especially the walk and turn and the one leg stand, are not ideal even under the best of conditions. Oftentimes these tests take place at 2 AM at the side of the road with traffic whizzing by. In addition, The Law Place has argued successfully over the years for individuals who may be overweight, who may have poor balance, or are older, that these exercises are not foolproof. There are often supplemental exercises such as the finger to nose or alphabet that should be offered in certain circumstances. As mentioned earlier, the officer will never tell you that you have a right to refuse field sobriety exercises. If you have been arrested in the State of Florida and you are seeking the experience of DUI lawyers who have handled thousands of cases, please contact The Law Place. We would be more than happy to discuss the particular facts of your case and possible legal defenses especially when it comes to field sobriety tests.
Florida Implied Consent
What is implied consent under Florida law?
When you are arrested by a law enforcement officer in the State of Florida on suspicion of driving under the influence, they will ask you to submit to a breath test. At the bottom of your driver’s license there is statement that reads “Operation of a motor vehicle constitutes consent to any sobriety test required by law.” What that means is that once an officer established probable cause to arrest you, the breath or blood test comes after the fact. The breath test either confirms or denies the officer’s suspicion that you are in fact under the influence of alcohol and or drugs. If you take a breath test under Florida law and blow over a .08 the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles will take action to suspend your driver’s license for a period of 6 months for a first offense DUI. If you are on the fence on whether or not to take a breath test, the officer will read you something called an implied consent warning. The purpose of that is to tell you that refusal to submit to a breath or blood test will result in an administrative suspension of your driver’s license for a period of 12 months. If you have a previous refusal to submit to a breath test, that could result in an 18-month suspension of your license as well as a new criminal charge. What the officer will often not tell you is that even if you refuse to submit to a breath test under Florida law on a first offense DUI, you can still obtain a hardship license almost immediately, assuming that you register for level 1 DUI school. The administrative penalty is 1 year for a refusal since the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles is taking action in suspending your driver’s license for a period of 1 year as opposed to 6 months if you would have taken the breath test. However, it might make it more difficult for the State Attorney to prove your guilt on the criminal case if you refuse to submit to a breath alcohol test, after being requested to do so by a law enforcement officer. Following arrest, assuming that your license was valid at the time of your arrest you have 10 days to drive on the citation that you received from the officer as if you had a full license. Within those 10 days, you must take action to protect your driving privileges either by requesting a formal review or by waiving your right to challenge your license suspension. This is all discussed on a separate page called Driving for 10 Days Following Your DUI Arrest.
Ignition Interlock Device
Ignition Interlock Device
The ignition interlock device is a device that is installed in your vehicle and the purpose of the device is to monitor the alcohol content on your breath to make sure that you’re driving with a level below the cutoff. Florida Statute 316.193 requires the ignition interlock device to be installed on a vehicle when you have been convicted of a DUI under certain circumstances. A first offense DUI with a BAC above a .15 would trigger a minimum mandatory ignition interlock device for a period of not less than 6 months. A first offense DUI that does not fit under that criteria can still be ordered by the court if the judge finds that there is a safety issue or for the court to supervise your sobriety. A DUI second offense, regardless of how far back the first offense is, will result in a minimum mandatory time for the ignition interlock device not less than 1 year. If a second offense DUI conviction resulted in a breath or blood alcohol level of .15 or having a minor in the vehicle, the mandatory term of the ignition interlock device will be 2 years. On a third offense DUI conviction, the department of highway safety and motor vehicles will order a minimum of 2 years with the ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device is based on fuel cell technology and it prevents the starting of a vehicle with any breath alcohol sample above .025. It’s also equipped with a rolling retest, meaning that as you’re driving down the road the device will trigger a random requirement of a breath sample. If that breath sample is above a .025 the vehicle will turn itself off after a reasonable amount of time, giving you time to pull over safely. Currently, there are four providers of the ignition interlock device in the state of Florida. Those providers include the Guardian Interlock, AlcoLock, Smart Start, and Intoxalock. Those vendors all have approved devices that can be installed in your vehicle in the event that you are required to get the ignition interlock device. The device once installed in your vehicle, will also trigger a restriction on your driver’s license that will remain on your license for the period of time that the device is installed in your vehicle. Driving a vehicle without the interlock device would result in a violation of a driver’s license restriction and you could be facing a new criminal penalty. In addition, you could potentially be violating your probation if you’re still on probation for the DUI charge.