Many Floridians drive every day, whether it’s commuting to work or going to a social event. Unfortunately, some people get pulled over for driving under the influence, even if they believed they were sober enough to drive. In these situations, an arrest may take place, and there will be a legal process that follows. Understanding the process and how to conduct yourself during it may prevent you from accidentally incriminating yourself.
When your vehicle is approached by a police officer, you should do your best to comply with their requests but be careful with what you say. Offer them your license, registration, and insurance. Remember that your right to an attorney begins at this point.
The officer may ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test or a field sobriety test. These tests do not always provide accurate results. It is important to know that you can refuse these tests. However, if you choose to do so, your license will be suspended. If you submit to the tests and the officer has reason to believe you have been driving while intoxicated, they will arrest you.
At the police station, there is a chance you will be subjected to further testing to determine whether you are intoxicated. This includes testing of the blood, breath, or urine.
The DUI Process
Once an arrest is made, you will be taken to jail and bail will be posted. If bail is posted, you will be able to leave jail while you wait for your first appearance. At this point, the DUI process goes as follows:
- First appearance: The first court appearance allows a judge to review the case and determine whether your arrest was warranted.
- Arraignment: An experienced lawyer will help you enter a not guilty plea. A pretrial conference will be set by the court. If you decide to enter a guilty plea, you will receive sentencing.
- Discovery and pretrial motions: Many pretrial motions will be put in place. One of them may be discovery, which an experienced DUI attorney can use to help build a defense. Evidence such as test results, witnesses, lab reports, and bodycam videos may be included in the discovery.
- The pretrial: Before a trial takes place, appropriate motions such as a motion to suppress or motion to compel will be filed by your attorney. This is the period in which someone accused of a DUI needs to decide whether they want to go to trial. They may decide to plea instead. If someone chooses to plea, their attorney will enter plea bargains.
- The trial: If someone chooses to enter trial rather than plea, a jury will be elected to decide whether you are guilty of the crime. If you are found guilty, you will receive a sentence.
- The sentence: A judge will decide what penalties you will receive based on the circumstances of your DUI. Anyone who does not believe they had a fair trial may choose to appeal the verdict.
There are many potential outcomes in a DUI case. The Hoffman Firm can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
DUI Penalties in Florida
The penalties for a DUI conviction in Florida can be severe. The penalties are worse for any convictions after the first one. A person convicted of a DUI in Florida may face the following:
- First offense: Someone being convicted of their first DUI may face up to 6 months in jail as well as a fine between $500 and $1,000. Their license will also be suspended for at least 180 days and up to 1 year. If their blood alcohol concentration was more than .15% at the time of arrest, they will need an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle for up to 6 months. They will be required to submit to a year of probation and 50 hours of community service as well.
- Second offense: A second DUI conviction could result in a jail sentence up to 9 months long as well as fines between $1,000 and $2,000. The driver will also see their license suspended for at least 180 days and up to a full year. Their car will need to be outfitted with an ignition interlock device for 2 years. A minimum of 10 days in jail, a license suspension of 5 years, and a vehicle impoundment of 30 days will be imposed if the second conviction comes within 5 years of the first. If a minor was in the vehicle or the blood alcohol concentration was over .15%, the potential jail sentence increases to 12 months and the fine to a maximum of $4,000.
- Third offense: Anyone convicted of a third DUI within 10 years of another will be charged with a felony. They could face up to 5 years in jail and fines between $2,000 and $5,000. Their license may be revoked for up to 10 years. Drivers must also enroll in probation and a rehabilitation course. They may be ordered to submit to alcohol and drug testing.
Social Consequences of a DUI
A DUI conviction will lead to more consequences than the ones imposed by the court. The social consequences of a DUI can change the daily life of anyone convicted. They may prevent them from engaging in certain activities and seeking financial aid from some entities. Examples of how a DUI impacts someone socially are:
- Lost driving privileges: Anyone convicted of a DUI will lose their ability to drive for a period of time. This may have a serious impact on their social life and prevent them from going to school or work. It can complicate running simple errands.
- Background checks: Employers have the right to ask potential employees to submit to background checks during the hiring process. They may decide not to hire someone with a DUI on their record. Background checks are often required to apply for financial aid, college, and housing. The chances of being denied increase significantly with a DUI conviction.
- Car insurance: Someone with a DUI conviction may find it more difficult to become insured when they are allowed to drive again. Their car insurance rates will increase, and insurance companies will consider them high-risk.
- Interpersonal relationships: Unfortunately, there is a social stigma that comes with a DUI conviction. Coworkers and family may perceive you differently than they did before they learned about your DUI.
- Restricted travel: Some countries will not accept visitors who have DUI convictions. For example, Mexico will not allow anyone with a felony-level DUI to enter the country.
Defenses Against DUI Charges
There are many variables associated with a DUI arrest. In some cases, an officer may arrest someone mistakenly, or the breathalyzer test may be administered wrong. These are the types of details an experienced DUI attorney can turn into a strong defense for a client. Some examples of commonly used defenses in DUI cases include:
- Challenging test results: A lawyer can help determine whether there were flaws in the way a chemical or breath test was administered. It can also be argued that someone’s test results do not provide an accurate picture of their blood alcohol levels at the time they were driving.
- Strong witnesses: A strong witness can help challenge the observations of the arresting officer in a DUI case. For example, an officer may state that there was a strong smell of alcohol or that the defendant was slurring their speech. A credible witness could testify against such claims.
- Lack of probable cause: It can be argued that the police officer did not have probable cause to pull the vehicle over or to make an arrest. Someone pulled over for no reason may see their evidence dismissed by a judge in court.
Our Attorney Can Help
With over 20 years of experience working complex criminal cases, Attorney Hoffman of The Hoffman Firm can help you with your DUI charge. The quality legal services provided by our firm can help you fight for the best possible outcome, such as having your charges reduced or dropped entirely. Contact us today at (305) 928-1669 or online for a free consultation.