Everyday numerous drivers are arrested and charged with DUI, many of which are good, upstanding citizens. Even the most law-abiding citizens make mistakes and act on poor judgment. A DUI arrest can fill a person with extreme stress and anxiety and can negatively affect your freedom, reputation and livelihood for years. Driving under the influence can put you and others on the road at risk of serious injury or even death. Law enforcement officers vigilantly seek unsafe drivers and must have reasonable suspicion to pull over any driver they suspect of DUI, including those that may be driving drunk or under the influence of alcohol, illegal or controlled substances. Prescription drugs can lead to a DUI arrest even though they were legally prescribed by a doctor. The police have specially trained officers called Drug Recognition Experts commonly referred to as DRE officers who may be involved in the arrest.
Once charged, you have only 10 days in which to request a formal Administrative DMV Hearing related to the suspension of your drivers' license. If you do not act, you will be restricted from driving, in many cases for at least 6 months. An attorney is crucial at this juncture because it is the driver's only chance to get his or her driving privileges reinstated with a "Business Purpose" or "Hardship License" before a trial. The failure to schedule this hearing will result in the automatic suspension of the individual's driver's license, regardless of the outcome of the criminal case.
When stopped and suspected of DUI, law enforcement may ask a person to perform one or more field sobriety tests, a breathalyzer test, blood test and/or urine test. The legal limit in Florida is a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08%. However, if the person is under 21 or a commercial vehicle driver, a lower a blood alcohol level is sufficient. Also, if a BAC is well beyond the legal limit or an accident/property damage occurred, a driver can face enhanced penalties. Possible DUI penalties include:
- Up to 1 Year in Jail or Prison Sentence
- Community Supervision (Probation or Community Control)
- DUI School
- DMV School
- Drivers License Suspension or Revocation
- Vehicle Impoundment
- Installation of Interlock Device on Motor Vehicle
- Heavy Monetary Fines
- Community Service
- Increased Insurance Rates
The first step during an initial police investigation for DUI is a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are conducted on the side of the road and challenge the driver's physical coordination, alertness, and ability to follow instructions. These tests are not only voluntary, they are highly subjective and incredibly prone to inaccuracies. There are many reasons why a driver may perform poorly on these tests, none of which have anything to do with being intoxicated. A presumably failed test of this nature can be aggressively disputed with a skilled criminal attorney on your side protecting your rights.
When an individual earns the privilege of a driver's license they have agreed to the "implied consent" language included on the license. If the police officer believes that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the driver will be asked to submit to Breathalyzer testing to assist with that determination. Refusal to submit to this test when asked will result in the loss your license for a period of time regardless of whether or not you are ultimately found to be driving under the influence. In light of implied consent law, the decision to refuse to "blow" is a personal choice. However, in cases of heavy intoxication this evidence can be problematic and be used to further incriminate the Defendant. In certain cases, even if you "blow" an alcoholic content at or above the .08% legal limit, it does not mean that you are automatically guilty and an alcohol reading at or below .07% does not mean you can avoid an arrest or charges brought against you.
In certain situations, it is still possible to successfully be charged with a DUI even if you were sitting in your car and not driving. You should discuss with your attorney the specifics of your case regarding exactly where you were and what you were doing at the time you were charged and arrested.
Here are a few of the critical issues that need to be considered when weighing the strength of your case and recognizing the weakness of the prosecution's evidence. Our office is experienced and knowledgable about the highly technical and complex nature of DUI and will carefully analyze how to best to resolve the criminal charges against you.
- Miranda Warnings
- Roadside Test Performance
- Qualifications/Training of the Breathalyzer operator
- Challenges to the Breathalyzer machine and results for accuracy, calibrations, malfunction or defectiveness
- Fatigue, pre-exisiting medical conditions, breath and mouth alcohol contamination
"Back on Track" Pre-Trial Diversion Program for First Time Offenders
The State Attorney's Office may deem some individuals eligible to participate in a diversion program for reduced charges. The driver must not:
- Have more than two prior misdemeanor convictions or one non-violent felony conviction
- Have completed more than one misdemeanor or felony diversion programs
- Have a suspended driver's license at the time of the arrest unless the suspension had expired
- Have any prior alcohol related driving history
- Be at fault for a resulting accident
- Have any minor children in the vehicle at the time of the DUI arrest
Administrative driver's license suspensions are still applicable in spite of the program option and requisite appeals to be promptly filed within 10 days of the DUI arrest.
The driver will also be required to sign a "Statement of Personal Responsibility" to be admitted into the program. It is important to note this statement could be used against the driver if the program is unsuccessfully completed.
Upon successful completion of the program, the State Attorney's Office will amend the DUI charge to a reckless driving. A withholding of adjudication of this charge ultimately allows the driver to avoid a conviction and therefore qualified to have their criminal record sealed.
Please contact an experienced Miami DUI attorney regarding the specifics of your factual and legal situation to determine eligibility, tiers and costs associated with this program.