Drunk Driving Charges in Florida
We understand that a DUI arrest is a frightening experience that can significantly impact your life. A DUI arrest usually occurs when a person least expects it and is unsure of how to deal with it. Fortunately, our attorneys have extensive experience helping those arrested for DUI get through this extremely difficult time.
If you have recently been charged with DUI in Miami or a surrounding area in Miami-Dade County, you will need to immediately take advantage of the skills and resources of an experienced Miami DUI defense attorney. When working with a lawyer at our firm, you can be informed on your rights, the Florida DUI statutes regarding the offense and the penalties of a drunk driving charge.
At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., our Miami DUI lawyers will meticulously investigate your case and consider all possible defenses and arguments that can be made to effectively defend you at this difficult time. However, you must act fast because unless we file an objection with the Department of Motor Vehicles on your behalf within 10 days of your arrest, your driver’s license can be suspended for a period of 6 months to one (1) year for a first offense.
What’s Florida’s DUI Law?
The state’s DUI law can be found in Florida Statute 316.193.
It provides that a person commits the offense under the following circumstances:
- They were under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance and their ability to see, hear, judge distance, or other faculties were impaired;
- They had a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 or higher; or
- They had a breath-alcohol concentration of .08 or higher
Additionally, to be charged with the offense, the person must have been operating the vehicle on a public road. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they were driving their car. Even simply being near it and having the ability to touch any of the controls that propel it is sufficient to be considered unlawful behavior.
Cases Relating to DUI We Handle
- BUI Defense
- Breath Test Refusal
- DHSMV Hearings
- Drugged Driving
- DUI Accidents
- DUI Penalties & Suspensions
- Blood Alcohol & Field Sobriety Exercises
- Multiple DUI Defense
- Out of State DUI
- Proving DUI
- Vehicular Manslaughter
What’s the Criminal Court Process for a DUI?
The Florida DUI process involves several steps.
Although the procedure may differ for each situation, a case generally moves forward as follows:
- Stop: Typically, a DUI case begins with a police stop. If an officer observes a driver committing a traffic violation, they have probable cause to pull the person over.
- Arrest: If the officer has reason to believe that the driver is under the influence (usually determined by the driver’s behavior during the stop or through their performance on field sobriety tests), they’ll arrest the individual. At the police station, the driver will be booked and may be subject to a chemical test to determine their alcohol level.
- First appearance: The defendant will then be scheduled for their first appearance, where a judge will determine if there were cause for the arrest. They may also set bail.
- Arraignment: After the first appearance is the arraignment. During this proceeding, the judge will notify the individual of the official charges against them. They will also ask the person to enter a plea.
- Pretrial conference: During this phase, the judge will be updated on the case, and the attorneys may file motions concerning the case.
- Plea bargain: At this point, the defense and prosecution may enter into negotiations outside of court. If they can agree on a resolution that seems favorable to both sides, the case may not need to go to trial.
- Trial: If negotiations are unsuccessful, the criminal trial will proceed. This step is where the prosecutor presents evidence to attempt to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. The defense will present their own evidence to challenge the accusations. The judge or jury will weigh the evidence to determine whether the defendant is guilty or innocent.
- Sentencing: If the defendant is found guilty, they will be sentenced. Florida’s DUI Law enumerates several penalties the court may impose.
Potential Conviction Penalties for a Florida DUI
The punishments imposed for a DUI depend on the number of previous convictions the defendant has.
Examples of potential DUI penalties include the following:
First DUI offense:
- Between $500 and $1,000 in fines and
- Up to 6 months in jail
Second DUI offense:
- Between $1,000 and $2,000 in fines and
- Up to 9 months in jail
Third DUI offense (within 10 years of the previous):
- Up to 5 years in prison and/or
- Up to $5,000 in fines
Additionally, regardless of whether this is the defendant’s first or subsequent conviction, the penalties they face can increase if any aggravating factors were present at the time of the offense.
Aggravating factors in a DUI matter include, but are not limited to:
- Damaging property
- Injuring another person
- Causing another’s death
- Having a blood- or breath- alcohol level of .15 or more
- Having a child under 18 years of age in the vehicle
What’s Implied Consent?
During a DUI arrest, a driver might be subject to a blood, breath, or urine test to determine the level of alcohol and/or drugs in their system. Implied consent means that the driver has agreed to take part in these assessments, even though they didn’t explicitly say so.
Under Florida Statute 316.1932, if a person has been lawfully arrested and refuses to provide a blood, breath, or urine sample, they could be penalized with a driver’s license suspension.
The length of time they will lose their driving privileges depends on their situation:
- First refusal: Up to 1 year
- Second or subsequent refusal: Up to 18 months
Common Defenses for DUI in FL
- No Probable Cause: A police officer must adhere to laws concerning probable cause, also known as having a clear and lawful reason to pull over a driver. Therefore, an officer cannot pull over a driver without reason to do so. If an officer made a lawful arrest but didn’t have probable cause leading to the arrest, the case can be thrown out.
- Improper Test Procedures: Cops conduct tests to gather evidence of a person’s level of intoxication, however, how an officer conducts these tests is extremely important. All field sobriety tests are highly subjective, and cops must adhere to many standards when using these tests. Therefore, if a cop improperly conducts these tests, it seriously calls into question the validity of the case.
- Chain of Custody: All police evidence is handled by multiple officers, and there are strict protocols for how this evidence is supposed to be collected, tested, and transferred: these protocols are summarized as the chain of custody. If police break chain of custody at any point in the case, then prosecutors may have to throw out the evidence.
Getting Your Florida DUI Charges Reduced or Dropped
It is important to understand that when a DUI arrest occurs, two separate legal proceedings take place. First is the criminal case that is prosecuted by the State Attorneys Office. The second legal proceeding is the "Administrative Review Hearing," where the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles attempt to administratively suspend your license while the case is pending.
Under Florida law, DUI can be proven in one of two ways:
- Proof that an individual's normal faculties are impaired; and/or
- proof that an individual's blood alcohol or breath alcohol level was .08 or above. The penalties upon conviction are the same, regardless of the manner in which the offense is proven.
If you plead guilty or no contest to your first DUI charge, the minimum penalties can include an additional 6-month driver's license suspension, a DUI criminal conviction and various court costs and fines. We have listed some of the possible criminal and administrative penalties and suspensions that you may be subject to should you be arrested for DUI.
Speak With a Proven Miami DUI Lawyer
Florida's DUI / Drunk Driving Laws are complex, and it is important to retain competent, knowledgeable and aggressive attorney to represent you throughout the criminal and administrative process. The Miami DUI lawyers of Hager & Schwartz, P.A. understand the process and the impact it can have on your life. Contact us now! We also represent DUI cases in Fort Lauderdale from our Broward County office.
Aggravated Battery Case Dismissed
Aggravated Battery Case Dismissed
Aggravated Battery and Armed Burglary with Battery Case Dropped
Aggravated Battery and Domestic Violence Injunction Case and Injunction Dismissed
Aggravated Stalking No Jail/Prison Time
Armed Robbery with Firearm Case Dismissed
Battery Law on Enforcement Officer, Resisting an Officer without Violence, and Disorderly Intoxication Case Dismissed
Cocaine Trafficking Minimum Mandatory Sentences Waived
Controlled Substance Case Dropped
Criminal Mischief and Disorderly Intoxication Case Dismissed
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