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FLORIDA DUI LAWS EXPLAINED BY TOP SARASOTA DUI ATTORNEYS

Florida Drunk Driving Laws

If you are convicted for driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida, the penalties can be severe and expensive. Under Florida law, a DUI offense occurs when a driver operates or is found in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that his or her normal faculties are impaired or with a breath/ blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher. The sooner you contact the experienced Sarasota DUI attorneys at the Fowler Law Group, the sooner you can begin preparing a top legal defense.

Administrative Driver’s License Suspension

When you are arrested for driving under the influence in Florida, your driver’s license may be suspended. If this is your first DUI offense and your blood alcohol level was measured at .08 percent or higher, your license will be suspended for six months. In the event that you refused to submit to a breathalyzer test, your license will be suspended for one year.

If this is not your first refusal of a lawful blood, breath or urine test, the penalties will be more severe. For those who refused a prior lawful breath, blood or urine test, your license will be suspended for 18 months, and an additional misdemeanor charge of “refusal” will be brought against you.

Florida 10 Day Rule

It is possible to preserve your driver’s license but you must act quickly! Under Florida law, you have the option to challenge your license suspension by requesting an administrative review hearing. Alternatively, if you have not been previously convicted of a DUI, you have the option to waive your right to the review hearing and request the immediate issuance of a Business Purpose Only (BPO) license. If you are issued a BPO license you will only be permitted to drive in order to maintain your livelihood (this would include driving for work, educational, church or medical reasons).

Regardless of which option you choose, you only have 10 days from the date of your arrest to take action. There are certain procedures that must be followed no matter which option you decide is best for you.

The legal team at Fowler Law Group has the experience to guide you through this process. Our experienced Sarasota DUI attorneys will carefully review your situation and advise you on all options that may be available to you.

Underage Drinking

Florida takes underage drunk driving extremely seriously, as — if left unchecked — it can expose the public to a substantial risk of harm. Though it is illegal for persons under the age of 21 to consume any amount of alcohol in Florida, prosecutors must still be able to prove that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the accident.

In order to make it easier for prosecutors to do so, the state has established a blood alcohol limit of just 0.02 or higher. As such, if you are under the age of 21 and have only consumed a single drink, it’s very likely that you will test as “intoxicated,” leading to significant penalties that include a minimum six-month license suspension (for first-time offenders) and possible vehicle impoundment, community service, fines, and even a stint in jail.

Our Sarasota DUI Attorneys Explain the Penalties of an Out-of-State Conviction

If you are convicted of a DUI out-of-state, then the penalties imposed by the out-of-state court will follow you back home to Florida. State transport authorities share information relating to traffic violations, including DUI violations.

For example, if you have been convicted of drinking and driving in Georgia and have had your license suspended for a year as a result, then you cannot move back to Florida and operate your vehicle — the suspension will apply in Florida, too.

Further, any DUI violations in another state will count towards your “repeat offense” total in Florida.

Penalties for Repeat DUI Offenses in Florida

As our Sarasota DUI attorneys warn our clients, penalties for a drunk driving conviction in Florida become increasingly severe with each conviction. Even if this is your first arrest for drunk driving, it is still important to fight your charges as best you can.

First Conviction

Fines between $500 and $2,000 (depending on blood alcohol content level). Mandatory 50 hours of community service (though this may be bought out to avoid), 10 days jail time, and vehicle impoundment.

Second Conviction

Fines between $2,000 and $4,000 (depending on blood alcohol content level), minimum jail sentence of 10 days (maximum of nine months), potential five year license suspension, mandatory yearlong ignition interlock device, vehicle impoundment for at least a month.

Third Conviction

Fines between $2,000 and $5,000 (depending on blood alcohol content level), tried as a felony, mandatory minimum of a month in jail, 10 year license revocation, community service, mandatory two-year ignition interlock device usage, vehicle impoundment for at least three months.

Fourth and Subsequent Convictions

Fines between $2,000 and $5,000, up to five years imprisonment, up to five years of probation, between 10 years and permanent revocation of one’s license, mandatory two-year ignition interlock device usage, mandatory substance abuse course, mandatory substance abuse treatment, vehicle impoundment for at least three months.

If you do have your license revoked or suspended, it’s worth noting that restricted, hardship licenses may be available under certain circumstances.

EXPERIENCED SARASOTA DUI ATTORNEYS CAN DEFEND YOU AGAINST THE QUESTIONABLE RESULTS FROM A FIELD SOBRIETY TEST

In Florida, and elsewhere, field sobriety tests (i.e., touching your nose and balancing on one leg, walking in a straight line, etc.) are quite regularly administered by law enforcement officers when attempting to test for driver intoxication.  Field sobriety test results are not always accurate, however, and may be interpreted wrongly in many cases.  It is also common for law enforcement officers to incorrectly administer the test, leading to botched results.

For example, suppose that you are stopped at a police checkpoint on the way back from a restaurant outing with friends.  One of the police officers suspects that you are intoxicated and asks you to get out of your vehicle and walk in a straight line.  You are unable to do so, and the officer arrests you for a DUI violation.  Later on, if you are charged with a DUI, you could argue that the test results were inaccurate due to the fact that you suffer from a spinal condition that affects your balance, thus making a mess of the test results.

Drug-Related DUIs

In Florida, driving under the influence is a criminal offense that is not limited to alcohol-related intoxication.  The fact that the law creates an easy-to-understand, objective standard for determining alcohol-related intoxication (at a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 or higher) often gives people the impression that the imposition of criminal liability in a DUI case is limited to alcohol-related intoxication — in truth, however, a defendant may be convicted of driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol.  The penalties are the same in either scenario.

It’s worth noting that you can be held liable for driving under the influence of drugs even if you are not using prohibited illicit substances, such as marijuana or cocaine.  In Florida, if your normal faculties are impaired due to having taken a controlled substance (or certain harmful chemicals, such as nitrous oxide), then you may be convicted of a drug DUI.  Controlled substances includes prescription medication and other legal drugs. Impairment can also be connected to OTC medication use.

Prosecutors cannot hold you liable if you were not “impaired.”  Whether you were impaired will depend on test results and other evidence that demonstrates that your ability to safely operate the vehicle at-issue was diminished in some material aspect.

Impairment must be sufficiently significant as to raise concerns about safe operation.  For example, taking allergy medication may have a slight impact on your ability to react quickly to stimuli in the environment, but is unlikely to be considered significant enough to qualify for a drug DUI. Our Sarasota DUI attorneys will do all we can to present your strongest defense.

DUI FINES AND IMPRISONMENT

If you are convicted of a DUI in Florida, the penalties and fines can be harsh. If this is your first conviction the fine will generally range from $500 to $1,000. In the event that your blood alcohol level is measured at .15% or higher, or a minor was in your vehicle, the fine will increase to $1,000-$2,000. The fine ranges for repeat offenders are higher and depend upon the number of earlier DUI convictions. Additionally, DUI fines and other penalties may be increased substantially if you are in an accident involving property damage, injury or death of another person while you are driving under the influence.

In addition to fines, if you are convicted of a DUI you may be subject to other penalties, including imprisonment. First time offenders can be sentenced to jail for a period of six to nine months depending upon their blood alcohol levels. Incarceration periods increase for repeat offenders and if the DUI driver is involved in an accident that causes property damage or injuries to another person.

6 WAYS OUR SARASOTA DUI ATTORNEYS CAN DEFEND AGAINST YOUR DRUNK DRIVING OR DRUGGED DRIVING CHARGE

If you have been charged with driving under the influence, you need to fight your charge by all means available. The good news is that there are several potential defenses to DUI charges under Florida law. When you choose Fowler Law Group, our Sarasota DUI attorneys will review your case in detail in order to determine which of these defenses we can assert on your behalf.

Some examples of potential defenses to DUI charges in Sarasota include:

1. UNLAWFUL TRAFFIC STOP OR ARREST

All traffic stops in Florida require “reasonable suspicion,” and all DUI arrests require “probable cause.” If you were racially profiled, if the police pulled you over based on an anonymous tip alone, or if you were otherwise stopped or arrested illegally, then all of the government’s evidence may be inadmissible in court.

2. FAULTY BREATHALYZER TEST RESULTS

There are also numerous issues that can lead to faulty breathalyzer test results. Improper calibration of the breathalyzer device, improper administration of the breath test and failure to explain the proper breathing method are just a few common examples. Medical conditions, certain medications and certain foods can also produce elevated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) readings.

3. FAILURE TO READ YOUR RIGHTS

When you get arrested for a crime in Florida, the police are required to read your rights prior to interrogating you in custody. If the police failed to timely read the Miranda warning (or if they failed to read the Miranda warning at all), then any statements you made may be legally inadmissible. If your own statements are the prosecution’s primary evidence against you, then having your statements suppressed could be enough to prevent a DUI conviction.

4. VIOLATION OF YOUR RIGHT TO A SPEEDY TRIAL

Under Florida law, trials for misdemeanor DUI offenses must be scheduled within 90 days of the date of arrest. Trials for felony offenses must be scheduled within 175 days. If your trial does not take place within the relevant timeframe, then you may be entitled to a dismissal based on the violation of your right to a speedy trial.

5. INVOLUNTARY INTOXICATION AND OTHER INTENT-BASED DEFENSES

Involuntary intoxication is a defense to DUI in Florida. If you were drugged without your knowledge and then got behind the wheel not knowing that you were impaired, you may have an involuntary intoxication defense. Under varying circumstances, duress, necessity and other similar types of defenses can also be used to fight DUI charges in Sarasota.

6. INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE OF GUILT

Regardless of whether you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if the prosecution cannot meet its burden of proof, then you are entitled to a dismissal or acquittal. Our Sarasota DUI attorneys have successfully defended many clients by demonstrating that the prosecution was unable to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

AVOIDING A CONVICTION VS. REDUCING SENTENCE FOR YOUR DUI

In some cases, it will be possible to avoid a DUI conviction by asserting an effective defense. In others, however, it will be necessary to focus on mitigating the consequences of a conviction.

When you choose our firm to represent you, our Sarasota DUI law firm will thoroughly assess your case and determine what defenses you have available. If the circumstances permit, we will fight to secure a pre-trial dismissal or win a “not guilty” verdict in court. However, even if the prosecution has a strong case, then it may make more sense for us to focus on mitigating your sentence. In either case, it is still strongly in your best interests to hire an attorney, as the risks of facing a “guilty” verdict in court can be substantial.

In some cases, it will also be possible to avoid a conviction through the process known as “pretrial diversion.” If you are eligible for pretrial diversion – and if entering into Florida’s pretrial diversion program appears to be in your best interests – our Sarasota DUI attorneys can guide you through this process. We will explain everything you need to know, and we will ensure that you have a clear understanding of the steps you need to take in order to keep a clean criminal record.

HAVE QUESTIONS? OUR SARASOTA DUI ATTORNEYS HAVE ANSWERS

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR PRETRIAL DIVERSION IN A FLORIDA DUI CASE?

Florida’s pretrial diversion program is available to first-time DUI offenders. While you cannot have any prior DUIs on your record, you can have up to two prior misdemeanor convictions for unrelated offenses. You are also ineligible if you have participated in a DUI pretrial diversion program in the past.

WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF PRETRIAL DIVERSION IN FLORIDA DUI CASES?

The benefit of entering into a pretrial diversion program is that it saves you from having a DUI conviction on your criminal record. Although you must meet various requirements under the program, putting in the time and effort to meet these requirements is well worth it. A DUI conviction can impact your life for years to come, and the financial costs alone are more than many people can afford.

CAN YOUR SARASOTA DUI ATTORNEYS HELP ME IF I WAS DRIVING DRUNK IN FLORIDA?

Yes, even if you were driving drunk, there are still many ways an attorney can help you. Many of the defenses listed above have nothing to do with whether you were actually drunk behind the wheel. Your Sarasota DUI attorney will also be able to help you with seeking pretrial diversion (if this option is available to you); and, even if you cannot avoid a conviction, your attorney can still work to minimize the short-term and long-term consequences of your DUI arrest.

SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION WITH OUR SARASOTA DUI ATTORNEYS TODAY

If you were charged with a DUI in Florida, you may be feeling overwhelmed and fearful of the future. Our Sarasota defense law firm promises to provide you with honest and detailed feedback regarding your case. Call our Sarasota office now at 941-404-8908 to schedule your meeting with one of our top Sarasota DUI attorneys. We serve clients throughout Florida.

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