If you have been arrested for DUI in Florida, you are not paranoid if you conclude that they really are “out to get you.”
Indeed you are right because Florida prosecutors are aggressive and highly competitive.
There are no two ways about it. If you have a DUI charge to deal with, you are going to need a Florida DUI defense lawyer.
DUI Penalties in Florida
Florida DUI penalties start off harsh, even for a first offense. And they only get worse from there:
- You will spend at least eight hours in jail on the day of the arrest;
- You can serve as much as six months in jail for a first offense;
- You will stay in jail for at least 10 days for a second offense within five years, even if the first offense was out of state;
- You must perform 50 hours or more of community service;
- You must pay at least several hundred dollars in fines and fees;
- Florida will impound your vehicle for at least 10 days;
- You must complete a two-hour Victim Awareness Program; and
- A fourth offense DUI is an automatic felony.
In addition to the foregoing temporary penalties, you will also be saddled with a permanent criminal record.
Refusal to Take a Breath, Blood, or Urine Test
Florida law requires every driver to consent to a breath, blood, or urine test to check for intoxication, as long as the police officer has probable cause to test you. If you refuse, Florida will suspend your driver’s license for one year.
A longer period of suspension, and even jail time, applies to subsequent offenses.
Remember when you make the decision whether to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test that (i) Florida can suspend your driver’s license even if it dismissed your DUI charge, and (ii) Florida might win a DUI conviction against you even without an intoxication test.
Florida can increase DUI penalties against you based on any of the following “aggravating factors”:
- Your BAC is .15 or over;
- You damage property or hurt someone;
- You cause serious bodily injury to another person;
- Someone dies in a DUI accident that you caused, including an unborn child;
- You have previous DUIs on your record;
- You were accompanied by a minor under 18 years old; or
- The police pulled you over in a school zone.
A single aggravating factor can turn a nuisance first DUI into a serious criminal charge.
Out-of-State Drivers (The “Tourist DUI”)
More tourists come to Florida for vacation than to just about any other state. If you were driving on a license issued by another state at the time of your arrest, your case could suffer from complications.
An out-of-state driver’s license, however, is not a “get out of jail free card.” If you post bail and remove your car from the impound lot, you can go back home. If you miss your Florida court date, however, Florida will issue a warrant for your arrest.
Any police officer who pulls you over again will discover the warrant and take you straight to jail for both DUI and failure to appear. Unfortunately, Florida can extradite you from another state.
Even if Florida convicts you of DUI, it cannot suspend your out-of-state driver’s license. Instead, it will suspend your right to drive in the State of Florida for a specified time.
Florida will then notify your home state of your DUI conviction, and your home state will apply its own rules respecting the length of the suspension of your driver’s license.
Hiring an experienced Florida DUI lawyer right away could save you a mountain of trouble later on.
Possible DUI Defense Strategies
Below are some examples of the myriad ways that an experienced DUI defense lawyer can challenge a Florida DUI. This list is far from exhaustive—in fact, it barely scratches the surface.
Ultimately, it is the facts of your case that determine which strategy you should use.
Lack of Probable Cause
An officer generally needs “probable cause” (a good enough reason) to pull you over. If you were driving safely at the time, you might try to prove that you were pulled over without probable cause.
If the officer pulled you over because of your race, for example, you can pursue a racial profiling defense.
The “Rising BAC” Defense
If you drank heavily immediately before being pulled over, your blood alcohol content may have been below the legal limit while you were driving.
The idea is that your BAC might have ascended above the legal limit only after you were pulled over.
Failure to Give Miranda Warnings
If an officer arrested you and failed to read you your rights, they cannot use your subsequent statements as evidence against you.
This evidence can be suppressed, and suppression might result in a dismissal if it leaves the prosecutor without enough evidence to win a conviction against you.
The Margin of Error Defense
Once the court takes into account the margin of error of the breathalyzer, your BAC results might be too low. Borderline breathalyzer test results are often dismissed.
Defective Roadside Sobriety Test
Under Florida law, roadside sobriety tests are voluntary. If an officer forced you (or intimidated you) into taking them, the evidence gathered can be thrown out. This can seriously damage the prosecution’s case against you.
Florida DUI Lawyer Jeffery Higgins Leaves No Stone Unturned
Any decent DUI defense lawyer can seize upon an obvious DUI defense strategy, such as challenging a surprise roadside checkpoint.
It takes an experienced lawyer with complete knowledge of Florida DUI law and practice to take a holistic look at the fact pattern of your case and devise a winning strategy.
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