Every year, Florida law enforcement makes more than 30,000 arrests of people driving under the influence (DUI). If you are one of them, you are not alone.
Just because most DUI charges in Florida are misdemeanors, it is ill-advised for you to simply enter a guilty plea and accept the punishment. Even a misdemeanor DUI conviction can negatively affect your job and personal relationships, lead to the loss of professional certifications and licensure, and even increase what you pay for auto insurance. Hiring a DUI defense attorney who has represented numerous clients against these charges is a smart choice.
At The Law Offices of Hoskins and Penton, P.A., we have represented hundreds of clients charged with DUI in Clearwater, New Port Richey, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and the rest of Florida. As criminal defense attorneys, we offer compassion to our clients while aggressively defending them in and out of the courtroom.
Drunk driving in Florida involves a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more, or .02% or more if you are under age of 21. You can also be charged if you merely appear to be under the influence of alcohol, as well as controlled or chemical substances.
If you were not driving the vehicle when you were arrested, you could still receive a Florida DUI— for example, if the car was motionless but the engine was running. Where you are positioned in the vehicle, its location, where the keys are, whether the engine was running, and whether you were awake or asleep: these are all considerations for the prosecution, judge, and jury.
Driving in Florida means you have provided implied consent to have your breath, blood, or urine tested for alcohol and drugs. You are therefore required by law to comply with a law enforcement request for chemical testing. If you refuse, you will immediately lose your license for one year. A subsequent refusal can result in an 18-month license revocation, a $1,000 fine, and up to a year in jail.
A law enforcement officer will usually ask a few questions, such as what you have been doing and if you have been drinking or taking any drugs. Of course, you should treat the officer with respect; however, you are only required to give them your name, license, and registration. Instead of answering the other questions, which could be problematic later, respectfully advise the officer that you would like to talk to your attorney before answering any other questions.
The officer may also ask you to do a field sobriety test, like focusing your eyes on their moving fingers, walking a line heel-to-toe, or even repeating the alphabet backwards. These tests are not scientific which makes them unreliable. If you comply with a request to do them, your performance will become part of the report which could hurt you later. You can respectfully refuse the field sobriety test.
Punishment for a first DUI conviction may include:
Spending up to six months in jail
Fines between $500 and $1,000
License revocation of 180 days to one year
Potential for ignition interlock device (IID) requirement for up to six months
Probation for one year
Community service for 50 hours
Impoundment of your vehicle for 10 days
If there is a minor in the vehicle or your BAC was .15% or higher, you may spend up to nine months in jail and be ordered to pay a fine of up to $2,000.
For subsequent DUI convictions, the penalties increase. You can be punished for a third conviction in Florida up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, and an IID requirement for two years. Up to five years in jail, 90-day vehicle impoundment, and losing your license for 10 years are punishments for three DUIs in 10 years. Any fourth DUI is a felony as are DUIs resulting in serious injury or death to another person.
As you can tell, much is at stake with a DUI arrest, especially for those in certain professions. Those with a commercial driver’s license will have it revoked. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, and others with professional licensure may be sanctioned or lose their licensure altogether. Applicants for certain jobs in law enforcement, education, government, and other areas may be barred.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can raise challenges to test methods and results, the prosecution’s assertions that you were driving the vehicle, and even the legality of the stop. Unlike in many other states, Florida law permits the opportunity for a first DUI offense to be plead down to a “wet reckless” charge or dismissal of charges following completion of certain programs and requirements. If your DUI attorney can do either, you avoid suffering the long-term effects of having a conviction on your record.
At The Law Offices of Hoskins and Penton, P.A., we fight for clients like you from Clearwater, New Port Richey, Tampa, and St. Petersburg. We understand that everyone makes mistakes, and we work diligently to help you achieve the best outcome possible in your case. Don’t represent yourself if you have been charged with DUI. Schedule a consultation with us today so we can advocate for you.