Former State Prosecutor
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A momentary lack of judgment or a miscalculation in a situation can land even the most careful people in Florida into criminal troubles. Driving under the influence in Florida is a complex matter that goes well beyond your day in court. You could face harsh penalties, including jail time and fines, along with a lifetime of consequences.
After a DUI arrest, your driver’s license is at risk and it can be taken from you in a matter completely separate from your trial. Being without a driver’s license is more than an inconvenience, and a lack of identification can cause severe problems in your personal and professional life. Your future and your way of life is in the balance, and you cannot afford to be misrepresented.
If you have been arrested for a DUI, contact a St. Petersburg driving under the influence defense lawyer at Morris Law Firm, P.A.. Our knowledgeable legal team can help you fight to pursue favorable options, including case dismissal, not guilty verdicts, reduced charges and other positive outcomes.
Melinda Morris, attorney and managing partner at Morris Law Firm, P.A., served on the DUI Manslaughter / Vehicular Homicide squad as a state attorney where she was responsible for prosecuting serious cases from investigation through trial. She also received special training on prosecuting DUI cases. This inside knowledge is critical and can benefit the defense of your case.
Morris Law Firm, P.A. represents clients throughout Pinellas County, including Clearwater, Dunedin, Pinellas Park, Palm Harbor, Gulf City and other nearby areas. Call (727) 388-4736 to schedule a free case evaluation. With your upcoming court date, every minute without an experienced attorney is a wasted one.
According to Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.193, drivers can be considered under the influence when they are driving or are in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the point where your normal faculties are impaired. Normal faculties include the ability to perform mental and physical acts of daily life, such as seeing, hearing, balancing or talking.
Drivers in Florida can be arrested for a DUI if he or she fails a sobriety test. These tests come in two methods: physical, such as field sobriety tests, and chemical, such as a breath or blood analysis. They are used to determine if a person is impaired by drugs or alcohol.
A physical field sobriety test measures a person’s ability to control his or her bodily actions. This includes balance, agility, and reaction time. These results of the field sobriety tests are subjective and are determined by the arresting officer.
Under Florida law, if a person’s blood alcohol level is registered to be .08 on a breath test or in a blood test, he or she would be considered legally intoxicated. Certain factors can alter both the blood test results and the breathalyzer results. For example, if a person has medical reasons for this level, an attorney can use that as a strong defense.
Juveniles also can be charged with zero tolerance DUI charges. Drivers younger than 21 cannot blow more than 0.02 BAC. The penalties could include a six-month driver's license suspension for the first offense.
Actual physical control is one of the most complex aspects of DUI cases. Actual physical control means a person was physically in or on the vehicle and had the capability to operate the vehicle. This could apply regardless of whether he or she is actually operating the vehicle at the time or if the vehicle even was turned on.
A person can be arrested for a DUI if he or she is intoxicated and is sitting in the driver's seat with the keys in his or her clothing pocket. This could be considered being in actual physical control of the vehicle, even though the vehicle was not running.
When a person gets behind the wheel in Florida, a resident or a visitor, he or she is deemed to have given his or her consent to submit to a chemical test during a DUI stop. This is considered an implied consent law under Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.1932.
Drivers have the right to refuse the chemical testing, including blood, breath and urine tests, but it could carry harsh penalties. Penalties could include an automatic license suspension for up to one year if it is the first refusal. A second refusal could mean having a license suspended for up to 18 months.
After your initial arrest, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will process an order to suspend your driver’s license, according to Florida Statute Section 322.2615. This means even though you still have your day in court upcoming, you will not be able to legally drive a vehicle.
Drivers have 10 days after an arrest to request an informal or a formal review hearing. In a formal review, the driver can present evidence and witnesses. In an informal review hearing, the hearing officer will examine the materials submitted by the driver and the officer. The outcome of the hearing determines if a person can have his or her driving privileges reinstated.
Our attorneys can work to provide a way for Florida residents to keep their license after a drunk driving or drugged driving arrest. Drivers potentially can be issued a 42-day driving permit that will allow you to drive while your case is being tried. We can make sure you receive your due-diligence.
The penalties for DUI charges vary based on several different factors, including the driver's previous criminal history. For instance, a first DUI offense would be a second-degree misdemeanor. A second DUI offense would be a first-degree misdemeanor.
If a person is charged with a third DUI offense within 10 years of the last conviction, it would be considered a third-degree felony. However, if a prior DUI conviction occurred more than 10 years before the most recent arrest, the offense can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor.
If a person is arrested for a fourth DUI or subsequent DUI, the offense will be otherwise known as a felony DUI, no matter how many prior convictions or the time that has elapsed. This could mean enhanced penalties.
Potential DUI penalties could include:
The penalties for DUI offenses can severely increase in some situation. For example, drivers who receive a commercial DUI could face losing his or her CDL license. If a person causes damage to a car, building or other property, he or she could face DUI with property damage charges. If a drunk or impaired driver seriously injures another person, it could be considered DUI with serious bodily injury.
All DUI charges are unique to that driver's situation. However, the potential defenses in drunk driving cases are limitless. Deciding on a DUI lawyer with exclusive facts of these possible defenses is critical. You can discuss your circumstances with a St. Petersburg DUI defense lawyer and determine a strong defense for your case.
Some possible DUI defenses include:
Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association - The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, or FADAA, is an organization which embodies more than 100 community-based substance abuse treatment and prevention agencies and more than 1,000 individual members throughout Florida.
Florida DUI Laws - Visit the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to get more information on Florida DUI and Administrative Suspension Laws.
Florida Licensed DUI Programs - The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides resources for Florida's Licensed DUI Programs.
Pinellas County - Suncoast Safety Council, Inc.
1145 Court Street
Clearwater, FL 33756
Fax: (727) 447-1677
MADD Florida - The Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, is an organization that stands for activism, victims services and education. Visit the MADD website for content on preventing driving under the influence.
Pinellas County - MADD
2857 Executive Dr. 1st Floor
Clearwater, FL 33762
Phone: (727) 556-0633
Whether it is your freedom or your license, you cannot delay in getting legal representation. Contact Morris Law Firm, P.A. at (727) 388-4736 to schedule a free initial consultation about your DUI case. Our legal team is dedicated to helping people protect their futures, and we are prepared to defend you against misdemeanor and felony drunk or drugged driving charges.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, December 1, 2015.
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