DUI / Driving Under the Influence
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.
DUI Defense Attorney in St. Petersburg, FL
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.
Information About Florida DUI Charges
- Definition of DUI in Florida
- Actual Physical Control in DUI Cases
- Implied Consent Laws
- Will I Lose My Driver’s License After a DUI in Florida?
- Possible Penalties
- Additional Resources
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. Under Florida law, the term “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:
- Lengthy jail or prison sentences
- Driver’s license suspension, including both administrative and criminal penalties
- Restrictive license programs, including ignition interlock devices
- Expensive fines
- Probation or house arrest
- Substance abuse evaluation and treatment
- A 10-day impoundment of your vehicle
- Higher auto insurance premiums
- FR-44 DUI insurance
- Community service
- Court-ordered restitution
- Victim Impact Panel courses
- A permanent criminal record
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:
- Driving or actual physical control — Being intoxicated will not classify as DUI charge. The prosecutor must prove the defendant was actually driving or in actual physical control. This may be challenging, especially when accidents are involved.
- Probable cause — Evidence in the case could be inadmissible if the law enforcer did not have legal cause to halt, impede or detain a driver. Without sufficient evidence, the case could be dismissed or charges could be reduced.
- Miranda Rights — Convicting declarations may be inhibited if restraints were failed to be mentioned at the proper time.
- Implied consent warnings — If the police officer did not warn you of the penalties of declining to take a chemical test, or gave it inaccurately, this may affect the admissibility of the test results and your driver’s license suspension.
- Under the influence — The police officer’s interpretations and views as to drunkenness can be questioned, including the conditions under which the field sobriety assessments were given and the officer’s interpretation of the results. Witnesses can attest you appeared sober.
- Blood alcohol concentration — There exists a wide range of possible complications with blood, breath or urine analysis. Most breath machines will register many chemical compounds found on the human breath as alcohol, which is a non-specific analysis. Other defects in analysis can be conveyed in cross-examination of the state’s expert witness and the defense can appoint its own forensic chemist.
- Testing during the absorptive phase — The blood, breath or urine test will be defective if done while you are actively absorbing alcohol. It takes between 45 minutes and three hours to complete absorption. This can be delayed if food is present in the stomach.
- Retrograde extrapolation — This refers to the requirement that the blood and alcohol concentration level be “related back” in time from the test to the driving.
- Regulation of blood alcohol testing — The prosecution must prove the blood, breath or urine test complied with state requirements as to calibration, maintenance and other factors.
FDOT DUI Enforcement Grant to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
In early 2018, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had received a $34,000 DUI Enforcement grant from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The grant money will be used to fund various DUI enhancement projects throughout Pinellas County beginning on Saturday, February 3, 2018, and running through September 30, 2018.
Part of the grant money will be used by the DUI Unit of the Patrol Operations Bureau to conduct “saturation patrols” throughout the county. During the saturation patrols, deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office will be looking for drivers that commit traffic violations or might be impaired.
The saturation patrols funded by the FDOT DUI Enforcement grant will supplement the quarterly multi-jurisdictional DUI Wolf Packs in Pinellas County. The agency also plans to continue its traditional Wolf Packs and other DUI enforcement activities throughout the year.
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. Find a list of the licensed DUI programs in Florida, including the Suncoast Safety Council, Inc., in Pinellas County.
Level I DUI Program at the Suncoast Safety Council – Visit the website of the Suncoast Safety Council, Inc., with locations in both Clearwater and St. Petersburg, FL, to find out more about the requirements to enroll in and complete the Level I DUI program, a twelve (12) hour course along with an evaluation. The website explains what you need to bring to the registration, the driver risk evaluation completed by a certified DUI Evaluator, information about the $286.50 which includes the State Assessment Fee, a Florida lifetime driving record and the Driver Risk Inventory questionnaire. Suncoast Safety Council accepts money orders, cash, and all major credit cards including American Express and Discover Card.
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
Finding a DUI Defense Lawyer in Pinellas County, FL
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.
Whether this is your first DUI or you have a prior conviction, we can help. We are experienced in fighting DUI cases with a breath test, blood test, urine test, or an allegation that you refused to submit to testing. DUI cases are treated differently in Pinellas County, you need a local attorney who understands the rules and procedures that will be most effective in your particular case.