Being arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) can be a terrifying experience.
After the law enforcement officer pulls you over, you may be ordered to step out of your vehicle, asked multiple questions, requested to perform various “field sobriety exercises,” and subjected to a test of your blood-alcohol level through a machine known as a Breathalyzer.
If the police decide that your “normal faculties” are impaired or that your blood-alcohol level is over the limit, you will be handcuffed, placed in the back of a squad car, and hauled off to jail. Meanwhile, your car may be towed and you will have to pay a tow truck company to get it back.
At the jail, you will be searched, forced to change into an inmate uniform, have your mugshot taken (and shared on the internet), and you will have to sit in jail until bond is posted and a judge releases you.
It is important to remember that you can be charged with DUI not only for alcohol, but for getting behind the wheel while under the influence of any controlled substance.
This includes illegal substances like marijuana, cocaine, and MDMA. It also includes legal substances that require a prescription, such as Percocet, Xanax, or Adderall.
You may be surprised to learn that you could be charged with DUI even for a medication prescribed to you by a doctor, if taking it causes you to fit the legal definition of impaired.
Once out of jail, you will have two major issues to deal with. First, you may have issues with your driver’s license and only a few days to act in order to avoid losing your right to drive while your case is pending. Second, you will have to face the State of Florida prosecuting you for the criminal charge of Driving Under the Influence.
The possible penalties for a DUI conviction in Florida are heavy.
A conviction on a simple DUI charge, even if you have never been in trouble before, carries with it a maximum of 180 days (about six months) in jail and/or 12 months (one year) of probation.
Florida statutes generally require certain minimum conditions of probation on DUI charges. Some of these conditions may include suspension of your driver’s license for 6 months or more, payment of fines and court costs, participation in a “DUI School” program, performance of community service hours, and submission to a substance abuse evaluation and treatment.
Generally, you will be ordered to stay away from alcohol and required to submit to random drug and alcohol tests.
The statutes also mandate that if you enter a plea to, or are found guilty of, DUI, the judge must “adjudicate” you guilty of the charge. This means that the record of your arrest and conviction will be available for public viewing forever, with no opportunity to have the record sealed or expunged.
Repeat convictions of driving under the influence carry harsher penalties.
In some circumstances it could even mean a felony conviction. Conviction of felony DUI results in loss of some civil liberties, including your right to vote and own firearms.
If a DUI results in a crash involving damage to your vehicle, other vehicles, private or public property, or to any other person, you may be charged with DUI with Property Damage or DUI with Personal Injury. These charges carry with them several enhanced sentences, including a maximum of one year in jail.
Sometimes a DUI results in the tragic loss of human life. When that happens, one could be charged with DUI Manslaughter. DUI Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, meaning it carries a maximum of 15 years in state prison.
Furthermore, in most circumstances, unless the prosecutor agrees to a lesser sentence, Florida judges are required to sentence those convicted of DUI Manslaughter to more than 10 years in prison according to Florida’s sentencing guidelines. Notwithstanding the sentencing guidelines, Florida Statutes also require that DUI Manslaughter be punished with a minimum mandatory of 4 years in prison.
In other words, even if a judge decides that he can depart from the requirements of the Guidelines, he is still bound to sentence a person to at least 4 years in state prison.
Because of the potentially harsh consequences of Driving Under the Influence, it is important to hire a criminal defense attorney immediately after an arrest.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and defend you against the government.
If your driver’s license is revoked after arrest, an attorney can guide you through the process of obtaining a “hardship” or Business Purposes Only driver’s license. An attorney will review the prosecutor’s evidence, including written reports and audio or video recorded by the police.
Sometimes, attorneys may find that there are grounds to have some evidence suppressed due to mistakes made by your arresting officer. An attorney will explore your options for the resolution of your case, including entering into a plea agreement with the state, entering into a diversion program if one is available, or taking the case to trial before a jury or the judge.