Getting arrested for DUI can be a frightening time in your life. There’s a good chance you’ve never had a criminal charge before, and you’re wondering what will happen. That’s perfectly normal.
The aftermath of a first-time DUI in Florida can be overwhelming. You probably have many legal questions. You might even be wondering if you have any chance to beat the charges or if you’re automatically guilty. You can rest a bit in the knowledge that you are still innocent until proven guilty and that you may have strong defenses available. The DUI defense lawyers from Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, have nearly 40 combined years of criminal defense experience. We have represented nearly 7,000 clients—so the chances are high that we’ve handled cases like yours before. With our knowledge and experience, the DUI lawyers from Moses & Rooth can give you the best opportunity to beat your DUI first offense in Florida.
What Happens When You Get a DUI in Florida?
If the police stop you for any reason and the officer suspects you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then they will likely have you perform field sobriety tests. These tests are designed to provide the police with evidence that your ability to drive is impaired by alcohol or a controlled substance.
The fact is that by the time the police ask you to take a field sobriety test, they already suspect that you are intoxicated. There’s little chance that taking the test is going to change the officer’s mind. On the other hand, your refusal might cause the investigating officer to think you’re trying to hide your guilt, and this may make them dig further. If yo refuse to conduct field sobriety expercies the officer will likely tell you that they will make their decision based upon the evidence that they have already obtained. Refusing to perform these exercises is not a safe harbor.
What Happens After You’re Arrested?
The officer will most likely conclude that you are under the influence and place you under arrest if there’s any evidence of alcohol consumption or use of controlled substances. You might have told the officer that you only had “two beers.” However, suppose the officer looked into your eyes and saw that they were glassy and bloodshot. Suppose you smelled like alcohol, slurred your speech, or fumbled trying to retrieve your license. Coupled with your driving, all of this evidence—even if there are innocent explanations—gives the officer probable cause to arrest you.
Florida’s Implied Consent Law
The arresting officer will bring you back to the police station and ask you to take a breathalyzer test. Under Florida’s implied consent law, every person driving on a Florida road impliedly consents to take a breathalyzer test if arrested for DUI. You can refuse; however, refusal results in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license for one year for your first offense DUI. A failed test is a 0.08% or great blood alcohol content (BAC).
Before you take the breathalyzer test, the arresting officer has to read you your rights. Usually, the police record this procedure. You have a defense to the administrative suspension of your driver’s license if the officer incorrectly recites your statutory rights.
Remember that you can refuse to take the breath test. Prosecutors might use that against you to say you didn’t take the breath test because you knew you were guilty. But experienced DUI defense lawyers can present evidence that you had valid reasons for refusing to take the breathalyzer that had nothing to do with alcohol consumption.
The booking officer will let you have a phone call to arrange for bail. The officer must also advise you that you have a right to take a comparison test at your own expense. Asking for one could help you preserve your blood during the relevant time so that your experts can independently test it. This can be done to protect you from a potentially faulty governmental test result.
What Is Florida’s DUI Law?
Florida’s DUI law prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Additionally, Florida law prohibits having control over a vehicle (even if it’s not in motion) with a BAC of 0.08% or above. The prosecution can argue both theories of guilt to the jury. Accordingly, if you successfully argue to keep the breath test results out of evidence, the prosecution can still argue that you were under the influence by using the officer’s observations to convict you.
For a First Conviction of DUI, What Is the Penalty in Florida?
A first offense DUI is a misdemeanor in Florida unless someone dies or suffers a severe injury in a resultant accident. For a first offense, you could go to jail for up to six months and pay a fine between $500 and $1,000. Moreover, the court will suspend your driver’s license for 180 days up to one year. This license loss is in addition to the license loss for refusing a chemical test.
There are other penalties for a first offense DUI in Florida as well. You must perform 50 hours of community service and attend drunk driving school. Lastly, you will be on probation for up to one year.
However, there are exceptions to the general rule. If you have a BAC of 0.15% or higher, or you had a minor in the car while driving, then the maximum jail sentence is nine months. A person with no criminal history might get the minimum sentence, whereas a person with a lengthy record might get the maximum.
You have the right to seek a hardship license from the DMV. However, you might have to install an ignition interlocking system as a condition of your hardship license.
You have a short amount of time to appeal your administrative license loss. You could get your license back if the officer did not have probable cause to suspect you were driving under the influence. In addition, you can get your license back if the officer failed to read your statutory rights to you verbatim.
What Defenses Do I Have?
While each case is different, we have noticed throughout our representation of about 7,000 clients that there are some similarities. We rely on our decades of experience to help us craft the best defense for you.
You have the right to challenge the lawfulness of the police conduct in your case. By filing a motion to suppress, you can ask the judge to throw out evidence if the police violated your rights. For instance, you might have a good argument for suppression if the police pulled you over for no reason. If body camera, dashboard camera, or witness evidence show that you were driving lawfully, then you could argue the police pulled you over without probable cause.
You can also argue that the police never advised you of your Miranda rights when they asked you questions while in their custody. The judge can exclude any statements you made to law enforcement in such cases.
If any such motion results in the suppression of critical evidence, the State may be forced to drop the charges.
Scientific or Technical Defenses
You may be able to show that the chemical test the police used is scientifically invalid, was not performed correctly, or was inaccurate. Only a trained law enforcement officer can give you a breathalyzer test, and only certified medical professionals are allowed to draw your blood. Moreover, the officer must obtain a search warrant to get your blood if you do not consent. A knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer understands these issues and knows how to use scientific and technical evidence to help strengthen your defense.
Remember that law enforcement officers are fallible—they make mistakes all of the time. That’s why you should have an experienced Florida DUI attorney review your case. An experienced DUI defense lawyer knows what to look for when defending DUI charges. They can exploit law enforcement mistakes and give you a better chance of beating your 1st offense DUI in Florida.
Maintain Your Innocence
You also have the right to a trial. Remember that you enjoy the presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the State at a trial. Florida juries can be tough. But a skilled DUI defense lawyer knows how to present your case to a jury in the best light possible. Even if you failed a chemical test, a smart and tough DUI lawyer can still fight your case vigorously at trial.
Frequently Asked Questions After a First Offense DUI in Florida
Will I Go to Jail?
The maximum jail time you could get for a first-time DUI conviction is six months. However, you could get as much as nine months if your BAC was 0.15% or higher or if you had a child in the car. Notwithstanding, the judge does not have to put you in jail. Most first offenders have no prior criminal record and receive probationary sentences.
Will I Lose My License?
A first offense DUI conviction leads to license suspension for at least 180 days but could be as long as one year. Also, refusal to take a chemical test results in an automatic one-year suspension.
Can I Get a Hardship License?
You can get a hardship license if you complete the reinstatement requirements. Reinstatement requirements include paying all fees, finishing driving school, and installing an ignition interlock device on your car.
How Long Does a DUI Stay on My Record?
A DUI conviction remains on your record forever. Prosecutors can use a previous conviction against you to get a tougher sentence if you ever have another DUI charge.
What Happens If I Refuse a Chemical Test?
The DMV administratively revokes your driver’s license for at least one year if you refuse a test. You can apply for a hardship license after 90 days. You can also appeal your suspension with the help of a savvy DUI defense lawyer.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
There is no legal requirement that you have a lawyer represent you, but representing yourself is incredibly risky when so much is at stake. A well-seasoned lawyer will review your case and develop a strategy that is best for you. You may have strong defenses that could help avoid getting your first DUI conviction in Florida or give you leverage in plea bargaining.
Which Law Firm Should You Choose?
If you have DUI charges in Orange County, Florida, there is one law firm you can trust with your case: Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law. As former prosecutors, our DUI defense lawyers have tremendous courtroom experience handling DUI cases. We are responsive to all of your needs, and we are ready to answer your questions when you need us. We believe that you are innocent until proven guilty and will fight for you every step of the way. Contact our firm today at 407-377-0150 for a free consultation.