Criminal Law & DUI
North Florida Lawyers has counsel who focus on criminal cases, such as DUI, as their primary practice area. Our teams have former State Attorney's who prosecuted DUIs, and know the nuisances associated with such matters. When you're facing charges that may affect your ability to seek employments, your credit, and even jail time, there is little room for error. Our firm has lawyers who focus on DUIs and Criminal Law. They are passionate about protecting people's rights, and well respected in the legal community. As our client, you will receive quality representation throughout every area in which we practice, including:
Driving under the influence - DUI
Boating Under the Influence - BUI
Various Felony Charges
Traffic Citations for Speeding
Dept. Motor Vehilce hearings - DMV
License Suspensions & Reinstatements
Various Misdemnor Charges
Expungement or Sealing of Records
Frequently Asked Questions on DUI
If you have been arrested for DUI in Florida, you face serious consequences. It also means that you are facing two separate cases: 1) a criminal case that is prosecuted by the State of Florida, and 2) an ad of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). Each case carries its own penalties, for example, a person’s driver license will be suspended administratively, and then again at the completion of the criminal case, it will likely be suspended again.
What are some common DUI issues that your firm assess?
When handling DUI cases, we explore every possible defense. We thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding the stop, arrest, Breathalyzer test, blood test and other elements of police procedure. In handling your DUI defense case, we will consider questions such as:
Did the police officer have reasonable suspicion to pull you over?
Did the police officer have probable cause to make the arrest?
Was it a physical impairment, not alcohol use, that caused you to fail the field sobriety test?
Was the blood alcohol content (BAC) test performed by qualified personnel?
Was the Breathalyzer machine functioning properly?
Why should I hire a DUI Attorney?
A DUI arrest sets into motion two separate cases. The administrative case is completely independent of the criminal case. The arresting officer will issue a DUI citation with a scheduled court date for the criminal case. However, the arrest will actually initiate both cases. While the criminal court date (arraignment) may not be for several weeks, there are only ten days from the date of the arrest to request an administrative hearing to contest the administrative suspension. Further, the DUI citation will often serve as a temporary driving permit for ten (10) days. Historically, by requesting an administrative hearing, this right to drive for business purposes could be extended for several additional weeks. As of July 1, 2013, the rules regulating administrative suspensions for DUI arrests has changed. Certain individuals arrested for DUI after July 1, 2013, may now automatically qualify for a hardship license during the entire term of the administrative suspension by waiving their right to an administrative hearing. Not all individuals will qualify for the automatic hardship, and for those that do, this option will carry its own consequences. An experienced DUI attorney can attend both cases to assure that your rights are protected. If you have been arrested for DUI in the State of Florida and would like to contact a DUI Attorney in NE Florida, consultations are free and completely confidential.
What are the consequences of DUI?
The criminal penalties for a first offense DUI charge, without a crash involving damage to persons or property, typically includes the following:
Fifty (50) hours of community service
Substance abuse evaluation, followed by any recommended treatment.
Ten (10) day vehicle impound
Victim impact panel
Jail up to six (6) months (may be up to nine (9) months if BAL is .15 or greater)
Probation not to exceed twelve (12) months
Fine from $500 to $1000 (or from $1000 to $2000 if BAL is .15 or greater or there was a minor in the vehicle)
License revocation for six (6) months to twelve (12) months
If the person’s BAL (blood alcohol level) was a .15 or greater or there was a minor in the vehicle, an ignition interlock device installed on the vehicle for up to six (6) monthsThe criminal penalties for subsequent DUI convictions increase substantially. For example, a second conviction within five (5) years of the first (not involving a crash) will require mandatory jail, higher fines and a five (5) year driver license revocation.
What does the State have to prove to convict me of DUI?
The State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1) That you drove or were in actual physical control of a vehicle, and
2) While driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle, you were under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or a chemical or a controlled substance to the extent that your normal faculties were impaired, or had a blood/breath alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood/210 liters of breath.
Can I be convicted of DUI if I’m under the influence of drugs instead of alcohol?
Yes. One can be convicted if the State can prove that the individual is under the influence of “an alcoholic beverage or a chemical or a controlled substance” (emphasis added). This includes both illegal substances such as Cocaine or Marijuana, as well as, prescribed medications such a Xanax (alprazolam). The most common scenario involves individuals that consume alcohol while taking prescribed medication. The two can have a synergistic effect (commonly described as “1+1=3”), meaning that the effects of just a small amount of alcohol, which normally would not cause noticeable impairment in a person, may actually be amplified by the presence of certain drugs or medications leading to severe impairment.
What happens if the officer does not have a valid reason to stop my car?
If law enforcement stops a vehicle without a lawful reason, a qualified DUI lawyer may file what’s known as a “Motion to Suppress.” In order for law enforcement to lawfully stop a vehicle, the officer must have probable cause that a traffic offense was committed or reasonable suspicion that either a crime is being committed or that the driver is ill, tired or impaired. For the officer to have probable cause that a traffic offense was committed, an officer must witness the driver commit a traffic offense. Examples of traffic offenses that are valid grounds for a traffic stop may be speeding, running a stop sign, running a red light, stopping past the white stop bar, etc. . . . Quite often in DUI arrests, an officer will stop someone for a traffic infraction and subsequently develop a suspicion that the driver is impaired upon noticing signs of impairment such as bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol, and slurred speech. Another lawful purpose for stopping a driver is if the officer has reasonable suspicion that either a crime is being committed or that the driver is ill, tired or impaired. For example, the officer may notice by the license plate that the vehicle is not registered or that the registration has expired, which may be charged as a crime. Another example would be if the officer sees that the vehicle is swerving in and out of its lane of traffic and believes based upon his training that the driver is impaired.
How does the State usually prove that someone is guilty of DUI as a result of drugs or medication?
Typically, a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) will be called to assist with the investigation. A DRE is a law enforcement officer that has undergone additional training in the detection of impairment caused by drugs. The DRE officer will first require that the individual provide a breath test to detect the presence of alcohol. Afterwards, the DRE will subject the driver to a battery of tests and will obtain a urine or blood test. Finally the DRE will prepare a detailed report that contains his opinion as to which drug category is the cause of impairment. If the urine or blood test is positive for the presence of a certain chemical or controlled substance and that substance is consistent with the drug category predicted in the DRE’s report, the prosecutor will likely argue that the driver was under the influence of that substance.
If I blew below a “.08” can I still be charged with a DUI?
Yes! Proving a blood alcohol level (BAL) of .08 or above is just one way the State can prove a DUI. However, even if a person’s blood alcohol level is below a .08 or you refused to submit a sample of breath, the State will succeed if they can show that you consumed alcohol and/ or chemical or controlled substance to the extent that your norm impaired. The State will use the testimony of the arresting officer along with other evidence such as your performance on field sobriety exercises that may have been captured on the video from the patrol car. Sometimes, other evidence may be used such as urinalysis results if a urine sample was obtained at the time of the arrest.
Can I still fight my charges if I blew a .08 or above?
Yes! Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. A portion of the instruction provided to jurors in a criminal DUI trial reads as follows: If you find from the evidence that while driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, the defendant had a blood or breath-alcohol level of .08 or more, that evidence would be sufficient by itself to establish that the defendant was under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that [his] [her] normal faculties were impaired. But this evidence may be contradicted or rebutted by other evidence demonstrating that the defendant was not under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that [his] [her] normal faculties were impaired. This means that the .08 presumption may be contradicted or rebutted during trial. Furthermore, a skilled DUI lawyer will analyze the entire investigation and file the appropriate motions if law enforcement violated any of your constitutional rights. For example, if law enforcement did not have a valid reason to stop your vehicle, then all subsequent evidence gathered after the stop may be suppressed leaving the State insufficient evidence with which to prove the case.
Not all traffic stops are legally valid! In a DUI case, it is important to thoroughly review the basis for the stop to determine if it was lawful. If the officer did not have a valid reason for the stop, then all subsequent evidence gathered after the stop may be suppressed leaving the State insufficient evidence with which to prove the case. This would include all observations that the officer made of the driver such as bloodshot eyes or slurred speech, the field sobriety exercises and even the results of the breath test.