DUI (Driving Under the Influence) laws in Florida are unique and complex. Hiring an experienced Florida DUI attorney as soon as possible will give you the best chance of having a good outcome. The attorneys at Apfelbaum Law may be able to assist you with your DUI charge or any other criminal matter.
Types of Offenses & First Time Offenses
The state of Florida employs task forces and DUI checkpoints to enforce DUI laws. The tools they use to make an arrest include breathalyzers, roadside tests, and video evidence which is later used in court. However, everyone can make a mistake—even police officers. Also, the equipment used to test and determine indicators like blood alcohol content—the Breathalyzer, for example—must be correctly calibrated and administered by certified officers. Even with proper calibration and administration, it is possible for any piece of equipment to malfunction. The State must prove in court that the equipment indeed was working properly.
It’s important to hire an attorney who can make sure your arrest was lawful. If the police failed to follow strict procedures, a skilled attorney may be able to get the case dismissed.
Under Florida law, there are two ways to prove DUI in court. The first is to demonstrate someone had an unlawful blood alcohol level while driving, operating, or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. Currently, the unlawful blood alcohol level in the state of Florida is a 0.08 or above, although previously it was 0.12, then 0.10. Taking such fine measurements can be tricky, and there’s always a possibility of error if the equipment is faulty or the test is not administered properly.
One category of DUI is driving or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with an unlawful blood alcohol level. However, sometimes a case involves a situation where there is no blood alcohol level or blood alcohol reading for some reason. This could include the subject refusing to give a sample of their breath or blood, an equipment malfunction, or that particular piece of evidence simply not being available at the time. This type of DUI is called operating or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, chemical substance, or controlled substance, while the person’s normal faculties are impaired.
Because there is some margin of error with tests to measure blood alcohol levels, cases are usually proven with opinion-based testimony from a law enforcement officer. They may testify to their opinion or experience on what effect alcohol, drugs, or chemical substances have on a person’s normal faculties—things like a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle, walk, talk, make decisions, and act in emergency situations.
A driving under the influence offense from abnormal faculties is not the same as a driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level charge. Different witnesses may interpret the same evidence in very different ways with a driving under the influence charge, as it is less scientific and more open to interpretation.
DUI Second and Multiple Offenses
A DUI second offense in Florida, or another driving under the influence charge, is a more complicated situation. The Florida Legislature has established strict minimum mandatory penalties for people convicted of DUIs, and those penalties increase with multiple convictions.
For example, if you receive a second DUI conviction for an offense that occurs within 5 years of a prior conviction, you could automatically spend a minimum of 10 days in jail, a 5-year driver license suspension, pay substantial fines and costs, and be forced to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Additionally, the judge may impose other penalties as they see fit. Fortunately, in many situations, an experienced Florida DUI attorney may be able to help a client avoid these serious penalties.
Third and Fourth Offenses
If you’re convicted of a third offense DUI charge that occurred within 10 years of your second DUI conviction, the mandatory penalties get even higher. You may receive a minimum of 30 days in jail and a 10-year driver license suspension, if you are convicted a third time.
Again, the judge has the option of adding other penalties as they believe necessary, and jail time may be much longer than 30 days, which is only a mandatory minimum. Prosecutors for the State Attorney’s office may work hard to win their case against you, and will likely ask the judge for harsh punishment if they win. Experienced DUI representation may help you to avoid these serious consequences.
Fourth DUI convictions carry a lifetime driver license suspension, on top of other penalties imposed by the judge.
Common Defenses for DUI
There are many ways to challenge a DUI charge in court. The best option depends on the particulars of your arrest. However, your Florida DUI attorney will discuss the options with you and help you figure out the best defense for your case.
Here are some common defenses that may be used in a DUI court case:
- Illegal traffic stops in DUI cases (includes DUI checkpoints, weaving, and tips from anonymous callers)
- Illegal search after a DUI stop
- Illegal DUI arrest (the officer may not have had probable cause for an arrest)
- Miranda warnings in DUI cases (the officer may have failed to read the defendant their rights at the appropriate time)
- Violations of speedy trial (Florida requires a trial within 90 days for misdemeanor offenses, and 175 days for a felony DUI charge)
- Crash report privilege (statements the defendant made after an accident are privileged until the officer informs them the crash investigation is over)
If you need assistance with your DUI case, or have questions about any potential legal matter, please contact Apfelbaum Law for a consultation. We have offices in Port St. Lucie and Stuart, but provide legal services throughout the Treasure Coast and Florida.