Being arrested for a DUI in Fort Lauderdale can have a serious impact on your personal and professional life, for a long time in the future. If you have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence in Florida, the most important thing that you can do is hire an experienced, aggressive DUI defense attorney to build your case and fight for the best possible outcome given the circumstances.
Keep in mind that an arrest is not the same thing as a conviction — an arrest will cause some short-term problems, but a conviction is what will have serious, long-term repercussions for the rest of your life. The sooner you begin working with an attorney, the longer that you and your legal counsel will have to develop a clear strategy, a strong defense, and identify all possible options to minimize the damage that can be done to your life with a guilty finding.
Contact us now to schedule a free initial consultation, where you will be able to discuss the details of your arrest with a legal professional. We will be able to explore a variety of questions that you may have about how we can help defend you, how we have handled cases similar to yours in the past, and give you a better idea of how we work with our clients. Read more below about DUI charges, court cases, and the penalties that come with a DUI conviction in Fort Lauderdale, and how we may be able to navigate your case towards an agreeable and fair outcome.
What Is a DUI?
A charge of DUI is for Driving Under the Influence (of alcohol or other drugs) and comes with serious penalties if you are found guilty of this crime. Some states may refer to the same crime as DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) or OUI (Operating Under the Influence), but Florida uses the common designation of DUI. Regardless of the term used, the concept is the same: any driver who is found driving with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) in excess of 0.08% will be arrested and charged. The legal limit is different, though, for CDL drivers, who may be charged with DUI if they are found to have a BAC in excess of 0.04% while operating a commercial vehicle, and minors under the age of 21 are guilty of DUI if they are found to be driving with a BAC in excess of 0.02%.
In order to determine that an individual is driving under the influence of alcohol, the officer will request that they submit to a breathalyzer test and a battery of field sobriety tests. Refusing to take a breathalyzer when you are stopped for a legitimate reason will result in an automatic license suspension, a rule that you agree to when you receive your driver’s license from the FLHSMV. However, a 2011 Florida Supreme Court ruling determined that if your traffic stop is deemed unlawful, then your refusal will have no impact on your license status. If you believe that this is the case, we will need to present a compelling argument to the courts that your traffic stop was unwarranted, otherwise the suspension will stand.
It is important to understand that simply passing a breathalyzer does not mean that you are free to leave since DUI covers all mind-altering substances. If you are under the influence of a scheduled drug, you will pass a breath test with no issue because it only tests for alcohol; however, the officer will require that you undergo a battery of field sobriety tests that they will use to determine your control over your mental and physical faculties. There are many issues with field sobriety tests, which we will explore in greater detail further down on this page.
Penalties For Driving Under the Influence in Florida
There are many different possible penalties for DUI in Florida, depending on your criminal history, whether or not you have ever been convicted of DUI before, and any possible enhancements or additional crimes that you were arrested and charged fur during the DUI. Below are the basic penalties for DUI in Florida, only including a few basic enhancements:
First DUI in Florida
If you are convicted of your first DUI in Florida, you will be facing a possibility of between $500 and $1000 in fines, up to 180 days in jail, up to a year license suspension, and possible 50 hours of community service. In exchange for reduced penalties, you may be able to take part in a diversion program.
Florida has a provision that states if you have a BAC of over 0.15%, you will be charged with an Aggravated DUI, which comes with stricter penalties. Fines will range from $1000 to $2000, you will face up to 9 months in jail, and you will be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device in your vehicle for 6 months once your license is reinstated.
Second DUI in Florida
If you are charged with a second DUI in Florida, the penalties that you face for a conviction are more severe than your first, especially if it is within five years of your first, or if it is a charge of Aggravated DUI.
You will face up to 6 months in jail (9 if it is Aggravated DUI), up to $2,000 in fines ($4,000 if Aggravated), a year license suspension, and 2 years with an IID installed in your vehicle.
If you are charged with a second DUI within 5 years of your first, you will face a mandatory 10 days in jail and a 30-day vehicle impoundment in addition to the above penalties.
Third DUI in Florida
Your third DUI will come with even harsher penalties if convicted. If you are charged with a third DUI within 10 years of your second, then you will additionally face a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail, a 90-day vehicle impoundment, and your license will be revoked for 5 years. You may be able to petition for a restricted license, but not until you have completed 24 months of your suspension.
The standard penalties for a third DUI if you have not had a prior DUI within 10 years are up to a year in jail, between $2000 and $4000 in fines ($4000 to $5000 if Aggravated DUI), one year with a suspended license, and 2 years with an IID installed in your vehicle.
Fourth and All Subsequent DUIs in Florida
A fourth DUI is extremely serious, and you face extreme penalties for this infraction. According to the Florida Statute 316.193, “Any person who is convicted of a fourth or subsequent violation of this section, regardless of when any prior conviction for a violation of this section occurred, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. However, the fine imposed for such fourth or subsequent violation may be not less than $2,000.”
Your license will be suspended for a minimum of 10 years but may be revoked permanently with no option for a restricted license. In addition, your fines will likely be around $5,000, and you will have a felony charge on your criminal record which will cause serious issues for your employment ability. In addition, you may face up to 3 years in prison for this conviction.
Finally, you may be classified as a violent or habitual felony offender, which will increase the punishments that you will receive for any possible future infractions, whether they are DUI-related or not.
Defending Against DUI Charges In Florida
No matter the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest and charges, it is absolutely essential that you partner with an experienced DUI attorney in Fort Lauderdale as soon as possible. There are many different options that we will need to explore, and may need to act on some time-sensitive decisions that will make your life easier while we are going through your trial.
Improper Traffic Stops
In Florida, it is important that any charges that stem from a traffic stop resulted from a legitimate, legal traffic stop. If we believe that you were stopped and detained for invalid or illegal reasons, we will focus on this aspect of your arrest during your trial to prove that since the interaction began from illegal behaviors on behalf of the officer, that the entire arrest was invalid.
It is extremely important that your Constitutional rights are upheld as a private citizen of the United States, and we will be looking at every single step of your interaction with the arresting officers to ensure that your rights were not violated. If they were, we will work to ensure that these violations are brought to the attention of the courts.
Field Sobriety Tests Are Flawed
Field sobriety tests are used by police officers as a way to determine whether or not a person is in control of their physical and mental faculties. There are many problems with these tests, considering that they are extremely subjective to the officer observing them, and they do not control for the many different variables that may be present during the traffic stop such as inclement weather, situational anxiety, and even physical disabilities.
Since there is no objective pass/fail measure for any of these tests, they are fundamentally inaccurate and should not be used to determine the state that someone is in. While they are important tools for an officer to utilize, the subjectivity of the tests introduce a serious concern into the court system because they are not able to truly be measured or quantified as results or outcomes.
Breath Tests Can Be Inaccurate
There are many different rules and guidelines that go into administering a breath test to ensure that they are as fair and accurate as possible. To begin with, the officer must observe the individual for at least 20 minutes before giving them a test, because they may have swallowed something or drank something that would throw the results off if they took the test sooner.
Additionally, there must be two separate breath tests administered that register within .020 of each other to indicate that the tests are accurate within a reasonable amount, but this still does not guarantee that they are absolutely accurate and therefore admissible as evidence in your DUI case. We will request to see all maintenance history of the machine that you took the test on to ensure that it has been properly cared for, and if the police are unable to prove this, then we will argue that this test can not be used as evidence.
Officers Are Human, And May Misinterpret Things
During a traffic stop where a person is suspected of DUI, the arresting officer must take many different subjective observations into account such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, inability to stand without swaying, and other things. Each of these observations may indicate that the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but may equally be an indicator of illness, overtiredness, allergies, and a number of other things that can lead to a misinterpretation of the situation.
We will go through each point that the officer makes in their arrest report to ensure that they remain as objective as possible and that any misinterpreted or subjective observations are questioned at length.
Negotiating With the Prosecutor
Throughout your trial, we will be working with a prosecutor who will examine all of the available evidence. Throughout the course of your trial, we will identify a variety of ways that we may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor or work with them directly to have the case dismissed, or your charges reduced so that you will end up with a lesser penalty if you were to enter a guilty plea. These options vary depending on the specifics of the case, the evidence, the prosecutor, and more, but you can be certain that we are considering every option through every step of your case.
Contact Us As Soon As Possible
The most important thing that you can do after being arrested and charged for Driving Under the Influence is to begin working with an experienced and aggressive DUI attorney in Fort Lauderdale. We will sit with you and go through every detail of your case in order to formulate a strong, winning strategy, and will fight every step of the way to move you towards the best possible outcome given your situation.
We look forward to working with you and helping you through this stressful and difficult time in your life with minimal consequences.