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A DUI case is one of the most complex types of criminal cases and it can change a person's life. If convicted, a DUI sentence carries not just the penalties ordered by the court, such as classes, probation, and community service, but also collateral penalties that come with the conviction, such as a much higher insurance. Florida has very serious penalties for even first time DUI offenders.
When someone is arrested for DUI, it is usually a surprise to that person. Our clients are ordinary, hard working people, that never thought something like that could happen to them. Our job is not to judge, but to see how we can help and evaluate every case carefully. Every single DUI case is different, and we ask clients to complete a detailed questionnaire (please see link above), so we can know about the case, as much as they do.
A good starting point to evaluate your case is how you were pulled over, more specifically why were you pulled over. Was it for speeding? a broken tail light? perhaps weaving within the lane? or the officers claims he suspected an impaired driver? In order to pull you over, the officer must have reasonable suspicion. In the absence of reasonable suspicion, the stop has to be suppressed. This type of issue is brought up before the court on a Motion to Suppress, the Court will than hear the testimony and argument, and make a decision. If the Motion to Suppress is granted, this can lead to the suppression of the entire stop and the arrest.
Additionally, we ask clients for information about Field Sobriety Exercises. When did the officer ask you to perform these exercises? Did he have reasonable suspicion to suspect impairment? So, for example in a situation where one officer pulls you over, and calls a DUI officer for a DUI investigation, we evaluate to see if the first officer had enough reason to suspect you were impaired. Once again, this can be a break in your case.
Unfortunately, people taking the Field Sobriety Exercises never realize whether they did good or bad. Remember, they are exercises not "tests," so there is no pass or fail. The officer is looking for signs of impairment, such as swaying, inability to maintain balance when walking a line, coordination, speech, color of face, smell, ability to follow directions and others. All of these can be considered signs of impairment. This is why before the officer lets you perform the Field Sobriety Exercises, he or she will ask you if you have any medical problems, disabilities or anything else that would prevent you from performing the exercises. It can be key to the defense of your case, for your lawyer to know if there was something that prevented you from doing well on the FSEs, such as back problems, vision problems, any previous injuries, even if you did not tell the officer on the day of the arrest.
Other questions, that may be important to your defense are:
What did you say to the police before and after arrest?
How was your driving that night, i.e. were you weaving in an out of the lane?
Where were the Field Sobriety Exercises performed?
What were the conditions of the road?
Another avenue of attack is always the actual breath/blood test procedure, so all details are important.
The actual place where you were pulled over and performed the Field Sobriety Exercises may be helpful to your case, so we will drive out and visit the scene to help us evaluate the case and than be able to describe it to a jury.
We always provide FREE consultations in DUI cases, please feel free to call and remember not to enter a plea at First Appearance.
DUI charge is one of the most common arrests that happen in Florida. Most of our clients that are charged with DUI have never been in trouble before and cannot believe this happen to them. If you have been arrested for DUI, call our office and speak with our DUI lawyer, who can help you understand the system and the consequences you may be facing.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
I got a DUI, what now?
Driving Under the Influence or Drunk Driving is punished severely in Florida. This is probably the most expensive misdemeanor crime, because if you plea the fines and other conditions of your probation will cost a fortune. The first thing you should do is get an experienced DUI lawyer to represent you. DUI is also a complicated crime which can involve a lot of scientific evidence. You need someone to guide you through this. Our office regularly handles this type of cases and will be able to help you evaluate your options and challenge the State's case.
I did not take the breath test, can I still be accused of DUI?
Yes, the state can prove DUI in two ways. The first is that your breath or blood alcohol level was above 0.08 and the second is that your normal faculties were impaired. So, even if you refused, they could still try to show that you were too intoxicated to drive based on Field Sobriety Exercises and what the officer observed at the scene. This is why it is very important to make sure you have an experienced DUI lawyer represent you. We evaluate each cases individually, and understand how the other side thinks and how they will approach the case.
I did not drink that day, but still got arrested for DUI...
Alcohol is not the only thing that can be used against you in a DUI, prescription drugs or elicit drugs can also make you DUI.
What are the penalties for a DUI?
Florida Statute 316.193 lists the penalties for DUI, and the severity of the penalties depend on whether or not it is a first offense. It does not matter how the state proved the DUI, through a Breath Test or through impairment of normal faculties, the penalties you face if convicted are the same.
Here is a form HSMV 72000 provided by the State of Florida, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (Rev. 06/01/2011), which summarizes the penalties.
If I am convicted of DUI, what effect will it have on my insurance?
One of the real penalties for a Florida DUI conviction are the increased car insurance premiums. They could double or triple. The worst case scenario is when the insurance company cancels or declines the renewal of your auto policy. Please understand, that any lapse in insurance will result in an automatic suspension of your driver's license under Florida law.
Since February 2, 2008, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles ("DHSMV") requires a new financial responsibility certification (under Section 316.193, Florida Statutes). This is what is called the Florida FR-44 Form and what used to be SR-22 (required prior to February 2, 2008). The main difference is that new FR-44 form requires higher liability limits than the old SR-22 form.
The FR-44 form is also required in order to get your license reinstated after a DUI conviction in Florida. You will be required to maintain it for three years. You can get the FR-44 form from your car insurance company. Obviously, by asking for it, you are letting them know that your driver's license has been suspended for a Florida DUI conviction, which will cause them to change your status to "high risk,” which basically means higher premiums.
What are the limits required under Florida FR-44?
Florida FR-44 Form is a certificate of continuing financial responsibility which shows the limits of your auto insurance and it must be kept on file with the Florida DHSMV for three years from the ending date of any revocation. Please note that that Florida FR-44 form also requires the insurance companies to notify the DHSMV, if your policy lapses for any reason or you cancel or terminate it.
Under Florida Fr-44, the required limits are (1) bodily injury liability insurance in the amount of $100,000 per person; (2) $300,000 per occurrence and (3) $50,000 property damage liability coverage. Please understand, that you will be required to have this insurance in order to reinstate your license. As with anything else, there is also a fee associated with the reinstatement, usually it is $150.00 for a first suspension, $250.00 for a second suspension, or $500.00 for a third suspension. You will need to double check this amount with DHSMV.