Q: I’ve been arrested for DUI in Florida! Now what? A: DUI is a very serious crime in Florida. DUI is one of the many crimes which can never be sealed or expunged. Moreover, the risk to your freedom, property, and livelihood is great. If you are charged with DUI, you need a lawyer experienced in handling DUI. You need attorney Paul Courtright. Attorney Courtright has the experience you need when it comes to understanding the suppressable issues that help protect your rights during a DUI prosecution.
Mr. Courtright is a former assistant state attorney from Seminole County who has received extensive training in DUI prosecution. He also has successfully defended many clients who have been charged with DUI.
Q: Should I care about my DMV Hearing on my DUI? A: Yes. DUI cases operate on two tracks at the same time. The first track a DUI case operates on is the criminal case. The second track of the DUI case is the administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. To preserve your right to drive in Florida, you must request an administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles within ten (10) days after your license is taken from you by an officer. An administrative hearing must be scheduled within thirty (30) days. If you are successful in your DMV hearing, you may be able to get your license back administratively until the outcome on your criminal DUI case.
If you refused to take the breath test and you do not request an administrative hearing within ten (10) days of your arrest, your license to drive will be suspended for a minimum of one (1) year. If you took the test offered, you still must request an administrative hearing within ten (10) days of your arrest, or else your license to drive will be suspended for at least six (6) months.
So yes, requesting a hearing on your administrative DUI suspension is important and can be the first step in getting your driver's license back.
Q: What can I expect at the Pre-Trial Conference? A: You and your attorney will appear in court at the pretrial conference. The court will review the status of your case, and your attorney will inform the court that your case is either ready for trial, or that you intend to change your plea to guilty or nolo contendere under the negotiated terms of a plea bargain, or you need additional time in a continuance in order to uncover evidence that can help your defense. You may or may not need to appear at this hearing depending on a variety of factors. Q: Will I be able to get my case dismissed because I was not read my rights? A: Not likely. The failure to advise one of their constitutional rights under Miranda and its progeny raises issues only as to statements. Physical observations by the law enforcement officer are not subject to the Miranda warnings. Q: Will I go to jail if I am convicted of DUI? A: The answer depends on many factors including, but not limited to, whether this is a first (or only) offense, second offense, or later offense, whether there is a high breath test or blood test result, whether property or people were injured, and other factors.
Jail sentences are at the discretion of the sentencing court. No representations or predictions as to jail time in any case can be predicted. Most first time DUI offenses with a low breath test result (.05 to .08) typically result in one year of supervised probation and not a jail sentence. The possibility of a jail sentence becomes more probable if the breath test results are very high, or if the case involves a second or later offense, or if there was a crash with property damage, injured people, or children within the defendant’s car at the time of the arrest. There are mandatory minimum jail sentences for some subsequent offenses. Q: If convicted, how long will the DUI remain in my driving record? A: The DUI arrest and conviction will remain on the driving record forever unless there is an acquittal. In Florida, DUI is one of many particular crimes that can never be sealed or expunged unless there is an acquittal by the jury because DUI is such a serious and potentially violent nature of the crime. Q: How many hours of alcohol classes will I have to attend? A: Plan on at least 24 to 48 hours of alcohol awareness classes, one two-hour session per week. The higher your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the more hours you likely will have to attend. Q: What will happen if I do not complete the classes or public service ordered by the court? A: If you are convicted of DUI, and if you do not complete the classes, public service, or other court ordered requirements of your probation (e.g., drink alcohol while on probation), the court may find you in violation of your probation and you very likely will go to jail. Please note that the violation of probation is a separate criminal offense that will become part of your criminal history record.
Q: I lost my Florida license from a DUI. Can I get a license in another state? A: No. All of the states rely upon the NCIC history compiled by the FBI which will contain the DUI information. Also, the individual states can and do share information regarding suspensions because of DUI. Q: May I drive after being arrested for DUI? A: No. You must not drive after a DUI arrest unless you have a ten day permit or a business purposes only license from the Florida DMV while your administrative and criminal cases are pending. Driving after a DUI arrest without these special permits expose you to another criminal charge called Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (DWLSR). Driving on a suspended license due to an earlier DUI is a serious crime. Florida courts are brutally unforgiving on these types of cases and you should not proceed in these types of cases without an attorney. Additionally, the charge of DWLSR can quickly expose you to a third degree felony if you are arrested or charged with DWLSR three (3) times within 5 years from the date of your last DWLSR conviction. Q: If I obtain an international driver's license, may I drive in Florida even though my Florida license is revoked? A: No. Q: Why is your license taken after the arrest, and when do you get it back? A: Under Florida law, your license can be administratively suspended for either a refusal to take a blood test, breath test, or if you have a breath test result of .08 or greater. The length of this suspension can be from six (6) months to eighteen (18) months. Q: Does the DMV administrative hearing have any bearing on the criminal case? A: No. The DMV administrative hearing and the criminal case are two independent proceedings. The DMV case has no bearing on the criminal DUI case. Q: What if I pled guilty or no contest at my bond hearing? A: You can file a motion to withdraw your plea withdrawn within thirty (30) days of your conviction. Q: What is the difference between a plea of guilty or a plea of no contest? A: The plea of guilty means “Yes, I did it.” The plea of no contest (or nolo contendere) means “I don’t admit to committing the crime, but I don’t deny the charges. Your Honor, you may presume the facts in the arrest report are true.” In a DUI case, there is no difference between the two pleas in terms of your criminal record, your driving record, or the penalties imposed. A plea of guilt or a plea of nolo contendere will both result in a criminal conviction for DUI, and your case will be completed.
Q: What is "blood-alcohol concentration" or "blood-alcohol level"? A: Blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is the level of alcohol in the bloodstream from drinking alcoholic beverages. BAC readings are used in court as evidence in drunk-driving cases. The most common method of measure is a breath test, although blood and/or urine testing is sometimes done. A result of .08 or higher may establish a presumption of intoxication. The details of the .08 BAC presumption laws vary among the states, but all 50 states have adopted .08 as their official intoxication level, in large part because of a federal threat of otherwise withholding highway funds.
Q: Can I refuse to submit to the breath test or blood test? A: Florida has an implied consent law providing that a driver impliedly consents to alcohol testing just by accepting a driver’s license and driving on the roadways of Florida. In Florida, a refusal to take a breath test is itself a criminal violation subject to penalties. For example, refusing a breath test may result in automatic suspension or revocation of the license. If you are convicted of DUI, there may be additional or enhanced penalties because of refusing to submit to the breath or blood test. Your test refusal may also be used as evidence against you in a DUI case.
Q: Are breath-test results always accurate? A: If the state intends to use the breath test results in proving impairment by alcohol or chemical substance, case law and the rules of evidence allow the defendant in a DUI case to challenge the scientific accuracy of breath test instrument, including the software that causes the instrument to work and evaluate the breath sample. Other challenges can be made based on the particular circumstances of a test, such as improperly calibrated equipment or inadequately trained officers. If the test results are inadmissible or can be challenged, the case will probably have to be proven based on other evidence, such as eyewitness testimony and field-sobriety exercise results.
Q: What if I lose my license but continue to drive? A: If a person whose license has been revoked or suspended due to a conviction for DUI chooses to drive without a valid license and is pulled over, he or she stands to suffer more serious consequences, including a greater certainty of serving jail time, more severe fines, forfeiture or extended impoundment of the vehicle, and possibly extension of the license revocation/suspension. The more prudent course of action is to rely on friends and family for rides or use public transportation during a license revocation or suspension.
Q: How can I get automobile insurance after a DUI conviction? A: Although your rates will likely be higher, your insurer may continue to insure you even after a DUI conviction. A subsequent clean-driving record may result in lower rates in the future. If your insurer drops you as a result of the conviction, another insurance company may be willing to accept the risk. In fact, some companies specialize in offering nonstandard insurance to drivers who have been convicted of DUI, but the rates are much higher. Another possible source of insurance for high-risk drivers may be state insurance programs created for just these types of drivers.
Q: What is the punishment for drunk driving? A: DUI convictions in Florida carry serious penalties that never go away. Although courts may go easier on first-time offenders, even first-offense cases include stiff fines and possible jail time as sentences. However, the court may choose less-restrictive options or a combination of options, including probation, diversion programs, community service, alcohol awareness education, abuse counseling, ignition interlock systems, home monitoring, suspension of vehicle registration, vehicle impoundment or in-house alcohol treatment if the circumstances warrant it.
For subsequent DUI offenses, the likelihood of serious jail time or even imprisonment along with heavy fines usually increase and in all cases the loss of driving privileges for extended periods of time is almost certain.
Q: How can I get to work if I cannot drive? A: Many DUI offenders are forced to rely on public transportation or rides from friends, family or co-workers for transportation to and from work during periods of license suspension or revocation. In some states, an offender may be granted a hardship license, sometimes called a limited license or probationary license, allowing him or her to drive just to and from work, school or medical appointments. Some states require an alcohol or drug evaluation as part of the limited license application. If an offender with a hardship license is caught driving outside of its strict limitations, further penalties may be imposed in addition to loss of the hardship license.
Q: What is the best way to beat a drunk-driving charge? A: The best way to avoid being convicted of DUI is to not drive after drinking alcohol or using chemical substances such as marajuana or other illegal drugs. Use a designated driver, call a taxi, call a friend, or don't drink alcohol if you are going to need to drive within a few hours. For some people, even one alcoholic drink or a small amount of a chemical substance can impair their driving abilities. However, if you have been charged with driving under the influence, an experienced DUI defense lawyer can work to improve the outcome of your case.
Q: If I simply intend to plead guilty, why do I need a lawyer? A: Even if you did drive under the influence of alcohol or chemical substances, experienced legal counsel may be able to help minimize your legal problems and maximize your opportunities to move ahead toward a brighter future. A criminal defense attorney helps to equalize the balance of power between the defendant and the prosecution and works to preserve the constitutional rights that are guaranteed to all criminal defendants.
If you are facing a DUI charge, or any other crime, do it right. Contact attorney Paul Courtright. DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.
The Law Office of Paul Courtright, P.A. 465 Maitland Avenue Altamonte Springs, Florida 32701 Tel: (407) 830-8001 Fax: (407) 830-8004 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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