State DUI Laws

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Florida DUI Laws

Got a DUI in Florida? Here is what you need to know about Florida DUI laws.

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From the second you start interacting with an Officer, s/he is noting everything you say and do to use as evidence in their case against you.

  • Stay in your car and leave your seatbelt on unless the Officer asks you to step out.
  • Provide identification.
    • Note: How easily you find your driver’s license, registration and insurance will be noted on the Officer’s report.
  • You are allowed to politely refuse to take field sobriety tests (FSTs).
    • When you do field tests, you are giving evidence that can be used against you.
    • There is no law requiring you to do these tests.
    • Some officers will tell you they will take you to jail if you don’t do the tests, but the officer is going to take you to jail anyway.
  • If asked to take a post-arrest Chemical Test (breath, blood or urine test) you should do so, but request a private consult with an attorney before taking one.
    • When your driver’s license was issued, you agreed to take such a test if ever pulled over as stated under the Implied Consent Law. Refusal to submit to the Chemical Testing is an automatic license suspension, a fine and possible prison time depending on the number of DUIs you have gotten in the past.
  • You do not have to give consent for a Police Officer to search your car. They can generally only search without consent unless they have probable cause to believe there is contraband or drugs in the car, a warrant is obtained or someone in the car is arrested.
    • Remember your words can be used against you in the case.
    • If the Officer has enough reason to search the car, they will secure a warrant.
    • Usually, the search question is veiled and phrased like:

You don’t have a problem with me looking in your car?

You don’t mind if I look in your car, do you?

I’m just going to take a quick look inside, okay?

  • You can politely refuse to answer questions.
    • Usually, the officer will ask you a few questions about what you’ve had to drink.
      • A simple response of “I can only answer your questions on the advice of my attorney” can go a long way in the outcome of your case.
      • You don’t have to call an attorney right then. That simple statement effectively stops any questioning by invoking your constitutional rights.
      • Even when the officer reads Miranda rights to you, the answer should be the same.
  • After you are placed under arrest you will likely be taken to county jail or a testing site and then be offered a chemical test. After completing the test, the officer may give you a form asking whether you want to preserve a sample of your test or waive a sample. Always ask that a sample be preserved.
  • As soon as the police have taken their tests, immediately make a clear request for the opportunity to obtain an independent blood draw.
    • Your attorney can explain the benefits of this simple request, as they can be huge!
  • It is not required by law to have an attorney for your case, but if you don’t have one, there is little to no chance you will have your charges reduced or waived. Judges have little patience for self-represented defendants.
  • Consult with a few private attorneys to see what the best strategy for you is.
    • There is no cost to do this and will provide insight to your options
    • A public defender may be able to help, but their efforts will be limited to the criminal side of the case and will be unable to assist you with the DHSMV actions that occur concurrent with the DUI.
      • For most people, the loss of their license is the biggest problem that arises as a result of their DUI.
  • Request for a copy of your police report at the HQ of the department that was involved in your arrest.
    • This is not mandatory, but you will be able to have more fruitful consultations with attorneys in developing your defense strategy.

Administrative License Hearings – DHSMV

  • If this is your first DUI, you can request a Waiver Review Hearing at the DHSMV within 10 days of being arrested for your DUI to apply for a hardship (restricted) driver’s license.
    • To request this review, you will need to pay $25 and show proof of DUI school enrollment.
    • Keep in mind that if you request this review and receive immediate reinstatement, you will waive any right to contest your license suspension.
    • This is a strict timeline and a request for this hearing will not be accepted after the 10-day period.
  • You can also request a Formal Administrative Review Hearing as another option. This hearing is held to contest the suspension of your driver’s license at the DHSMV and must be requested within 10 days of being arrested of your DUI to help avoid losing your license automatically.
    • Requesting this hearing can give you the opportunity to receive a 42-day restricted permit to drive for business purposes.
    • Even if you think you will lose, requesting this hearing is very important for your attorney to gather more information about your case.

Criminal Court Hearings

  • First Appearance: If you did not post bail, the First Appearance is held in jail within 24 hours of getting arrested for a DUI. The judge will inform you of your charges, your right to hire an attorney and review the police report for your case to determine whether there is probable cause.
  • Arraignment: This is a formal hearing in which you are informed of your charges and then must enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest.
    • If you plead not guilty, you will move on to the Preliminary Hearing or Pretrial Conference.
  • Preliminary Hearing: This is a hearing that occurs prior to formal charges being filed. There are two classifications of preliminary hearings and they are adversarial hearings and bond hearings.
  • Adversarial Hearing: Adversarial hearings are for felony cases only and their purpose is to force the witnesses against you to show up and state under oath why they think you should be charged. Your attorney may request this hearing to obtain valuable information prior to the State’s filing.
  • Bond Hearing: If you could not afford to post bail, your attorney may ask for a bond hearing to present to a judge why your bond should be lowered and set at a certain amount. However, if you have a prior record or multiple charges, your bond may increase or get revoked.
    • Common factors considered at bond hearings are:
      • Prior record
      • Severity of crime
      • Whether you are employed
      • Whether you own or rent a home
  • Pre-Trial & Pre-Trial Motions: Many motions occur once information about the case is filed. These motions are designed to reveal all the evidence that can be used against you in court and to put you in the best position possible for trial.
    • Three most common categories for Pre-Trial Motions:
      • Demand for Discovery: Process where your attorney receives copies of all the evidence that can be used against you.
      • Pre-Trial Conference: This is a court date that happens once attorneys obtain discovery, where motions are filed, deadlines are set and trial date is determined. Sometimes, a plea is entered at this stage if the defendant no longer wishes to continue to trial.
      • Pre-Trial Motions: Pre-Trial motions occur prior to trial and through them, many cases are either won or lost.
  • Trial: At the Trial, a jury will determine if you are guilty or innocent.
    • First the state and the defendant will select the jury.
    • Next are the opening statements, presentation of any witnesses, and then the closing arguments.
    • Afterward, the jury is retired to a private room to deliberate.
    • Everyone in the jury must agree you are guilty before a conviction can take place.
  • Studies show if you complete your DUI penalties you only have an 8% likelihood of getting another DUI but you don’t complete them you have a 28% likelihood of getting another DUI.
    • You are 3.5 times less likely to get another DUI by completing your penalties.
  • Getting through your penalties is no easy task and requires more understanding than most people have about DUIs and penalties.
  • These penalties are not created to be effortless or painless but knowing the who, what, when and whys will make your process getting through the penalties much better.
  • With your DUI, you will find timing is everything.
    • Starting a penalty too early or too late will cause issues and cost you valuable time and money.
    • Selecting the right providers for you will reduce these mishaps.
  • The systems administering the various penalties come from different governing bodies and they don’t always align properly and often don’t make sense.
  • It is no secret DUIs are complicated, each one a little different than the other.