Miami Florida has harsh DUI penalties, meaning that a DUI conviction can have a serious negative impact on your life. If you’re convicted of a DUI in Florida, you could face a suspension of your driver’s license, monetary fines, and in serious cases, jail time. Hiring an experienced first DUI attorney can help you preserve your future & your rights.
A competent Miami DUI attorney can mean the difference between having your charges mitigated/dropped altogether and having a DUI conviction that will follow you around for the rest of your life. A DUI lawyer can help you navigate the legal landscape to resist the prosecution’s charges and get you the best possible outcome of your case.
Florida DUI Legal Definition
The legal definition of a DUI in Florida and Miami can be found in Section 316.193 of the Florida Statutes.
According to the law, one can be charged and convicted of a DUI if the following three claims can be established without a reasonable doubt
- That a person was driving a vehicle OR
- That a person was in physical control of a vehicle, AND
- The person had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level above .08 or their faculties were impaired by drug use or a mixture of drugs and alcohol
Florida also has open container laws that specify that a person may not operate a motor vehicle while an open alcohol container is in the car, even if they were not drinking and their BAC is below the legal limit.
It is important to realize that you can be charged with a DUI in Florida even if you were not actually driving the vehicle. The law states that a person must only be shown to be in physical control of the vehicle. This means that you can get charged with a DUI if you are sleeping in your car and the keys are near the ignition, or you are sitting in a car with the engine on but not actually driving anywhere. You can also be charged with a DUI based on your position in the car (e.g. in the driver’s seat vs the passenger’s seat).
In addition to DUI laws, Florida also has laws regarding boating under the influence (BUI). A BUI can be brought it is determined beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was operating or in physical control of a marine vessel while their BAC was over the legal limit or their faculties were impaired by drug use or a combination of alcohol and drugs.
Florida law defines a DUI in terms of impairments. Impairments considered under this definition include the ability to walk, speak, hear, motor control, and more. If you are pulled over on the suspicion of driving while under the influence, you may be required to take a field test to determine your sobriety, after which you may be required to take a breathalyzer to determine your BAC.
Implied Consent Laws
Florida DUI legislation operates on what is known as “implied consent” laws. According to these laws, in the state of Florida, if a person willingly accepts the privilege of operating a motor vehicle, then they have given tacit consent to be stopped and subjected to a blood-alcohol content test. Thus, if you are driving a car and are pulled over, you are required to submit to a breathalyzer exam if requested by the police. If you refuse to submit to such an exam, then you could face harsh civil penalties, such as the suspension of your license for a period of 6 months for your first refusal, and up to a year for your second refusal.
It is important to realize that these administrative penalties are not criminal charges. They are civil charges. If you are granted a notice of suspension for refusing to take a blood-alcohol content test, then you have 10 days to challenge the request. If you have received such a notice, then it is important that you get in contact with a qualified DUI attorney to determine your legal options within 10 days.
First Time Criminal Offense
In general, Florida law assigns different punishments for a DUI based on previous records of offense. A first time DUI conviction is generally considered a misdemeanor, though extenuating circumstances can elevate a first-time offense to a felony charge.
A first-time DUI conviction can still result in harsh criminal penalties. Punishments for a first-time DUI can include any of the following:
- Up to 6 months of prison time
- A monetary fine up to but not exceeding $2,000
- Suspension of your license
- Impoundment of your vehicle for up to 10 days
- Mandatory community service
- Mandatory substance abuse course
- The installation of an Ignition Interlock Device for up to 6 months
As you can see, even a first-time DUI conviction can have severe legal and financial repercussions.
DUIs are usually considered misdemeanors, though certain factors can elevate your charge to a felony. If someone was seriously injured or killed due to you driving under the influence, then even a first-time offense can result in a felony charge and carry up to 15 years in prison or a $10,000 fine. If a person commits DUI manslaughter and leaves the scene, then they can be charged with a DUI felony and face up to 30 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.
Second-time DUI offenses are also generally considered misdemeanor charges. If you are convicted of a second-time DUI misdemeanor, you could face up to a year of jail time and a fine up to but not exceeding $2,000. A DUI charge is considered a second-time offense if it occurs within 5 years of being convicted of a previous DUI. Other penalties can include license suspension, mandatory substance abuse courses, and the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device.
Felony DUI Offense
A third-offense DUI is considered a felony charge and carries harsher penalties. A third-time DUI conviction can carry up to 5 years in prison and a monetary fine totaling up to $5,000. A DUI conviction is considered a third offense if it occurs within 10 years of a second-time offense.
DUI manslaughter is also considered a DUI felony and can carry up to 15 years in prison. If a person commits DUI manslaughter and leaves the acne they can get up to 30 years in prison.
How Can a Miami DUI Attorney Help?
Most people do not realize that obtaining the services of a local attorney can help with their DUI case. A competent local attorney not only has a thorough knowledge of the laws and status surrounding DUI cases but also has a relationship with the prosecution, judges, and other legal entities. Thus, a local attorney can provide a certain kind of expertise that a non-local attorney cannot provide. This localized expertise can be a great benefit to getting the best result out of your DUI case.
More generally, a DUI attorney can help either mitigate your criminal charges or, in some cases, get them dropped entirely. Some legal strategies an attorney can take to help reduce charges include:
- Determining if your rights were violated when you were initially pulled over and arrested
- Determining if the field sobriety test was administered with errors
- Providing an alternative explanation for why you appeared intoxicated
- Determining if any errors were made in the handling of forensic evidence
- Working with the prosecution on a plea deal that could drop your charges down and bargain for a lesser punishment
- Object to recollection and testimony from law enforcement officials that were present at the scene
A DUI is a serious criminal charge that can have a serious impact on your life. That is why it is important to have a qualified DUI attorney on your side. Being arrested for a DUI is a stressful and scary experience, and it can feel like your back is against the wall and no one is on your side. In the US, you have specific rights enshrined in the constitution regarding the criminal charging and conviction process. A DUI attorney can help you navigate this legal landscape to make sure that your rights are being protected to the fullest extent of the law.
At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., we understand the importance of having a qualified team of experts on your side. That is why we devote ourselves to giving our clients the best representation possible. With our skills and expertise, you could have your DUI charges dropped down or, in some cases, dismissed entirely if it can be determined that your rights were violated somewhere along the legal process or that you are being wrongfully charged.
If you are currently facing a DUI charge, consider calling our law offices at (754) 755-8554. We can examine the facts of your case and help you put together the best possible criminal defense.