Fort Myers DUI Lawyers
Over 150 Years of Combined Legal Experience
Fort Myers DUI and criminal defense lawyers at Musca Law are highly experienced. Driving Under the Influence is considered a very serious criminal offense in the state of Florida. In Fort Myers if it is a first offense or fourth the penalties can include jail time, fines, and the adverse consequences of having a criminal record.
If a person has been arrested and charged with a DUI in Fort Myers or in the Lee County area, it is important that they consider consulting with an experienced Fort Myers DUI Defense Attorney as soon as possible to understand their legal options.
DUI Lawyers in Fort Myers and Florida Statute 316.193
DUI offenses in Fort Myers are governed by Florida Statutes Section 316.193 which provides the elements of and penalties for a DUI offense. In order to be convicted of DUI in Fort Myers, it must first be established beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was:
- Driving a vehicle or in control of it; and,
- The BAC was .08 percent or more.
What this means is that an individual can be convicted of DUI for just being physically in control of their vehicle and do not necessarily have to be operating it. A person can also be convicted of DUI in Florida if they were driving while impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both.
Types of Alcohol-Related Offenses We Cover
An experienced Fort Myers DUI lawyer can help ensure your rights are protected. When you’re accused of a DUI your driving privileges, personal freedom, future, and reputation are all on the line if you’re charged with any of the following:
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Being convicted of driving under the influence in Florida can carry steep penalties with it which grow significantly more harsh if your BAC is above .15%. However, if you are found to be operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level above .08%, you are considered to be in violation of Florida DUI laws. The penalties for this can include a fine of $500 to $2,000 and can be even more severe if you’re convicted of driving while intoxicated as a minor.
- Vehicular Manslaughter: A vehicular manslaughter charge occurs when someone’s reckless or negligent actions while operating a motor vehicle resulted in the death of another individual. Vehicular homicide is considered a second-degree felony under Florida law, and those convicted may be fifteen years in a Florida State Prison in addition to fines, license suspension, and other consequences.
- DUI Accidents: Driving while intoxicated highly increases the likelihood of a potentially life-threatening accident. However, the penalties for a DUI-related accident vary depending on the severity of the property damages and injuries sustained in the accident. Whereas minor injuries and property damages are considered first-degree felonies with a maximum penalty of one year in county jail, more catastrophic accidents can carry a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.
- Boating DUI: Florida laws governing operating a boat while intoxicated are similar to those governing driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Under Florida law, no one may operate a vessel with a BAC at or above .08%.
- Felony DUI: Felony DUIs can be charged on those with multiple DUIs on their records. If you are convicted of a DUI within ten years of two previous DUI convictions, your third DUI is automatically charged as a felony. Your fourth and subsequent DUIs are also charged as felonies regardless of the time period between DUIs.
- DUI with Prior Convictions: As mentioned previously, prior convictions can have dramatic effects on your next DUI conviction. Depending on the number, severity, and frequency of your past convictions, the severity of the punishment for your most recent conviction can be far worse than it would have been otherwise. Depending on the circumstances of this newest conviction and your previous ones, you may be fined $2,000 to $10,000 and could potentially face a jail sentence of up to five years.
- Implied Consent Law Refusals: When you are arrested for a DUI in Florida, Florida’s implied consent law states that you have automatically provided your consent to have your blood, breath, or urine analyzed to determine your BAC levels. As long as the officer had probable cause to believe you were driving while intoxicated, they have a legal right to administer these tests, and refusing them can lead to over a year of license suspension.
- Administrative Driver’s License Suspension Hearings
Florida Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs)
Under Florida law, an officer is allowed to pull over any driver that they believe under probable cause guidelines to be intoxicated. After pulling someone to the side of the road, the officer may engage in conversation to determine sobriety or, in some cases, may administer a physical test in lieu of or before a breathalyzer. These standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) include:
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: During the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the officer observes the suspect’s eyes while the suspect’s eyes follow the path of a slow moving object. Officers typically use flashlights as it allows them to illuminate and easily monitor the suspect’s face, but any small item is usable. Officers look for certain signs of intoxication while administering the test. These signs include being unable to smoothly follow the object, the suspect involuntary jerking their eye in a movement called nystagmus, and the suspect involuntary jerking their eyes when it’s moved 45 degrees to the right or left.
- The One-Leg Stand Test: This test is designed to measure a suspect’s intoxication levels by their ability to stay balanced and multi-task. The officer begins this test by explaining the instructions to the suspect. After the suspect has heard the instructions while both feet were on the ground and the suspect’s arms were at their side, the suspect then lifts one foot, keeping the bottom of their foot parallel to the floor. They must then begin counting while keeping their attention on their raised foot. The officer will be monitoring their ability to remain balanced and if they swayed, dropped their foot too soon, or used their arms to remain upright.
- The Walk and Turn Test: The walk and turn test is a staple of intoxication testing and is likely the one that first comes to mind when you think of a driver testing someone who may be intoxicated. To administer this test, an officer explains the instructions to the suspect who must then walk nine steps forward in a straight line. Each step must be heel-to-toe, and the suspect must not sway or wobble while walking. After proceeding nine steps forward, the suspect must then turn and walk back to their starting point. If the suspect cannot stay balanced while walking or turning, begins before the officer has instructed them to do so, takes the wrong number of steps, or does not walk heel-to-toe, the officer may have probable cause to determine that the suspect is intoxicated.
DUI Defense Lawyer in Fort Myers Florida
In Fort Myers Florida, a DUI conviction can result in harsh penalties that can include jail sentences and large fines, installation of an ignition interlock device, probation, and community service. These charges can often effect a person’s ability to obtain employment, housing or student loans. The punishment a person can receive for a first-time DUI conviction include:
- Up to $2,000 worth of fines.
- Depending on the circumstances, a jail sentence of up to nine months.
- Community service.
- Suspension of driving privileges.
- A substance abuse class.
- Impoundment of the vehicle for up to ten days.
- Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device on the vehicle for use up to six months.
Second-Offense DUI Penalties in Fort Myers, Florida
A second DUI conviction in less than five years can mean even harsher penalties than those an individual might face for a first-time offense. In Fort Myers, second DUI convictions are still considered misdemeanor offenses.
However, if there are certain aggravating factors present such as a high BAC or a child was in the vehicle at the time of the offense, the accused might face a jail sentence of up to a year and fines of up to $2,000. Some of the other adverse impacts someone might face as a result of a DUI conviction can include probation, a suspended driver’s license, vehicle impoundment, use of an Ignition Interlock Device on the vehicle, and completion of a substance abuse course.
Fort Myers Felony DUI Defense Attorneys
In Fort Myers and anywhere in Florida, a DUI is generally considered a misdemeanor offense. However, it is possible to be charged with a felony DUI even if it is the first offense. Under Florida law, a DUI can be charged as a felony if:
- It is the third DUI in under ten years
- It is the fourth or subsequent DUI;
- Someone was seriously injured as a result of the DUI
- Someone was fatally injured as a result of the DUI.
DUI Defense for Manslaughter in Fort Myers
People convicted of a felony DUI in Fort Myers can face up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine. In addition, if the DUI is classified as DUI manslaughter, they can be charged with a second-degree felony. If convicted of DUI manslaughter in Florida, the penalties a person receives can include up to fifteen years in prison and a hefty fine of up to $10,000.
Leaving the scene of the accident after DUI manslaughter is considered a first-degree felony and if convicted a person can face fines of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to thirty years.
For people who have been charged with a DUI in Fort Myers, whether it is their first offense or their third, it is important that they consider consulting with an experienced Fort Myers DUI Defense Lawyer right away to preserve and protect their legal rights.
Fort Myers Boating Under the Influence Defense Attorneys
Boating Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
Boating Under the Influence or BUI is also considered a serious offense in Fort Myers. Under Section 327.35 of the Florida Statutes, a person can be convicted of BUI if the prosecution can prove that they operated a vessel while impaired or under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two.
The penalties for a first-time BUI conviction can include large fines and up to six months in jail. Like DUI offenses in Fort Myers, BUI conviction penalties grow more severe depending on the circumstances and facts of the case and whether the accused has any prior BUI convictions.
Defenses Against DUI Convictions in Fort Myers
Though each case is different, there are some tried-and-true methods for defending someone accused of a DUI in Fort Myers. While these steps may not apply to your case, they’re useful tools to keep in mind should you ever find yourself charged with a DUI in Florida.
Before a trial is held for a DUI charge, the charge itself can be challenged on constitutional, administrative, or legal grounds. If the challenge is successful, some or all of the state’s evidence can be determined to not be admissible in court and the likelihood of a guilty verdict can be greatly reduced.
Police officers in Florida typically use their gut instinct to determine if they should pull someone over for drinking and driving. After stopping the vehicle, officers often utilize methods that are outdated or inaccurate and can falsely accuse someone of the act. Beyond the potential for human error, the machines used to test a person’s BAC can also be grossly inaccurate, especially if they’re been improperly maintained or stored.
Without their evidence neatly and lawfully compiled, Florida law enforcement may have their entire case dismissed by a judge. By throwing out even one piece of evidence, a skilled Florida legal team may be able to dismantle the state’s entire case and either prohibit it from proceeding or force it into negotiations.
Challenge the Stop
Under Florida law, an officer may only stop you if they:
- Have reasonable suspicion that you are committing a traffic violation, or
- Have probable cause that you’re committing a crime
While this may seem like a broad ability to pull over a driver, it is actually limited in scope and must be proven to prevent the case from being thrown out. If the officer pulled you over illegally, your own sobriety is no longer relevant and the case will likely be thrown out.
Challenge the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
As mentioned above, there are several kinds of SFSTs that an officer may administer to determine if someone was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These tests are not always correctly administered and, even if they are, they may not be proof of intoxication.
For example, many of the tests look at the suspect’s balance but that assumes a uniform level of balancing ability across all those who are tested. It also does not take into consideration physical impairments, injuries, and disabilities like bad knees, ankles, or backs.
Finally, some SFSTs require that the officer is certified prior to administering the test. If the officer is not certified, they cannot accurately measure someone’s intoxication and may have their case thrown out.
Challenge the Breathalyzer
There are several ways a qualified Fort Myers DUI Lawyer can challenge the breathalyzer results to defend someone accused of a DUI. Breathalyzers are not flawless and the officers administering these tests are often incorrect. Some ways your lawyer may be able to challenge the results of the breathalyzer include:
- Exposing mistakes the officer made when administering the test
- Explaining alternative reasons for why the suspect failed the tests
- Demonstrating that the breathalyzer was incorrectly calibrated
- Revealing contamination of the blood or urine samples
- Presenting alternative reasons for a false positive including a low carb diet, GERD, vomiting, or acid reflux disease.
DUI Defense Case Review with a DUI Defense Lawyer
People facing DUI or BUI charges in Fort Myers or in Lee County, Florida, can contact our law offices to discuss the legal matter with one of our experienced Fort Myers DUI Defense Lawyers now.
Our Musca Law has over 150 years of combined criminal defense practice experience handling DUI and BUI cases throughout the state of Florida. For your no-cost case review, contact us at (888) 484-5057 to receive your confidential case evaluation.