Driving Under the Influence Defense (DUI) Lawyers in Collier County, Florida
An Overview of Collier County DUI Offenses, Laws, Penalties, Defenses
DUI convictions have severe and long-lasting impacts on people's lives. Drivers accused of committing a DUI in Collier County will often be frightened and have a great deal of anxiety over what they can or should do to protect themselves and their legal rights.
It is important to note that drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired. Doing so is dangerous and puts the driver and everyone else around them in harm's way. It is also worth noting that drivers often fail to recognize their own level of impairment after consuming alcohol. In many cases, a person may suspect that he or she is perfectly fine to drive, only to discover once it is too late that the alcohol they imbibed was just a bit too much. Of course, a DUI is a horrible thing to have to overcome and deal with in court. However, the consequences of a deadly crash are far worse.
With that being said, drivers who were arrested in Collier County for DUI charges should know that police take these violations very seriously. Sometimes, the efforts to catch drunk drivers and other traffic violators can turn into over-zealous policing. Collier County officers are trained to identify indications of drunk driving behavior, and will likely pursue someone even in the absence of an obvious traffic violation.
These officers need only collect enough evidence to meet the standard of probable cause in order to arrest a driver for DUI in Florida. What this standard means is that a person of reasonable prudence would have to be able to determine that a crime likely occurred. The burden is not particularly difficult to meet. Officers will determine when they have enough evidence to meet the relevant burden, and at that point, the legal process has already begun.
Police will arrest the driver, and he or she will potentially face harsh consequences such as jail time, steep monetary fines, the loss of their license, and the impounding of their vehicle, among others.
Those who are in this situation must understand what is at stake. The only way to deal with such severe allegations is to answer them professionally and with a strong and experienced advocate. The Collier County DUI defense attorneys at Musca Law are prepared to guide you through this process while developing the best legal strategy to defend you in court. One mistake can have life-altering impacts, and in order to minimize those effects, the defendant must reach out for help. No attorney can predict the outcome of a DUI case, but by contacting Musca Law, you can schedule a free consultation with an attorney who knows how to fight DUI charges to give clients another chance. Call us today at 888-484-5057 to learn how our attorneys can help.
Collier County DUI Charges
DUI's are defined under Florida Statutes §316.193. Pursuant to that law, the government must effectively prove three factors in order for the court to convict a suspect of driving under the influence. First, the state must prove that the operator of the vehicle was in control of the automobile. Next, the state must also show that the individual was impaired by a substance, including drugs or alcohol. Finally, the state should establish that the defendant had a blood alcohol content that was at or above the legal limit in Florida, which is .08% alcohol per volume.
Florida's DUI statutes have not always led to clear cut cases. In some instances, DUI's have made it to the appellate court because terms within the statute are not well-defined and could have multiple meanings. For instance, it is not always clear when a person has or does not have their "normal faculties." The state has chosen to interpret the statute broadly. "Vehicle," as the court interprets the term for the purposes of DUI cases, means anything capable of carrying a load or a person. As such, it is not just an automobile where a person can be charged with a DUI for operating. In fact, individuals may face DUI charges when driving a tractor or even riding a bike.
The term "operation" has also proven somewhat lacking in clarity. A person is considered in the operation of a vehicle if he or she has control over that vehicle. The law has been interpreted such that a sleeping individual in the car, while the keys are in the ignition, will be considered to be operating the car and could be charged with a DUI.
The phrase "normal faculties" has been interpreted as meaning any things that a person does during normal day to day life. As such, if the amount of drugs or alcohol in a person's system is enough to make that individual's ability to observe, judge, hear, smell, see, taste, or comprehend anything they would be able to when sober, then they will be considered to have their "normal faculties" impaired, and that individual can face DUI charges and conviction.
When an officer is investigating a person under suspicion of that individual possibly committing a DUI, that officer will observe every aspect of the situation and suspect. The person's driving, speaking, reactions to questions, ability to take out their wallet, and performance on a field sobriety test will all be analyzed and noted on by the police officer who is searching for indications of impairment. Every move the driver makes will be considered carefully.
Most drivers know that the legal limit for a driver's blood-alcohol content is .08 percent. Police will take breathalyzer tests and blood samples to acquire the person's BAC and determine if that level is in violation of the law. Many people do not realize that these tests are far from perfect. Police, therefore, must indicate that the machines used to perform the tests were functioning properly and correctly calibrated at the time in which the test was performed. Officers will also have to indicate that the person performing the test and analyzing the results did not make any errors.
Collier County DUI Penalties
When it comes to DUI convictions, the consequences are severe, often even in the case of a first-time offender. In Collier County, a first-time offender convicted of a DUI may face prison time, fines, probation, the loss of their driver's license, and additional penalties as well.
In Florida, first time DUI offenders can face as much as six months in jail and a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and year-long probation. While on probation, the offender must perform a minimum of 50 hours of community service and attend driver's education courses. In some instances, the judge may also require that the driver undergo drug or alcohol counseling as part of their probation. At a minimum, the judge must suspend a first time DUI convict's license for 180 days. However, §322.28 of the Florida Statutes permits the suspension of a driver's license for one year. The judge will have the ability to determine the length of that term.
In certain situations, even a first-time offender can face additional penalties. Under Florida law, aggravated charges can be filed against a driver in a first time DUI case. Some factors that could lead to such aggravated charges include is the accused had a child in the vehicle who was under eighteen-years-old at the time of the DUI or if the driver had a BAC of .15 percent or more. If aggravated charges apply to a case, the potential penalties are more severe. The suspect could face nine months in prison, and fines of $2,000. In these cases, judges may order that the driver have an ignition interlock device installed in his or her car. Such devices prevent the car from starting if the driver's BAC is elevated. The judge could also order that the motorist's primary vehicle be impounded.
The consequences of a DUI extend beyond the legal penalties imposed by Florida law. A driver convicted of a DUI in Collier County will face a possible spike in his or her car insurance rates, ensuring that the incident has long-lasting financial impacts on the accused. Additional costs could involve reinstatement fees and other charges related to the probation terms. Financially, the results can be devastating.
Drivers who are convicted of multiple DUIs face harsher penalties as well. A second-time offender can serve nine months in jail and faces a $2,000 fine. If that case is aggravated by a child being in the vehicle or because of a BAC of .15 percent or higher, the jail time can be increased to up to one year and a more costly fine. Even in cases where the second DUI is not aggravated, the judge must impose jail time on the offender of at least ten days for cases when the previous conviction was fewer than five years prior to the first conviction. The judge may also choose to revoke that individual's license for a period of up to two years. After the two-year revocation of a driver's license, the driver may still have to have an ignition interlocking device installed in his or her vehicle in order to regain driving privileges. The person's car may also be subject to impounding.
In the event that a driver faces a third DUI, the charges may be a misdemeanor, but they could be upgraded to a felony. If the driver's second conviction was within the same decade as the third arrest, that individual is likely to face felony charges. When a crime is considered a third-degree felony, it can result in a prison term of five years. If more than ten years passed between the second and third DUIs, the driver would likely face misdemeanor charges. In these cases, the crime is defined as a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties must include incarceration for at least 30 days and can include jail time of at most one year.
Once a driver commits a fourth DUI, the crime becomes a third-degree felony regardless of the time between convictions. If convicted, the individual will face at least 30 days in prison and will lose his or her license, potentially for life. There is a process to reinstate such a license.
When DUIs End in Crashes
In the event that a driver is involved in a crash while drunk, the charges can be extremely harsh, even for people with no prior criminal history. In cases where the crash leads to property damages and minor bodily injuries, the driver will likely face first-degree misdemeanor charges. If a person dies or suffers severe bodily injury, then the charges will be a third-degree felony.
In more serious cases, drivers may be charged for DUI manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony in Florida. This crime can result in a fifteen-year prison term. The minimum for such a conviction is a four-year period of incarceration. The driver will lose his or her license for life unless he or she successfully applies for reinstatement. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has a set of conditions that individuals in such circumstances must meet in order to become licensed again.
Administrative License Loss in Collier County
When a driver is arrested for driving under the influence, the officer is required to take that person's license and suspend it immediately. Police will issue a ten-day temporary license. During the ten-day period, the accused has the right to appeal the suspension. At the hearing for the appeal, the driver will be able to contest only the evidence collected by the chemical test. Such challenges could include a statement that the test was not properly administered or whether the officer had the right to perform the test on the suspect.
While winning such an appeal means that the driver's license will be reinstated, the ultimate DUI charges will continue. It is important to have an attorney at these appeals in order to protect your rights and create an effective argument.
In some instances, drivers whose licenses have been revoked can engage in a process with the Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles to have their license reinstated even after a conviction. The court recognizes that the revocation of a license can have devastating consequences for a person's life and livelihood. As such, once a person has met all relevant requirements, the state may permit the individual to obtain a license that has certain restrictions.
Fighting DUI Charges in Collier County
There are various strategies that may be successful for fighting against DUI charges in Collier County. The right approach will depend heavily on the individual facts of the case.
In some situations, the right approach could be to challenge the arrest on constitutional grounds. This could be the right move if the officer's manner of stopping the accused was not appropriate. If successful, this can force the court to suppress evidence that was used to arrest the suspect. This process involves filing a Motion to Suppress. Once filed, the court will understand that the defendant is contesting the officer's actions. In order to make such an argument, the defendant must have a good faith basis. For instance, if the officer's original decision to pull the driver over was baseless, the initial stop could be challenged.
At a motion hearing, the arresting officer will have an opportunity to testify and defend against the allegations that the arrest was not proper. If the court grants the motion, in some cases, this will mean that the state will not have the evidence necessary to try the case, and the charges will be dropped. In other circumstances, the granting of the motion will only weaken the state's claims, but not lead to a complete dismissal. For instance, if the officers took chemical tests in violation of the driver's rights, then the results of the tests may be suppressed, but the state could proceed under a different theory.
It is also possible to plead to a lesser offense. In doing so, offenders who might not have strong cases for trial might be able to reach a more favorable outcome. In other situations, the plea may not be worth taking, and the defendant and his or her counsel may feel that going to trial is the better move.
In a trial, the defendant's attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine any of the state's witnesses and expose inconsistencies in the accusations in order to highlight reasonable doubts as to the suspect's guilt.
Learn and Protect Your Rights Today!
If you are facing DUI charges in Collier County, Florida, you must act quickly to protect your legal rights and your future. Contact Musca Law at 888-484-5057 to discuss your case with an experienced Naples DUI defense lawyer. Our attorneys are ready to advocate on your behalf.