DUI Defense Lawyers in Bay County, Florida
How to Beat a DUI Charge in Florida
Driving under the influence, or DUI, in Bay County, Florida, could be a life-altering event because the consequences of a DUI conviction in Bay County, Florida, are incredibly severe. Not only is a sentence to jail or state prison a real possibility, but the court could order punishments such as large fines, probation, driver’s license revocation, community service, alcohol counseling, driving school, vehicle impoundment, and driving with an ignition interlock device as part of a sentence. Importantly, a DUI conviction never goes away. Instead, it follows every person convicted of DUI for the remainder of their lives, even if that person has a clean criminal record.
The collateral consequences compound the legal ramifications of a DUI conviction in Bay County, Florida. A person convicted of DUI in Bay County, Florida, will face increased car insurance premiums, potential job loss because of license revocation, and other consequences that were unimaginable at the time the individual elected to get behind the wheel after having a drink or taking another intoxicating substance. Moreover, any person who has a professional license could face an administrative hearing and professional discipline because of a DUI arrest in Bay County, Florida.
The incredibly harsh consequences that follow from a DUI arrest and conviction are disproportionately severe when considering the nature of the offense. Drinking alcohol and driving is not unlawful. Drinking and driving turn into a crime when the driver cannot drive safely because of alcohol consumption, or the individual’s blood-or breath-alcohol level (BAL) reaches 0.08%. Until then, no crime has been committed.
Florida’s DUI law differs from most other criminal laws in Florida because of the necessary mental state of the accused to commit the crime. Almost all other crimes in Florida are committed when the person forms the specific intent to commit the act. Conversely, few people, if any, could ever say that they intentionally drove drunk. Usually, people believe they could drive safely but underestimate their ability to drive because of how alcohol affects a person’s judgment and reasoning. In other words, the intent to drive under the influence is never an element of the crime a prosecutor must prove.
A DUI arrest in Bay County, Florida, sets in motion a host of legal procedures that the person arrested cannot control. The entire process will be stress-inducing and full of uncertainty. However, there is one issue over which the person facing Bay County DUI charges can control: legal representation. By dialing 888-484-5057, a person charged with DUI in Bay County can access seasoned, knowledgeable, and dedicated Bay County DUI defense attorneys with Musca Law. Musca Law’s Bay County, Florida, DUI defense attorneys have 24/7 availability to help anyone under arrest for DUI in Bay County.
DUI Laws in Bay County, Florida
A thorough case analysis of a Bay County DUI arrest begins with an in-depth examination of the laws involved. Section 316.193 of the Florida Statutes sets out DUI crimes in Florida and establishes the maximum penalties a person faces, along with any minimum-mandatory sentences.
The state attorney in Bay County has the option to pursue two theories of guilt when prosecuting DUI cases. Both theories obligate the prosecution to prove that the person police charged with DUI was in control of or driving a vehicle. If the accused did not take a breathalyzer or other chemical test, then the prosecution must prove that the accused drove while alcohol-impaired his or her normal faculties. Alternatively, the prosecution could use the chemical test results to prove the accused drove or was in control over a vehicle while the accused had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 grams for every 100 milliliters of blood or a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 grams for every 210 liters of breath.
Under the first prong or legal theory of guilt, the prosecution could prove the person guilty of DUI after consuming alcohol, a chemical substance as defined by Section 877.111 of the Florida Statutes, or a controlled substance as defined by Section 893.03 of the Florida Statutes. However, the prosecution must prove the substance ingested by the person in control over the vehicle, whichever that might be, impaired the person’s normal faculties. Normal faculties, under Section 316.1934(1) of the Florida Statutes, refers to the manner in which people walk, talk, hear, see, understand, reason, and process information such as accurately making decisions or judging distances.
The second prong Florida’s DUI statute refers to proving the accused guilty with chemical evidence obtained through a breathalyzer test, a urine test, or a blood test. The second prong does not obligate the prosecution to prove that the intoxicating substance impaired the operator’s ability to drive. The result, if obtained legally in accordance with proper procedures, is sufficient to prove the person guilty if the jury is persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt.
Penalties for First Offense DUI Conviction in Bay County, Florida
A conviction for any criminal offense could have potentially disastrous consequences. A conviction for a first offense DUI in Bay County, Florida, is no exception. The person who is convicted of a first offense DUI in Bay County could receive a jail sentence, in the county facility, not to exceed six months, a fine of not less than $500.00 but not more than $1,000.00, probation for one year, 50 hours of service in the community to be performed during that year of probation, impound of the motor vehicle used by the person for no longer than ten days, and installation of an interlocking ignition device. Moreover, probation could entail an order to attend alcohol or drug counseling and to complete a driver’s educational program. The court must also enter an order suspending the driver’s license of the person convicted of DUI for no longer than one year but no less than 180 days, according to Section 322.28 of the Florida Statutes. Ordering a suspension of the person’s driver’s license after a conviction is a separate legal issue from the administrative suspension imposed by the police after arrest.
When the police make an arrest for DUI, and the person is capable of providing a chemical sample, the officer must revoke the driver’s license of the accused administratively. The length of the administrative suspension will depend on whether the arrestee elected to take the breathalyzer or other chemical test. The officer will issue a temporary license that is valid for ten days if the person under arrest “failed” or “refused” to take the breathalyzer. However, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the officer must administratively suspend the person’s license for six months for a result of 0.08 or greater. Otherwise, the person’s license must be revoked for one year if the person refuses to take the breathalyzer or other chemical test automatically. A person aggrieved by the officer’s decision has ten days to appeal.
Penalties for Second Offense DUI in Bay County, Florida
A second offense DUI carries more stringent penalties than a first offense DUI conviction. The maximum period of potential jail time increases to nine months incarcerated, a fine of no less than $1,000.00 to no more than $2,000.00. The judge must impose a ten-day minimum-mandatory jail sentence if the first conviction happened within five years, even if the person’s first DUI was in another state. The court-ordered license revocation will be no less than one year.
Along with the increased jail time, other mandatory punishments also increase with a second offense DUI conviction in Bay County, Florida. The judge must enter an impound order as well as order the individual to insert an ignition interlock mechanism for a minimum of two years after the offender has his or her license reinstated.
Many people who vacation in Florida and get arrested for a DUI are shocked and dismayed about the severity of Florida’s DUI penalties, especially when the person has a prior DUI conviction. Fortunately, §316.193 of the Florida Statutes grants jail credit to the offender if he or she entered a rehabilitation facility or program. As a result, Florida law gives people facing DUI charges an opportunity to address any substance misuse issues that could have influenced the decision to drive after drinking.
Penalties for a Third DUI Conviction in Bay County, Florida
In Florida, a person convicted of a third offense DUI could be sentenced to prison or jail, depending upon when the last DUI conviction was entered. A person charged with a third offense DUI would face a third-degree felony charge and up to five years in the Florida prison if the previous conviction happened within the last ten years.
The person under arrest for a third offense DUI in Bay County faces a first-degree misdemeanor charge and one year incarcerated in the county jail if the previous conviction happened outside of the ten-year lookback period. The potential fines increase to $2,000.00 at a minimum to a maximum of $5,000.00. Moreover, the offender must spend at least 30 days in jail or prison after a conviction for a third offense DUI. The court must impound the offender’s vehicle, as well as enter an order of an interlocking device on the ignition after the offender reinstates driving privileges after a ten-year license revocation.
Penalties for a Bay County Fourth or Subsequent DUI Conviction
A fourth or subsequent DUI offense has a lifetime lookback provision. In other words, the prosecution could use any previous DUI conviction at any time in the person’s life, no matter how long ago the convictions occurred. The judge must order a minimum of 30-days incarcerated for any person convicted of a fourth or subsequent offense. However, the judge could sentence the accused up to five years in the state prison for a third-degree felony. Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will revoke the offender’s driver’s license permanently for a fourth offense DUI conviction. The potential exists that the individual could have his or her license reinstated at some time for a limited purpose.
Bay County, Florida, Enhanced DUI Penalties
Law enforcement agencies and the local prosecutors could bring charges that are more serious than a first offense DUI charge if the facts of the case warrant. A first offense DUI could be punished as a second offense DUI conviction if the individual charged had either: 1) a BAL of 0.15 or greater; or 2) the driver had a person in the vehicle who was under eighteen when apprehended and charged with a DUI.
A second offense for an aggravated DUI offense allows the court to impose a more stringent penalty. Upon conviction for a second aggravated DUI offense, the offender faces up to one year in jail and a fine between $2,000.00 and $4,000.00. Any third or subsequent offense alleging aggravated DUI is a third-degree felony, for which the maximum period of incarceration shall not exceed five years.
Any individual involved in a car crash while driving under the influence faces enhanced penal sanctions as well. A collision that causes property damage or a minor injury to any person other than the driver is a first-degree misdemeanor. The maximum incarcerated punishment for a first-degree misdemeanor is one year in jail. The severity of the offense increases to a third-degree felony when a collision results in another person sustaining serious bodily injuries.
DUI manslaughter may be charged when the person alleged to be intoxicated is involved in a crash that kills another. The person alleged to be under the influence does not have to be the sole cause of the crash. Rather, simply contributing in some way will provide sufficient evidence to allow the jury to convict the driver for DUI manslaughter. The prosecution remains obliged to prove all of the elements of the offense, including the elements referring to DUI, beyond a reasonable doubt.
DUI manslaughter carries the potential of a fifteen-year state prison sentence as a second-degree felony. Although the judge could take into consideration the lack of criminal history of the accused when fashioning a sentence, the judge shall impose a term of incarceration that is at least four years. However, the criminal procedure guidelines in Florida suggest a prison sentence around ten years for DUI manslaughter. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will revoke the driver’s license of any person convicted of DUI manslaughter permanently.
Obtaining a Temporary Driver’s License After Revocation for DUI in Bay County, Florida
Florida law, under the supervision of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, allows individuals to apply for business or employment reinstatement of a driver’s license after administrative revocation for driving with an excessive alcohol level or refusing a chemical test. Sometimes people refer to a business or employment license as a “Cinderella” or “hardship license.”
The Department will consider an application for business or employment reinstatement only after the person enrolls in an approved DUI educational program or school and waits the prescribed period before applying. Anyone who submitted to a chemical test and yielded results of 0.08 BAC or greater must wait 30 days before applying. The individual who refused to submit to a chemical test shall wait 90 days before applying. Florida law prohibits the Department from issuing business or employment licenses for a second or subsequent refusal to submit to a chemical test.
The person convicted of DUI could apply for reinstatement of a driver’s license, even after being convicted of subsequent DUI offenses. The person convicted of a first offense DUI could apply for post-conviction reinstatement after completing the mandatory DUI educational program. The person convicted of a first offense DUI with a BAL of 0.15 or greater must install, at his or her expense, an ignition interlock device for six months. Subsequent convictions require more stringent terms of reinstatement. For instance, a person convicted of a second offense DUI must serve a full one year of license revocation before applying for reinstatement. Also, the person must install an ignition interlock for one to two years if the person had a BAL of 0.15. Moreover, the person must complete the DUI educational requirements and remain in DUI supervision. Reinstatement of a driver’s license after a third-offense charged as a felony has similar requirements as a second offense, except that the person convicted of a third offense DUI must serve two years of license revocation out of ten before applying for reinstatement.
DUI Defenses in Bay County, Florida
A thorough examination of the case facts may reveal several defenses to the charges. No one defense fits every case. However, defenses may be categorized as pre-trial and trial defense strategies.
Pre-trial defense strategies include attacking the constitutionality of the officer’s actions. No officer could stop a car except when the officer has a good reason to believe the driver committed an offense. Failure to articulate the reason for the stop could permit the judge to suppress all of the evidence that comes from the car stop, which could ultimately lead to a dismissal. Similarly, the judge could exclude any statements the accused made to the police in violation of the Miranda warnings or the accused’s Due Process rights.
Trial defenses include attacking the witness’ credibility to show the jury that the officer or civilian witnesses were mistaken, lying, or both. Attacking the field sobriety tests to show how biased they are, how unscientific they are, and show that the officer did not understand the significance of the field sobriety tests or demonstrating that the officer rushed to judgment is an effective strategy to defend a DUI case.
Attacking scientific evidence is a viable defense as well. The defense could show the jury that test results were unreliable because the blood was drawn incorrectly, or the breathalyzer did not correctly work could cast doubt on the results obtained by those tests. Many other defenses, such as the “wheel defense,” where the defense highlights the lack of evidence the prosecution could offer to prove who was driving or controlling the vehicle when police intervened, could also prove to be phenomenally successful in the proper circumstances.
Musca Law: The Relentless Pursuit of Justice for People Charged with DUI in Bay County, Florida
Aggressive, intelligent, and experienced Panama City defense attorneys from Musca Law are ready to take your call. Contact Musca Law today at 888-484-5057 to speak with your Bay County DUI defense 24/7. Calling now could increase the odds that you could avoid incarceration and the other consequences that accompany a DUI conviction in Bay County, Florida.