DUI Defense Lawyers in Flagler County, Florida
How to Beat a Florida Driving Under the Influence Criminal Charge
Driving under the influence (DUI) charges in Flagler County, Florida, could have massive repercussions on a person’s life. The possibility of jail time, fines, lengthy probation with numerous conditions like driving school, alcohol abuse counseling, along with license renovation, vehicle impoundment, and driving with an interlock device would severely disrupt the lives of most people stopped for DUI in Flagler County, Florida.
Most people recognize that running afoul of the criminal law jeopardizes personal freedom. However, many folks are unaware of a DUI charge’s indirect or collateral consequences in Flagler County, Florida. Losing a driver’s license for an extended amount of time could result in job loss or having increased trouble finding suitable employment, losing out on educational opportunities or job opportunities because of a conviction or DUI in one’s personal history, increased insurance rates, and other unforeseen consequences.
One of the most significant consequences that people do not realize until it is too late is that DUI offenses never go away. Previous DUI offenses that do not result in dismissals or acquittals could be used by the prosecution later on to increase the possible sentence a judge could levy in a Flagler County, Florida, DUI case.
The consequences of a DUI conviction are real and long-lasting. The average person would never get behind the wheel if they knew the problems they would encounter after having a few too many and driving. Therein lies the inherent injustice of Florida’s DUI law. Few people from the guilty intent to drive drunk. Consuming alcohol and driving is not a crime unless the person’s ability to drive is impaired by alcohol or the driver’s blood alcohol content reaches 0.08. Most often, individuals misjudge the effect alcohol has on his or her ability to exercise sound judgment, react to emergencies, judge distances and speed accurately, process information, hear, see, and perform all of the function necessary to drive safely, and they get into the car believing that it is safe to drive.
An arrest for DUI in Flagler County, Florida, triggers certain complicated legal processes and constitutional rights. Therefore, an experienced Flagler County DUI Defense Lawyer will be able to counsel the person accused of DUI as to the best defenses to argue and develop a strategy that avoids a conviction altogether or mitigates the fallout from a DUI arrest in Flagler County, Florida. Musca Law’s Flagler County DUI Defense Attorneys are available 24/7 to protect your rights. Call Musca Law right now at (888) 484-5057 to speak with a Flagler County DUI Defense Lawyer with tremendous experience and a track record of success.
Florida DUI Statute and Laws
Florida’s DUI law, Florida Statutes §316.193, is a comprehensive legal scheme that establishes the elements of all DUI crimes and the possible penalties a person convicted of that crime could face. The statute sets forth the elements of DUI and then discusses aggravating factors that allow prosecutors in Flagler County to seek stricter penalties, and may call for minimum-mandatory sentences depending upon the charges alleged by the state attorney’s office.
At the outset, a person violates Florida’s DUI statute if he or she has control over a vehicle and is either: 1) driving in a manner that proves his or her “normal faculties” are impaired by alcohol, drugs as defined in Florida Statutes §877.111and §893.03, or a combination of drugs and alcohol, or 2) the blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level of the person under arrest is 0.08. The test result of 0.08, as measured by 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath, is commonly called the “legal limit.” The prosecution could elect to pursue one or both legal theories to convict the accused of DUI. However, when pursuing the “legal limit theory” of guilt, the prosecution could rely solely on the scientific test results from either a blood, urine, or breath test to prove the case without admitting that the accused was drunk. Consequently, the 0.08 level is also known as the per se law, meaning that the person is guilty of having an elevated alcohol level even if the person’s normal faculties were not impaired.
Section 316.1934(1) of the Florida Statutes describes what the legislature meant by the phrase “normal faculties.” In essence, normal faculties are those bodily functions that are common to everyone, or almost everyone, such as walking, talking, making sound decisions based on logical, appreciating the speed of a vehicle, judging distances accurately, reason, and process information logically. Alcohol and drug consumption interfere with a person’s normal faculties and diminish the person’s ability to drive a vehicle safely.
The state’s prosecutors will use evidence of the manner in which the operator drove the vehicle, the person’s speech pattern, the performance of field sobriety tests, and the ability to understand and perform easy tasks such as locating the vehicle’s proof of insurance, for example. The evidence will also likely include the officer testifying to the scent of an alcoholic beverage coming from the vehicle and described the person’s speech as slow or “think-tongued.” The prosecutors will argue that all of the evidence proves the driver is guilty of DUI.
First Offense DUI Penalties in Flagler County, Florida
A first DUI offense in Flagler County is a misdemeanor. Any person convicted of the charge could face up to six months in the county jail, a fine ranging from $500.00 to $1,000.00, one year of supervised probation, 50 hours of community service, vehicle impoundment for up to ten days, and mandatory use of an ignition interlocking device. The person’s probation could also incorporate special terms of probation, such as alcohol counseling and successful completion of a driver’s educational program.
While the sanctions for a first offense DUI to be imposed by the court are substantial, there are other consequences as well. The judge must revoke the driver’s license of the accused for at least 180 days, up to one year, according to Florida Statutes §322.28. The driver’s license revocation imposed after a guilty finding is in addition to the administrative suspension the arresting officer invoked for either failing a breathalyzer or other chemical test or refusing a chemical test.
The arresting law enforcement officer enjoys little discretion when deciding to revoke the arrestee’s driver’s license. According to Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the investigating officer must issue a ten-day temporary license and suspend the driver’s license for six months of anyone under arrest for DUI who gives a blood-alcohol level or a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or above. The officer must revoke the driver’s license for one year for any person who refuses the breathalyzer or other chemical test. The person aggrieved by the officer’s decision has the right to appeal the administrative license revocation within ten days.
Second Offense DUI Penalties in Flagler County, Florida
The possible sentence, along with minimum sanctions, increases with each subsequent DUI offense under Florida law. The person guilty of a second offense DUI is subject to nine months of jail time, a fine between $1,000.00 and $2,000.00, and one-year mandatory license loss (in addition to any administrative suspension). Moreover, a judge must sentence the person to ten days in jail at a minimum, if the second offense occurs with the preceding five years of the person’s first offense.
Other sanctions increase with the second offense DUI in Flagler County. The judge must order the offender’s primary vehicle impounded and order the offender to use an ignition interlocking system for a minimum of two years once the person’s driver’s license has been reinstated.
People who visit Florida get arrested for DUI in Flagler County are often concerned about the severe penalties for a second offense DUI, especially when their first offense occurred in another state. Florida’s DUI statute allows prosecutors to use out-of-state DUI convictions as grounds to charge a subsequent offense DUI.
Florida’s DUI statute allows judges to consider the offender’s efforts to seek help with an alcohol or drug addiction. Section 316.193 permits the court to grant credit toward jail time for every day the individual spent in rehab after arrest but before conviction.
Third Offense DUI Penalties in Flagler County, Florida
A third offense DUI could be a first-degree misdemeanor or a third-degree felony. The distinction lies in the proximity of the last conviction. Suppose the person’s last DUI conviction was within the previous ten years. In that case, the offense is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in Florida’s state prison. But, if the previous conviction falls outside of the ten-year lookback window, then the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor, and the person could receive a committed sentence up to one year in the county jail, with the possibility of a 30-day minimum jail sentence. The potential fines increase to a sum between $2,500.00 and $5,000.00, and the judge will impound the offender’s car. Furthermore, the judge will order the use of an ignition interlocking device to be used after a ten-year license suspension.
Fourth or Subsequent Offense DUI Penalties in Flagler County, Florida
Fourth and subsequent offenses have no cutoff or lookback provision. Instead, any DUI offense within the offender’s lifetime could be used as a previous offense. The offender is subject to a five-year state prison sentence for a third-degree felony if convicted, and 30 days must be served in jail or prison, at a minimum. Moreover, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will revoke the four-time offender’s license permanently, with the potential for reinstatement for business or employment use.
Penalties for Flagler County, Florida, Enhanced DUI Charges
Prosecutors will use all of the tools at their disposal to bring the most serious charges possible against the offender charged with DUI crimes in Flagler County, Florida. A person could face up to nine months in jail and a fine between $1,000.00 and $2,000.00 for driving with a blood- or breath-alcohol level of 0.15 or greater or driving under the influence with a person under eighteen in the vehicle. The maximum penalties could be imposed by the court, even if the person was never charged before. The penalties increase to a first-degree misdemeanor if the person is caught driving with a 0.15 blood- or breath-alcohol level or with a minor in the car a second time.
Motor vehicle collisions involving a drunk driver subject the accused to enhanced penalties as well. Suppose the person driving under the influence causes or contributes to a crash that causes only property damage or a minor personal injury. In that circumstance, the person is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor and could receive a jail sentence of up to one year. As reflected in the severity of the alleged victim’s injuries, the severity of the offense increases to a third-degree felony if the crash’s alleged victim suffers serious personal injuries. The DUI offender could be sentenced up to five years in prison for a third-degree felony.
The most serious DUI charges involve the death of another person. DUI manslaughter carries a potential fifteen-year prison sentence as a second-degree felony. Moreover, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will revoke the offender’s license permanently. The person accused of DUI manslaughter need not be the sole cause of the crash. Instead, the statute only requires the individual to be a contributing cause of the crash.
The statute requires the person convicted of DUI manslaughter to serve at least four years in state prison as a minimum-mandatory sentence, even if the accused has no criminal record. The judge must also follow the state’s criminal sentencing scoresheet when configuring an appropriate sentence, which calls for over ten years to be served for DUI manslaughter in most cases. The judge could find certain factors mitigate the guilt of the accused and reduce the sentence, but the judge has no authority to sentence an offender to any term for less than four years.
Temporary Driver’s Licenses After DUI Revocation in Flagler County, Florida
Driving is a way of modern life today. Fines and costs associated with DUI charges are high, and the offender must continue to work so he or she could pay the fines and associated costs timely. Notwithstanding, the state makes it nearly impossible to do so by ordering the revocation of the DUI offender’s license for long stretches depending on the nature of the crime alleged. As a result, the state offers people an opportunity to only earn license reinstatement for employment or business purposes. The state does not recognize so-called “hardship licenses.”
The person seeking reinstatement of their driver’s license must complete driver’s education classes, provide proof of enrollment, and wait the designated amount of time to apply for limited license reinstatement. The amount of time a person must wait to apply will depend on the severity of the charge for which the person was convicted if the person is asking for post-trial reinstatement, or whether the person failed a chemical test or refused a chemical test. The person must remain under the continued supervision of the probation department when driving on a reinstated license. Additionally, the person must comply with the court’s vehicle impound orders and install an ignition interlocking device as well.
Common DUI Defenses
Defending a DUI case in Flagler County, Florida, will hinge on numerous factors. The most successful defenses will focus on the police investigation and criticize the conclusions drawn by law enforcement officers when investigating the incident.
Viable defense strategies are characterized as either pre-trial or trial defenses. By filing pre-trial motions to suppress and dismiss, the defense could challenge the police’s lawful authority and the constitutionality of their conduct. For instance, the police cannot pull a person over without reasonable suspicion to do so. The evidence required to satisfy the reasonable suspicion standard is not rigorous. All the offices need to do is accumulate evidence that is more than a mere hunch that a crime, including a motor vehicle offense that is non-arrestable, was committed by the driver.
Even though the standard is not high, the police sometimes pull people over based on a hunch or other more nefarious reasons. A well-drafted and argued motion to suppress could convince a judge to dismiss the case because the evidence is legally insufficient to uphold or sustain the police’s allegations. Additionally, suppose the police violated the accused’s rights. In that case, the judge shall order all evidence to be suppressed that follows after the constitutional violation. The prosecution is left with scant evidence and cannot proceed to trial in good faith in most cases.
Trial defenses take on a slightly different character. Trial defenses cast doubt in the minds of the jurors that the accused was under the influence. By arguing that the officer rushed to judgment about the person’s sobriety, gave the field sobriety tests incorrectly, administrated the breathalyzer test wrong, or that the chemical tests cannot be trusted due to errors, the accused could demonstrate that the state’s evidence is untrustworthy and cannot be relied upon by the jury to convict the accused of DUI.
Another common defense, which is raised at times in cases involving accidents, is the so-called “wheel defense.” The wheel defense argues to the jury that the state fails to provide enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was driving the suspect vehicle when the crash occurred. The prosecution must prove operation or control over the vehicle beyond a reasonable doubt to win a conviction. Failing to prove the accused was driving or had control over the vehicle is a fatal flaw in the government’s case and requires the jury to return a not guilty verdict.
Justice for People Facing DUI Charges in Flagler County, Florida
A person facing DUI charges in Flagler County, Florida, could find themselves in a precarious situation. Taking a wait-and-see approach to defending a DUI charge in Flagler County is a dangerous proposition. Waiting too long before deciding to speak with counsel could endanger your future. Do not hesitate. Protect your constitutional rights and your future today by calling 1-888-484-5057 to discuss your defenses to a Flagler County, Florida, DUI arrest with Musca Law.