DUI Defense Lawyers in Manatee County, Florida
Manatee County DUI Charges, Penalities and Example Defenses
Facing driving under the influence charges, or DUI, in Manatee County, Florida, is associated with serious repercussions. It is important to understand that in most instances, the individual who chooses to get behind the wheel after having had a few drinks does not have the manifest purpose of driving while intoxicated. In fact, drivers who are intoxicated often feel like they have the ability to safely operate a vehicle without realizing how impaired they really are; they do not intentionally lose control of their vehicle. Notwithstanding, people who drive while impaired risk causing serious bodily injury or killing themselves or others.
Manatee County law enforcement take DUI cases very seriously, as they seek to remove impaired drivers from the road. In fact, Manatee County law enforcement agents look for ways to pull an individual over to enforce Florida’s DUI laws. Said agents are trained to identify those who are operating a vehicle under the influence and placing them under arrest, even without the existence of sufficient evidence to demonstrate that a criminal offense has been committed. Specifically, law enforcement officers need only to gather enough evidence to satisfy a low burden of proof, which is probable cause. Once probable cause has been established, police can arrest the alleged offender, which, if a conviction is secured, may result in jail time, harsh monetary fines, the loss of one’s license, probation, the installation of an ignition interlock device, the impoundment of one’s vehicle, and increased automobile insurance premiums. Accordingly, the best way to ensure that your DUI-related charge does not wreak havoc on your life is the seek the assistance of an experienced Manatee County DUI Defense Attorney, who will fight hard for your legal rights and develop the strongest defense strategy possible.
At Musca Law, our skilled Manatee County DUI Defense Lawyers have the dedication and skills necessary to help you avoid the consequences that a DUI conviction can have on your life. We understand that many people make the mistake of driving while impaired however, we believe that it shouldn’t amount to ruining your life. As such, we fight tirelessly to develop the strongest defense strategy allowable by Florida law. While we cannot guarantee results, we do know that having an experienced attorney by your side increases the odds that you will have a favorable outcome in your case. Call Musca Law at 888-484-5057 to learn how we could help you mount a winning defense for your Manatee County DUI charge.
Manatee County DUI Charges
Under Florida Statutes §316.193, the prosecution must prove two at least elements in order to secure a conviction for DUI. Pursuant to the Florida DUI Jury Instructions, the prosecution must establish that (i) the operator of a vehicle had control over it, (ii) while impaired by alcohol, chemical substances, as enumerated in Florida Statutes §877.111, or illicit drugs, as provided in Florida Statutes Chapter 893, to the extent that the person’s normal faculties were impaired, or 3) had a blood-alcohol level (BAL) of 0.08 grams for every 100-milliliter sample of blood or for every 210 liters of breath.
Florida’s DUI laws are not always clear, and decisions from Florida cases have shed some light on vague terms such as normal faculties, operation, and vehicle. The definition of vehicle under Florida law is any device capable of pulling a load or carrying a person is a vehicle unless the device is a mobile carrier or rail car. Hence, devices range from bicycles, farm tractors, and sports cars.
Operation is also broadly defined. Pursuant to §316.193, operation means to physically steer or drive a vehicle. It also means to exercise control over the vehicle. Therefore, a person could be asleep at the wheel with the keys in the ignition to satisfy this definition.
Normal faculties are also not clear. As defined in Florida jury instructions, normal faculties mean the actions that people need to take on a daily basis to live. This includes actions such as seeing, observing, making judgments, hearing, smelling, understanding, tasking, and comprehending all fall within the purview of normal functions. Hence, a person who consumes drugs or alcohol, or both, to excess affects a person’s normal functions, which, if proven, can result in a DUI conviction.
When an officer pulls over a person suspected of impairment, he or she will take note of how the driver speaks, reacts to the officer, performs simple tasks like pulling a driver’s license out of one’s purse, performs field sobriety tests, and gets out of his or her vehicle. Therefore, the officer is observing every move a driver makes in order to gather enough evidence that the individual is impaired.
Under Florida law, it provides for the definition of intoxication. The legal limit is 0.08%, as measured by a blood or breathalyzer test. Even if a driver blows a breathalyzer test at the legal limit or above, that does not mean that the individual will be convicted of DUI. It is important to note that the machines used by the officer are not infallible. Specifically, the prosecution must establish that the machines used to examine chemical samples were properly functioning at the time the samples were taken, the human interpreted the samples correctly, and the human operating the machine made no errors.
An experienced Manatee County DUI Defense Attorney will a stellar reputation of success can help to take you through the legal process and fight to mount to strongest defense strategy possible.
DUI Convictions in Manatee County and the Associated Penalties
A person who is facing a DUI-related crime in Manatee County, even it is his or her first time, could be subject to jail time, probation, monetary fines, the loss of his or her license, and other serious repercussions. A conviction for a first time DUI offense is a sentence of up to six months in jail, a monetary fine of up to $1,000, and a probationary period of up to one year. During probation, the offender must submit to 50 hours of community service, potentially attend substance abuse counseling, and attend a driver’s educational course. The convicted offender will also, pursuant to §322.28 of the Florida Statutes, lose his or her license for up to one year.
The associated penalties for a first-time offense may be enhanced if the offender has a BAC of 0.15% or more, or if a minor (a child under the age of eighteen) is in the vehicle when the driver was operating while impaired. In these instances, the potential jail term is up to nine months with monetary fine not to exceed $2,000. The judge may also order that the accused have an ignition interlock device installed in his or her vehicle to ensure that he or she is not driving while intoxicated. The judge also has the discretion to impound the offender’s vehicle.
In addition to statutory consequences, a convicted offender in Manatee County will face increased insurance premiums and be forced to pay steep fees while on probation to have his or her driver’s license reinstated.
If a person is convicted of a second DUI offense, the jail term increases to nine months, and he or she will be forced to pay a monetary fine not to exceed $2,000. The judge may also choose to revoke the offender’s driver’s license for a maximum of two years. In addition, the judge must issue a prison sentence of at least ten days in jail if the second conviction occurred within five years of the first one.
Aggravated DUI charges also apply to second-time offenders. As noted above, if a person has a BAC of 0.15% of greater, or has a minor in the car at the time he or she was arrested for DUI, the resulting penalties is a one-year term in prison and an increased monetary fine. The judge will also impound the offender’s vehicle and require him or her to install an ignition interlock device in his or her car once his or her license has been reinstated.
Depending upon the timing of the previous convictions, a third conviction for DUI can constitute either a first-degree misdemeanor or third-degree felony (which carries with it a prison term of up to five years). A third DUI offense is charged as a third-degree felony if the second conviction happened within ten years of the prior one. A third DUI offense is a first-degree misdemeanor if the second conviction occurred outside of the ten-year lookback period. A first-degree misdemeanor carries with it a prison term of up to one year. Keep in mind that the judge in this regard must sentence he offender to a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in prison. The offender will also face a loss of his or her license for up to ten years, and be required to install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle once his or her license has been reinstated.
Under Florida law, each subsequent offense is charged as a third-degree felony, regardless of when the prior convictions occurred. The judge will rule that the offender’s license be revoked for life, however, he or she can apply for reinstatement. The judge must also sentence the offender to at least 30 days in prison.
Accidents and DUIs in Manatee County
Florida’s DUI laws include penalties for DUI-related offenses involving accidents, even if the driver has no prior criminal record. If a driver is impaired and is involved in an accident with another vehicle that results in property damage or minor personal injury, he or she will face a first-degree misdemeanor charge. However, if the accident involves serious bodily injury, then he or she will be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor. If an accident results in death, known as DUI manslaughter, this is charged as a second-degree felony, which carries with it a prison sentence of up to fifteen years and a four-year mandatory-minimum sentence. This individual will lose his or her license for life but can apply for reinstatement as dictated by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Administrative License Loss in Manatee County
Administratively, an arresting officer must suspend an impaired driver’s license for a driver who has a BAC of 0.08% or more, or for someone who refuses to submit to a chemical test. Notwithstanding, the officer will provide the driver with a temporary license that will last for only ten days. Losing one’s license is devastating and can negatively affect a person’s life in many ways. As such, an accused can request a hearing to appeal the decision, which should be done alongside of a competent Manatee County DUI Defense Attorney. Otherwise, the accused risks losing the appeal. Keep in mind that an accused only has ten days to appeal the officer’s ruling.
At the hearing, the accused has the chance to challenge the evidence only related to the chemical test that was performed by the arresting officer. The appeal raises issues such as whether the officer correctly offered the accused the chance to take the test, whether the officer administered the test correctly, or if the accused chose not to submit to the test. Filing an appeal in this regard can help you to address issues that could become successful arguments in court. It is important to consider that even if a driver wins his or her appeal, this does not affect the pending charges he or she is facing.
Pursuant to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (the “Department”), licenses can be reinstated following a DUI conviction, if the offender complies with all necessary requirements and demonstrates a need why the license should be reinstated. These licenses are sometimes referred to as “Cinderella licenses” or “hardship licenses.”
Defending Against a DUI Case in Manatee County
Depending upon the facts and circumstances of one’s case, the prosecution’s case can be attacked from different angles. One way to challenge his or her case is to submit to the court a motion to suppress the stop and arrest of the accused by asserting that law enforcement violated his or her legal rights. For example, the accused can assert that law enforcement lacked constitutional grounds to make a stop in the first place. At the hearing on the motion, the officer must assert that his or her actions were justified. He or she will be cross-examined by the defense. The testimony of the officer is “locked,” which means that he or she cannot change his or her story at trial, or else he or she will be confronted by the defense as having made inconsistent statements. The defense can also look for new evidence pursuant to the officer’s statements that may prove helpful at the trial phase of the case.
Prevailing in a motion to suppress hearing could result in a dismissal of the case. Under constitutional law, any evidence obtained following a violation of one’s constitutional rights must be excluded for consideration at trial. So, if a police officer made an unconstitutional stop, then all evidence arising therefrom must be suppressed. This often causes the prosecution to have no case moving forward.
It is important to note that not all motions to suppress result in a case dismissal. Statements can be suppressed in light of a Miranda violation that can support the defense’s case at trial. This has the function of damaging the prosecution’s case, but it does not force the government to dismiss the case outright. Similarly, police who violate the accused’s rights while conducting a chemical test means that the results of the test could be thrown out by the judge and not be considered by a jury in rendering their verdict.
Plea bargains are also useful in seeking a reduction of charges. Some first time offenders can do what is called “plead down” to a “wet reckless” charge instead of pleading to DUI. In other circumstances, the prosecution may reduce the severity of the charge to influence the accused to submit a guilty plea to the court, which may result in a lesser sentence.
Keep in mind that the accused has the right to bring the case to trial, and he or she is innocent until proven guilty. A defense attorney can cross-examine all of the prosecution’s witnesses to highlight the weaknesses of their case, which could result in an acquittal.
Musca Law Will Fight Hard for Your Legal Rights
Call Musca Law today at 888-484-5057 to discuss your case. We are available right now to advise you of your legal rights and options. Our skilled team of DUI Defense Attorneys has over 150 years of collective experience successfully representing those accused of DUI in Manatee County and throughout the state of Florida. Contact us now to learn more about how we can make a difference for you.