DUI Defense Lawyers in Monroe County, Florida
How to Beat a Driving Under the Influence Charge in Florida
In Monroe County, Florida, DUIs are a common type of criminal offense. While these crimes take place frequently on Florida's roads, prosecutors still consider them very serious offenses and will aggressively pursue charges against those accused. Many people who face charges for driving under the influence have not been involved with the criminal justice system in the past. Being accused of a crime can be scary and confusing. The criminal court system is a challenge to navigate, and it is important to have experienced legal counsel. Hiring a dedicated DUI defense attorney will increase your chances of defending successfully against the charges you are facing. Your attorney will be able to explain to you your legal rights and to ensure that those rights are not violated, negotiate plea deals on your behalf, and develop defense strategies tailored to the facts of your case.
Studies show that 8,476 people died in drunk driving crashes in the Sunshine State over an 8-year time period. Throughout the United States, drunk drivers kill more than 10,000 people every year. More people die in Florida in DUI-related crashes than in any states other than California and Texas. Florida is also the fourth most populous state, and so part of those numbers is likely a simple matter a population size. However, with so many fatal crashes occurring within the state's border, officials in Florida feel that they must work to prevent these tragic crashes by aggressively prosecuting drivers who violate Florida's drunk driving laws. Although DUI's are less common now than they were even a few years ago, arrests for DUI's are increasing. If you find yourself facing charges for driving under the influence in the state of Florida, contacting an attorney is the best way to protect yourself and your future. At Musca Law, our attorneys have been representing criminal defendants in Monroe County, Florida, and throughout the state for many decades. Call us today at (888) 848-5057 to speak to one of our dedicated criminal defense attorneys.
DUI-Related Laws in Monroe County, Florida
DUI related offenses in Florida cover a wide variety of more and less severe criminal charges. On the low end of the spectrum, some DUIs are considered misdemeanors, which will result in minimal jail time and other penalties. At the other end, there are DUI related offenses that can lead to decades of imprisonment. Even in the case of the least serious DUI-related charges, a conviction will have significant negative impacts on your life and your future.
In Monroe County, Florida, the legal limit for alcohol consumption for drivers is .08% alcohol per volume. If you operate a car while your blood alcohol level is at or above .08 percent, you will legally be considered under the influence of alcohol and will likely face criminal charges. When the state convicts a driver for DUI related charges, prosecutors must establish the following elements:
- The individual was in control of the vehicle;
- The normal faculties of the individual were impaired by alcohol or another drug; and/or
- The individual's BAC was at or above .08 percent based on the results of chemical tests.
It is important to remember that a person whose blood alcohol level meets or exceeds the legal limit is considered impaired for the purpose of DUI related laws even if that person does not appear drunk or under the influence. The legal limit establishes a blood alcohol level at which the law will presume a person is impaired. It is also possible that the police will suspect that a driver is impaired even if that person does not have a blood alcohol level that meets or exceeds .08 percent alcohol by volume. If the driver appears impaired based on field sobriety tests or fails to perform adequately on those tests, the officer will likely arrest that individual. In some cases, police might arrest the person under the suspicion that they are impaired by a substance other than alcohol. In such cases, a breathalyzer test might not reveal the substance, and officers may believe that further testing is warranted. If the person tests positive for alcohol, but their level does not meet the legal limit, they can still face charges for driving under the influence. In such a case, police would have to show that the driver's normal faculties were impaired because of alcohol. Drivers can face legal consequences for using drugs and then driving, even if those substances are legal or prescribed by a doctor.
Monroe County DUI Criminal Penalties
The sentencing terms for the different types of DUI charges vary a great deal. Aggravating factors are issues that will cause a charge to be upgraded, which results in longer prison terms and higher fines, among other possible consequences. The following list includes the various levels of DUI related crimes pursuant to Monroe County, Florida, law:
- First DUI: First-time DUI offenses come with a penalty of at most six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. These consequences only apply for cases where there are no aggravating factors, and the defendant's BAC was 0.08 percent through 0.14 percent.
- First DUI with Passengers Below Eighteen in Vehicle: One aggravating factor in DUI cases is if the driver had minors in the car at the time. In such cases, the maximum penalty includes nine months in prison and a $2,000 fine.
- First DUI with BAC 0.15 and Up; Drivers who have particularly high BACs are considered a greater danger on the road and will face more severe penalties as a result. Again, this aggravating factor will lead to a sentence of up to nine months and a $2,000 maximum fine.
- Second DUI: Penalties for a second DUI include a nine-month maximum sentence and a fine of no more than $2,000, as long as there are no aggravating factors.
- Second DUI with BAC of 0.15 and higher: Drivers with extremely high BACs face harsher sentencing terms, including a maximum of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
- Third DUI in Over Ten Years: If a driver is arrested for a third DUI, then the issue of timing becomes legally relevant. Drivers whose previous DUI was more than a decade earlier will face a maximum of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
- Third DUI in Under Ten Years: For drivers facing a third DUI in under ten years' time, the crime is upgraded to a felony. The sentence jumps to the possibility of five years behind bars. The fine increases to $5,000.
- Fourth DUI: Fourth, DUIs are considered felonies even when they occur more than ten years after the third conviction. The penalty in such events will include a five-year maximum sentence and a $5,000 fine.
- DUI Including Property Damage: When a driver causes property damage in the course of a DUI, the crime is elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalty is for at most one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. The aggravating factor applies to first-time offenders as well.
- DUI Causing Injury: Drivers who commit a DUI, and in the process, cause injuries to another individual will face third-degree felony charges. Even first-time offenders can receive sentences of five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.
- DUI Manslaughter: Drivers who cause a fatality while committing a DUI face severe penalties. The crime is categorized as a second-degree felony, and the maximum sentence is for fifteen years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The law applies to other individuals, including unborn children.
- DUI Manslaughter/Hit-and-Run/Failure to Render Aid: Fleeing the scene of a DUI resulting in death is a first-degree felony. Those convicted of this crime face three decades behind bars and a maximum fine of $10,000.
It is important to understand the specific charges that you are facing. If you are facing DUI charges that include an aggravating factor, remember the difference the specifics will make in the sentencing terms that will follow if you are convicted. With so much riding on the outcome of your case, it is imperative that you find an experienced Monroe County, Florida DUI defense attorney.
Additional Penalties for DUIs in Monroe County, Florida
DUI convictions can be devastating because of the resulting prison time and costly fines. However, it is important to remember that the consequences extend far beyond those two sentencing terms. Judges had the authority to impose a variety of other legal penalties on those convicted of DUI's in Monroe County, Florida:
- Probation periods;
- Educational courses regarding substance abuse;
- Counseling for substance abuse;
- Required community service for a set amount of hours;
- Testing for the use of alcohol and/or drugs;
- The impoundment of the convict's vehicle;
- The loss of a driver's license indefinitely or for a certain time period;
- Mandatory ignition interlock device installation in the person's vehicle;
- For felony convictions, the person can also lose his or her Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Remember that the court-imposed penalties are not the only consequences that you will likely face. Criminal convictions can appear on background checks meaning that attempts to find housing or a new job can be complicated because of your criminal record. Your credit score can suffer, and even attempts at obtaining advanced degrees can be compromised because of the conviction. It is also worth noting that drivers who lose their licenses can suffer many related impacts on their lives. Getting to and from work can become difficult or even impossible without the ability to drive. In addition to defending against the charges, there are numerous other potential consequences that you must consider when facing DUI charges.
Your best chance at a favorable outcome is to find a criminal defense attorney who has experience representing clients accused of driving under the influence in Monroe County, Florida. Your attorney can help you understand what your options are and how to best protect yourself.
Defending Against DUIs in Monroe County, Florida
Being charged with a crime and being convicted of a crime are two different things. When you are facing charges, there are opportunities to defend against the allegations and to negotiate for more favorable terms. The state must meet the burden of beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict a person of any crime, including those related to driving under the influence. This is an extremely high standard, and prosecutors must have adequate evidence to build their case against you. If prosecutors are unable to meet the required burden, they will not be able to convict you of driving under the influence. In such cases, the charges can be entirely dismissed.
Determining what defenses are appropriate in your case will depend on the facts and the evidence related to the charges filed against you. If you hire an attorney, that person will analyze the evidence presented by the state and will be able to determine if it is not enough for the prosecutors to obtain a conviction. Sometimes, there may be plenty of evidence, and yet police may not have acquired that evidence in a way that complies with the law. Police are subject to strict standards when they are collecting evidence and placing a person under arrest. For instance, if the police do not properly provide Miranda warnings to a suspect, then much of the evidence collected in the case can be excluded. If you are able to have evidence collected against you excluded because of improper actions taken by law enforcement, you may be able to prevent the state from having enough evidence to obtain a conviction.
There are other cases where drivers maintain that they were not driving under the influence. Although many people treat chemical tests as if they are infallible, such is not the case. In certain situations, the equipment might have been used improperly or was not calibrated correctly. If your attorney discovers discrepancies in the evidence collected, including the evidence from chemical tests, he or she will work to have that evidence excluded so that it cannot be used to convict you.
There will be cases where the police have done their job correctly and collected enough evidence in order to obtain a conviction. In those situations, your attorney might find that your best option for defending against the charges will be to negotiate for a reduced sentence. For instance, your attorney may try to avoid some of the most severe aspects of a potential DUI conviction. Efforts could result in your being able to avoid time in prison.
Each case is unique, and no attorney can predict the outcome. Some prosecutors may be more inclined to negotiate than others. Your attorney may ultimately decide that your best option is to take your case to trial. Hiring an experienced Monroe County criminal defense attorney will help you develop a defense tailored to your case.
Laws Governing DUI Arrests and the Rights of the Accused
When you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, you still maintain certain rights as provided by Florida law as well as the United States Constitution. Florida Statute Section 316.193(9) indicates that individuals arrested for driving under the influence can only be held in custody for a specified period of time. Officers are required to release you from custody when:
- Your BAC results are 0.05 percent or lower in a chemical test;
- You cease to exhibit indications of impairment;
- Police held you in custody for at least eight hours.
It is important that you understand the rights available to you. Most people do not know what rights they have, and when placed under arrest, this can put you in a vulnerable position. Calling an attorney right away will help you to protect your rights and to prevent law enforcement from treating you unfairly.
Selecting a Monroe County DUI Defense Attorney
Hiring an attorney to represent you in your DUI case is an incredibly important decision. You will want to ensure that your legal representative treats you with respect, is honest and responsive to you in regards to the case and any questions that you may have. A private attorney will come with certain costs; however, these lawyers have more resources at their disposal than do public defenders. Public defenders are often handling massive caseloads, which make it challenging for them to spend a great deal of time on your individual case.
Your attorney should also be able and willing to discuss past case results with you. To learn about Musca Law's attorneys' prior successful outcomes, click here. Our DUI defense attorneys are proud of the work we do for our clients in Monroe County and across the state of Florida.
Contact Musca Law Today
If you are facing charges for driving under the influence, you need to find an experienced attorney who can help you develop a strong and strategic defense. The attorneys at Musca Law understand how frightening it can be to face the criminal justice system. We believe that everyone deserves the right to a dedicated and professional legal representative. Call us today at (888) 484-5057 to speak to one of our Key West criminal defense attorneys, and to learn what we can do to protect your future.