DUI Defense Lawyers in Polk County, Florida
Law, Penalties, and Strategies for Defending Your Polk County DUI Charges Successfully
The Office of the State Attorney for the Tenth Judicial District in Florida prosecutes charges of driving under the influence, or DUI, in Polk County. The head prosecutor for that office boasts a track record of being tough on DUI cases in Polk County and throughout the jurisdiction of that office. The Polk County state’s attorney proclaims that one of the top prosecutors in his office won an award from MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for his tough stance on DUI cases in Polk County.
The DUI prosecutors in Polk County are certainly well-trained and have extensive experience aggressively pursuing convictions for DUI charges in Polk County, Florida. The potential consequences of driving after consuming alcohol or taking narcotics are extremely harsh and are designed to have enduring consequences. Convictions for DUI in Polk County could result in long periods of incarceration, large monetary fines, probation, revocation of driver’s license, and vehicle impoundment. Also, the person convicted of DUI must complete educational classes concerning the dangers of DUI in Polk County. Furthermore, having just one conviction on a criminal history sets a person up for facing enhanced penalties if he or she is ever charged with DUI in the future.
A DUI conviction in Polk County could deeply — and adversely — affect the person’s life in many ways. Not only will the DUI offender in Polk County comply with court orders and suffer punishment, but the individual could also lose employment because of license revocation, the person’s auto insurance rates will skyrocket, and the financial strain of a DUI conviction could lead to family problems.
Getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol or a drug is dangerous. However, very few DUI arrests were the result of someone intentionally setting out to get drunk or high and then drive. Drug or alcohol consumption affects the individual’s judgment and motor skills. One’s diminished capacity to appreciate the inherent danger of driving after consuming alcohol is the reason why most people think they can drive safely even after having a couple of drinks. Also, people underestimate how quickly alcohol metabolizes, and they incorrectly assume that their blood alcohol level is below the legal limit because they mistake the feeling of intoxication with elevated blood alcohol levels or BAL. A person could be at the “legal limit of 0.08% BAL and still feel like they could drive safely. Unfortunately, most people are mistaken.
Do not allow one mistake to ruin your life. Call Musca Law today at 888-484-5057 to speak with one of our Polk County DUI defense attorneys. Our Polk County DUI defense lawyers rely on their extensive experience, along with their unmatched resources, and an unparalleled reputation for excellence to help people charged with DUI in Polk County beat their case or reduce the potential consequences they suffer after making a bad choice.
DUI Statute in Polk County, Florida
The DUI law enforced by Polk County law enforcement officers and prosecutors may be found in §316.193 of the Florida Statutes. Section 316.193 sets out two complementary theories for which people could be charged with DUI. The first theory of criminal liability under Florida’s DUI law allows law enforcement officers to charge a person with DUI if a person is driving or is in control over a motor vehicle when his or her normal faculties are impaired by the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or both.
Proof that a person’s normal faculties were diminished or impaired by alcohol, substances defined in §877.111 of the Florida Statutes, or narcotics defined by Chapter 893 of the Florida Statutes, will be based on observations made by the law enforcement officer who encounters the person. Polk County law enforcement officers are also highly-trained to identify people who are DUI. Officers will look for signs that a motor vehicle operator is under the influence, such as inability to control the motor vehicle, motor vehicle infractions, such as speeding, failing to stay within lanes, or inexplicable stopping. These behaviors will allow a police officer to stop the car and begin an investigation.
The officer will approach the car once stopped with the suspicion that the driver is under the influence. There could be an innocent explanation for bad driving, such as fatigue. However, fatigue is also a sign of intoxication. The officer will start looking for evidence to confirm the suspicion of drunk driving. Evidence such as the smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, slurring or slowed speech, confusion, inability to comprehend simple tasks, and forgetfulness are just some of the pieces of evidence for which officers are trained to investigate.
The officer will then ask the person to exit the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests have nothing to do with the ability to drive. They are designed to judge a person’s ability to balance, divide attention, and follow instructions. Theoretically, the tests are a proxy for the skills required to drive safely.
Observations and performance on field sobriety tests can be attacked successfully from various angles by a skilled DUI defense attorney with significant DUI trial skills. Rigorous cross-examination can expose the officer’s investigatory bias. Investigatory bias narrows the officer’s focus on the one theory the officer believes explains what happened while discarding other possibilities. Locking into one possibility intuitively forces officers to ignore evidence favorable to the accused.
Additionally, the field sobriety test procedures and results should be vigorously attacked. Field sobriety tests are convoluted, athletic, and complex calisthenics that few people, even sober, can perform correctly. Officers are supposed to pay close attention to how the person listens to instructions, executes the instructions, and then performs the task. But, physical problems, hearing problems, and balance issues —not caused by alcohol consumption — influence poor field sobriety test performance. Additionally, fear, anxiety, and intimidation influence poor field sobriety test performance.
The second theory of liability involves chemical tests under Florida’s per se law. Florida’s per se law establishes the legal limit of 0.08% BAL for a person driving or having control over a vehicle when their BAL is 0.08% for every 100 milliliters of blood or every 210 liters of breath.
The prosecution must prove every element of a DUI charge beyond a reasonable doubt. While people might assume that a breath test or blood test will yield an indefensible case, the truth is that chemical tests must be administered correctly, the instruments must work properly, and the results must be interpreted accurately. The prosecution must prove that the chemical tests are reliable, accurate, performed according to the established protocols for the particular tests used, and the instruments measured the results accurately. The jury is free to disregard the results if it does not believe the results can be trusted.
Penalties for Lakeland DUI Convictions
Convictions for DUI in Polk County carry heavy penalties. The potential penalties increase incrementally along with the severity of the infraction. The sentencing judge must consider the person’s criminal history, the social background of the offender, and the severity of the factual allegations, among other factors, to arrive at a just sentence.
First Offense DUI Conviction in Polk County
The criminal penalties associated with the first conviction for DUI in Polk County are harsh. Section 316.193 calls for a potential six-month jail sentence, one year of probation, a fine ranging between $500.00 and $1,000.00, along with mandatory license revocation, and DUI school. The license revocation could be as long as 180 days for a first-time DUI offender in Polk County, according to §322.28 of the Florida Statutes. The court could also order a person’s vehicle to be impounded, and the offender to install an ignition interlock device on the convicted offender’s vehicle as well as order the offender to perform 50 community service hours. A first conviction follows the offender for the life of the offender.
Second Offense DUI Conviction in Polk County
A conviction for a second offense DUI conviction in Polk County requires the sentencing judge to increase the penalty imposed on the offender. A person convicted of a second offense must receive a minimum ten-day jail sentence, with a maximum sentence of no longer than nine months in jail. The fine increases to $1,000.00, with a maximum of $2,000.00, for a second DUI conviction. The ten-day minimum-mandatory sentence must be imposed if the previous conviction occurred within the previous five years. The offender could receive jail credit toward the incarceration period for any time spent in an inpatient rehabilitation facility for alcohol and drug treatment before the conviction.
The driver’s license of the second-time offender will endure a one-year license revocation. Additionally, the judge will impose substance abuse counseling, probation, vehicular impoundment, and implementation of an ignition interlock device.
Third Offense DUI Conviction in Polk County
A person arrested for a third offense DUI charge in Polk County could face a felony or a first-degree misdemeanor depending on the timing of the previous two convictions. The three-time offender whose second conviction occurred with the ten years before the third DUI arrest faces a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony allows a judge to sentence the offender to no more than five years in prison. Additionally, the fine assessed must be at least $2,000.00, but no more than $5,000.00. The minimum-mandatory prison sentence for a felony DUI conviction is 30 days with a minimum impoundment order of 30 days.
A person whose second conviction falls outside of the ten-year lookback window commits a first-degree misdemeanor if charged with a third offense DUI. The maximum incarcerated penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor is one-year incarceration in the county jail.
Irrespective of whether the conviction is a felony or misdemeanor, the third-time DUI offender will face license revocation for up to ten years, and the court will order the offender to install an ignition interlocking mechanism in the vehicle for at least two years upon reinstatement of the offender’s license.
Fourth or Subsequent DUI Conviction in Polk County
A conviction for a fourth or subsequent offense in Florida is a third-degree felony irrespective of when the previous convictions occurred. The court, at sentencing, shall suspend the offender’s driver’s license for life. Notwithstanding, the offender could apply for license reinstatement provided that the person satisfies the rigorous requirements enforced by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles when issuing a business or hardship license.
The offender must spend at least 30 days in jail and will have the vehicle impounded for at least 90 days upon reinstatement of the offender’s driver’s license.
Enhanced DUI Penalties in Polk County
The penalties for DUI increase as the severity of the crime increases. A first-time offender who provides a chemical sample that yields a BAL of 0.15% or greater or who has a person under eighteen years-of-age in the vehicle with them face a nine-month jail sentence and increased fines. Also, the second-time offender with a 0.15% BAL or a child in the car faces a one-year jail sentence. Convictions for both offenses require ignition interlock installation.
Florida law considers the danger of driving under the influence and crashing into another vehicle or causing property damage an aggravating factor. Accordingly, the potential penalties increase as the level of injury increases.
A person who causes an accident while DUI that results in property damage or inflicts personal injuries could be convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor. Meanwhile, a crash caused by an intoxicated driver that inflicts a severe personal injury is guilty of a third-degree felony.
DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony. The maximum penalty for a second-degree felony in Florida is fifteen years in the state prison. However, a conviction for DUI manslaughter requires the offender to serve a four-year minimum-mandatory prison term. The person will also lose his or her license permanently, subject to reinstatement.
Temporary Driving Privileges After a DUI Arrest in Polk County
Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles possesses the authority to issue hardship licenses to people convicted of DUI or who have either failed a chemical test or refused to take a chemical test in certain circumstances. The person who fails a chemical test or who refuses a chemical test will lose his or her license. If the person fails the chemical test, then the officer will take the person’s license and issue a ten-day temporary license. The officer must immediately suspend the driver’s license of any person who refuses to take a chemical test.
The person whose driver’s license was suspended has the option to appeal the officer’s decision to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The person has ten days to perfect the appeal. Otherwise, the person loses the right to challenge the administrative order of the police officer. A hearings officer will decide the appeal. The hearings officer could reinstate the driver’s license if the hearings officer finds that the police officer failed to provide you with certain rights to taking a chemical test before or after an arrest for DUI or that the chemical test was improperly administered.
Taking the appeal can allow the offender to explore certain defenses before using them in court. Additionally, taking an appeal will allow the offender to have access to discovery such as chemical test information and police reports before appearing in court. Honing a defense strategy in advance of a trial gives the accused a significant advantage over the prosecution.
A person accused of DUI in Polk County must be aware that any statement made to any person at any time about the charges could be used against them at the criminal trial period. Therefore, you must be represented by a highly skilled and knowledgeable Polk County DUI defense lawyer when appealing the administrative decision to suspend your driver’s license. Otherwise, you could make a statement that severely damages your case and prevents you from obtaining a favorable result in court.
After a conviction for the DUI charge, the offender must enter alcohol education classes or treatment and wait the minimum amount of time prescribed by the Department of Highway Safety and motor vehicle regulation before applying for a business license. Business licenses are sometimes referred to as hardship licenses or Cinderella licenses.
DUI Defense Strategies in Polk County, Florida
Only highly-skilled, well-trained, and experienced DUI defense lawyers in Polk County could devise a strategy to successfully defend your keys or mitigate the consequences of a DUI conviction. The defense can always negotiate with the prosecution to enter a plea bargain for lesser charges. For first offenders, the prosecution might agree to a plea to a “wet reckless” charge rather than a DUI charge. Alternatively, the defense and prosecution could negotiate alternative sentencing structures four people facing enhanced penalties because of previous DUI convictions.
Before trial, the defense can move to suppress evidence unlawfully obtained against him or her by the police. The defense can argue that the police officer was without constitutional authority to stop the accused add; therefore, all of the evidence obtained by the police after the illegal stop must be thrown out of court. Additionally, any statements made by the accused are subject to suppression if the police violated the constitutional rights of the person arrested. Although suppression of statements rarely results in a dismissal of the case, the prosecution’s case will be substantially weakened if the jury never hears statements made by the accused.
At trial, as indicated above, the defense can attack the law enforcement officers theory of the case, the officer’s observations and interpretations of that evidence, as well as the procedures the officer, followed to show that the officer rushed to judgment or misinterpreted test results that yielded an unreliable test result.
Aggressive Polk County DUI Defense
A person arrested for DUI or a DUI-related charge in Polk County, Florida, needs expert legal advice immediately from DUI lawyers with a track record of success. Call Musca Law right away at 888-484-5057 to learn more about your rights, defenses, and consequences of a DUI charge in Lakeland, Florida. Do not make a mistake greater by trying to handle your case on your own. Our Lakeland DUI lawyers are available 24/7 to answer your questions and provide you with legal advice designed to minimize the impact a DUI charge in Polk County could have on your life.