DUI Driving Under the Influence Defense Lawyers in Pasco County, Florida
Understanding the Laws, Punishments, and Defenses Regarding DUI Charges in Pasco County, Florida
Being convicted of driving under the influence, or DUI, in Pasco County, Florida, could have long-term adverse consequences. Most assuredly, the person who opts to take the wheel after having a couple of drinks has no actual intent to drive drunk. In fact, the driver might feel fine. But, as the subtle effects of alcohol take hold, the ability of the person to drive safely begins to erode. They do not intend to lose control; it just happens. Notwithstanding the lack of criminal intent to drive while intoxicated, the person who has “one too many” and operates a vehicle runs the risk of hurting or killing another person or themselves.
Law enforcement officers in Pasco County pursue drunk drivers aggressively to remove them from the road. Aggressive law enforcement tactics often lead to over-policing. Officers look for a reason to pull someone over to enforce Florida’s DUI laws. Pasco County law enforcement officers are well-trained at identifying suspects operating under the influence and arresting them, even when there is little evidence of a crime committed.
Law enforcement agents in Florida only need to acquire enough evidence to satisfy the probable cause standard of proof. The burden is low. The police merely have to acquire enough evidence to satisfy a person of reasonable prudence that a crime was committed. The probable cause standard is not a tall hurdle to negotiate. Once the officer believes he or she acquired sufficient evidence to make an arrest, then the wheel of justice starts rolling. The person who only had a couple of drinks and then drove now faces a judge, potential incarceration, payment of large monetary fines, probation, license loss, and other consequences like increase auto insurance premiums, installing ignition interlocking monitors, and vehicle impound.
The only way you can ensure your DUI charge in Pasco County does not utterly ruin your life is to consult with a highly-reputable, dedicated, and skilled Pasco County DUI defense attorney. A seasoned Pasco County DUI defense lawyer will consult closely with you and pursue the defense strategies that will provide you with the greatest opportunity to avoid the harsh consequences of a DUI charge in Pasco County.
At Musca Law, our highly-experienced, and well-trained Pasco County DUI defense attorneys have the skills and dedication you need to avoid the ruinous consequences a Pasco County DUI arrest might reap. Our seasoned Pasco County DUI defense attorneys understand that driving under the influence is a mistake many people make. Some individuals get away with it, while others do not. We believe that making a mistake should not destroy your life. As a result, we will fight tirelessly to give you the best defense possible so that the outcome of your case is favorable to you. Despite our extensive experience defending DUI cases, we cannot predict or guarantee a favorable outcome, but we can guarantee that we will vigorously defend your Pasco County DUI case and protect your rights. Call Musca Law at 888-484-5057 to learn how we could help you mount a winning defense for your Pasco County DUI charge.
DUI Charges in Pasco County, Florida (FL)
Florida Statutes §316.193 is Florida’s primary DUI law. Under §316.193(1), the government must prove two elements of the crime of DUI to win a conviction. According to the Florida DUI Jury Instructions, the government must prove that the accused was: 1) the operator of a vehicle, or had control over a vehicle, 2) while impaired by alcohol, chemical substances as defined by Florida Statutes §877.111, or illicit drugs as identified by 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 statute is not the model of clarity, and case decisions from Florida’s appellate courts have helped give meaning to vague terms like vehicle, operation, and normal faculties. Florida law defines vehicle broadly. Any device that can carry a person or pull a load is a vehicle unless the device is a rail car or mobile carrier. Therefore, all devices ranging from farm tractors, bicycles, and sports cars are vehicles that fall under §316.193.
Operation is also a broad term. Under §316.193, operation means to perform the physical act of driving or steering a vehicle. The operation also means to have control over a vehicle. Therefore, a person could be operating a vehicle even if asleep with the keys in the ignition of a car.
Normal faculties are nearly constitutionally vague. Florida judges instruct juries that the phrase normal faculties means the actions humans perform daily to live. Actions like making judgments, seeing, hearing, observing, understanding, smelling, tasting, and comprehending all fall under the broad category of normal functions. Therefore, a person who drinks or takes drugs, or a combination of both, to such an excess that any one of the functions people perform naturally is impaired is sufficient to convict a person of DUI.
The arresting officer looks for evidence of impairment at every opportunity. The officer will note how the person drives, speaks, reacts to the officer, performs simple tasks like removing a driver’s license from a wallet, gets out of the car, and performs field sobriety tests. Thus, the officer is watching every move a person makes for evidence that the person is under the influence, and not to dispel the officer’s suspicions.
Florida law adheres to the per se definition of intoxication. The legal limit, as it is known, is .08, as measured by a breathalyzer test or a blood test. Chemical tests are not infallible. In reality, we know that machines fail all of the time. Therefore, even though operating a vehicle with a BAL of .08 or above is per se unlawful, the prosecution must prove that the machines used to analyze the chemical samples worked correctly at the time the machine analyzed the sample, the human operating the machine made no errors, and the human interpreting the results did so correctly.
A skilled and knowledgeable Pasco County DUI defense lawyer with a reputation for excellence can help you navigate the uncertainty of facing DUI charges in Pasco County. A Pasco County DUI lawyer with vast experience defending DUI cases at trial knows how to attack
Penalties for DUI Convictions in Pasco County, Florida (FL)
A person who is charged with a first offense DUI in Pasco County could face incarceration, payment of large fines, lengthy probationary periods, along with license loss and other consequences. A conviction For a first offense DUI in Florida carries a maximum penalty of six months in the County jail, assessment of a fine between $500 and $1000, and one year of probation. During that probationary period, the probationer must complete 50 hours of community service, attend a driver’s educational course, and attend alcohol counseling or drug counseling if deemed appropriate by the probation service. Additionally, the judge must order the driver’s license of the convicted person to be suspended for at least 180 days, but it could be as long as one year, according to §322.28 of the Florida Statutes.
The penalty for a first offense could escalate depending on the severity of the charges. Florida law allows for aggravating factors to enhance DUI penalties even for a first offense. If the accused has a BAL of .15 or greater or has a child under eighteen years of age in the car when operating under the influence, then the potential incarceration Increases to nine months, and the fine increases to $2000. The judge could also order the offender to install a device that monitors the offender’s ignition to ensure that he or she is not driving under the influence of alcohol, and the judge could also order the primary vehicle of the offender to be impounded.
In addition to criminal penalties mandated by Florida statutes, a person convicted of DUI in Pasco County can expect his or her auto insurance premiums to climb, to pay exorbitant fees while on probation and to reinstate his or her driver’s license. In the end, the financial penalties associated with DUI charges in Pasco County are extremely harsh.
The penalties for a second offense DUI conviction increase. The possible jail sentence increases to nine months, and the maximum fine increases to $2000. The minimum license loss also increases. A judge can revoke a second-time offender’s driver’s license for up to two years. Moreover, a judge must sentence the second time offender to jail for at least ten days if the previous conviction occurred within five years preceding the second conviction.
Aggravated DUI charges also have increased penalties. The maximum sentence for a second offense DUI conviction aggravated by a BAL of.15 or higher or having a child under eighteen in the car while driving under the influence becomes a one-year jail sentence and an increased fine.
The sentencing judge will order the offender’s vehicle to be impounded and will order the offender to install an ignition interlocking mechanism once the offender has his or her license reinstated.
A conviction for a third-offense DUI in Pasco County could be a third-felony or a first-degree misdemeanor, depending on the timing of the previous convictions. A conviction for a third-degree felony could result in a maximum prison sentence of five-years committed. A third-offense DUI charge was a felony when the accused’s second conviction occurred within the previous ten years. The prosecution can bring a first-degree misdemeanor charge for third-offense DUI if the accused’s second conviction falls outside of the ten-year lookback window. A conviction for a first-degree misdemeanor carries a maximum jail sentence of one year; however, the judge must sentence the offender to a minimum-mandatory sentence of 30 days.
The offense will face license revocation for up to ten years and must employ an ignition interlock device for two years after the offender’s license is reinstated.
Florida law does not recognize DUI convictions beyond a fourth offense. The fourth offense DUI is a third-degree felony, irrespective of when the previous convictions occurred. Additionally, the offender will face license revocation for life but can apply for reinstatement. The sentencing judge must sentence the offender to at least 30 days in jail.
DUI and Collisions Enhanced Panealties in Pasco County, Florida (FL)
Florida’s DUI law includes punishment for offenses involving vehicle collisions, even if the person arrested has no prior criminal history. A person who is driving under the influence and collides with another that results in property damage or minor personal injury face a first-degree misdemeanor charge. However, if the collision results in serious bodily injury to someone other than the driver, then the offender will face a third-degree misdemeanor.
DUI manslaughter is the most serious DUI-related charge and is classified as a second-degree felony. The maximum penalty for DUI manslaughter is fifteen years committed to the state prison, with a four-year minimum-mandatory sentence. The offender convicted of DUI will have his or her license revoked for life. The offender could seek reinstatement of the revoked license after complying with all conditions set forth by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Administrative License Loss, DMV Hearings, and Defenses in Pasco County, Florida
A law enforcement officer must administratively suspend a drunk driver’s license for giving a chemical test that meets or exceeds the legal limit or refuses to take a chemical test. The officer must suspend the driver’s license immediately; however, the officer shall issue the driver who failed the chemical test a ten-day temporary license.
License loss is a tremendous inconvenience and can be devastating to some people’s lives and livelihoods. Therefore, the state allows for a system of appeals. Appealing the officer’s decision to revoke a person’s driver’s license administratively must be done with accomplished legal counsel. Otherwise, you could jeopardize your criminal case as well as lose your appeal. You only have ten days to appeal the officer’s ruling.
At the hearing, you have a chance to contest evidence relating to the chemical test only. The issue is whether the officer performed the chemical test correctly, correctly offered the person under arrest an opportunity to take the test, or whether the person refused to take the test.
Filing an administrative appeal could help you flush out issues that could be successful arguments in court. Even if you win the administrative appeal, you will continue to face charges in court. But winning the appeal immediately reinstates your driver’s license.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (“the Department”) has the authority to reinstate driver’s licenses after a conviction as well. The Department will reinstate licenses suspended after convictions for DUI if the offender complies with the educational requirements and applies only after waiting for the prescribed amount of time depending on the reason for the license loss. The offender must show compliance with all requirements and a need to have the license reinstated, albeit possibly with restrictions. These licenses are sometimes called hardship licenses or Cinderella licenses.
Successful DUI Defense Tactics in Pasco County, Florida (FL)
The prosecution’s case could be attacked from different angles, depending on the facts of the case. One way to attack the prosecution’s case is to file a motion to suppress the stop and arrest of the accused by alleging that the arresting officer violated the offender’s constitutional rights.
The process of contesting the constitutionality of the officer’s action is known as filing a motion to suppress. Motions to suppress are pleadings that put the court on notice that the defendant contests the officer’s actions and must specify the nature of the suspected constitutional violation. For example, the person charged with DUI can argue that the police officer had no constitutional grounds to stop the offender’s car in the first place. The offender must have at least a good faith basis to make this argument.
Motions to suppress are powerful defense strategies. At the motion hearing, the officer must justify his or her actions and will be subject to cross-examination. The defense can set up a winning strategy by locking the officer’s testimony in so he or she cannot later change the testimony at a trial without being confronted with the inconsistent statements. The defense could also seek to find new evidence based on the officer’s testimony that might help them at trial.
Winning a motion to suppress could force the prosecution to dismiss all charges. Under the federal Constitution, any evidence obtained after a constitutional violation must be suppressed from the trial. Therefore, if the police officer had no authority to stop the car, to begin with, then all of the evidence the office collected after the stop cannot be heard by a jury. In reality, the prosecution has no case at that point.
Not every motion to suppress will result in a dismissal of the charges. Suppressing statements for a Miranda violation can strengthen the defense case and damage the prosecution’s case but will often not force the government to dismiss the matter. Similarly, if the police violated the offender’s rights when obtaining a chemical test, the test could be thrown out, but the prosecution could proceed on an alternate theory of culpability.
The defense always has the option of negotiating favorable plea terms. Some first offenders can plead down to a “wet reckless” charge instead of pleading to DUI. In other cases, the prosecution might drop the severity of the charge down to induce the accused to plead guilty and offer a lesser sentence.
The accused always has the absolute right to take the case to trial. The best defense will be borne from the facts of the case. The accused is cloaked with the presumption of innocence and can force the government to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. A well-trained and skilled Pasco County DUI defense lawyer can aggressively cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses to point out inconsistencies, biases, show that the police misinterpreted the field sobriety tests, instructed them incorrectly, or administered chemical tests incorrectly. However, having an experienced and savvy Pasco County DUI defense attorney by your side will increase your chances of success.
Advocates for Your Legal Justice
Call our New Port Richey criminal lawyers today at 888-484-5057 to discuss your Pasco County DUI charges. We know that your life is in a fragile state right now. We pride ourselves on using our 150-plus years of criminal defense experience, along with our vast resources and superior advocacy skills to help you find the justice you deserve.