Tallahassee DUI Lawyers
150 Years of Combined Tallahassee DUI Defense Practice
According to Florida laws, drivers can be viewed as being under the influence when they are operating a motor vehicle, or even if they are not technically driving but simply in “actual physical control” of the vehicle. A charge of driving under the influence (DUI) also necessitates some form of proof that, at the time of the alleged incident, the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the degree that their “normal faculties were diminished or otherwise impaired.” Florida drunk driving laws define the phrase “normal faculties” as the ability to perform the mental and physical acts of daily life, such as seeing, hearing, driving, talking, or balancing.
State prosecutors can also charge you with driving under the influence even if you do not exhibit any signs of actual impairment. Under Florida’s “per se” modification of a driving under the influence charge, if your blood-alcohol content is above the state’s legal limit of .08% at the time you were arrested, then you could be charged with a DUI even though you were showing absolutely no signs of physical or mental impairment of any kind. Police officers have many different ways of establishing a driver’s blood-alcohol level. These testing methods include a breathalyzer test, a urine test, or a blood test. The breathalyzer test is the single most commonly chosen method of testing the blood-alcohol level of a driver who is suspected of being impaired, although the penalties are the same no matter which form of testing is chosen.
DUI Punishments and Penalties
In Florida, a DUI charge applies when a person who is in control of a motor vehicle has a blood alcohol level of .08% or higher. If you are convicted of a DUI, there are a wide range of penalties to which you could possibly be subjected. The outcome will depend on other factors that get taken into consideration, such as whether or not this is your first DUI offense, whether or not there were any children with you in the car, if your blood alcohol test indicates that you blew higher than .15%, and whether or not any type of accident occurred and, if so, if any property was damaged or anyone was injured or killed.
In the event that a law enforcement officer suspects that you were driving your car while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the Tallahassee area, you will most likely find yourself being arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated. Here at Musca Law, we realize that this position is a scary and stressful one to find yourself in, but it is vital to remember that being charged with driving under the influence is not the same thing as being convicted of it. There are a multitude of actions that you could conceivably take if you want to avoid being convicted or to reduce the penalties that you might suffer, just as long as you start fighting right away.
In agreement with Florida state law, charges of driving under the influence are generally filed as misdemeanor charges. The consequences of being found guilty of driving under the influence, however, are harsh and lasting, and they will be prevalent in your daily life for a long time to come. The ramifications of drunk driving can and will reshape your professional, personal and social life in a very unpleasant way. That is why it is so important to hire a qualified Tallahassee drunk driving attorney who knows Florida’s laws inside and out.
Excluding or Suppressing Evidence of a DUI
More often than not, drunk driving cases are very complex. It is not uncommon, following an arrest, for a driver to feel like there is nothing that they can do to help themselves. In a lot of circumstances, however, the evidence that is recorded in the police reports may not even be allowed to be presented at the trial. A hard-working, knowledgeable Tallahassee DUI defense attorney will be able to argue to suppress, or even exclude, specific pieces of evidence, including:
- Evidence that was obtained from an illegal traffic stop;
- Observations that were made by the officer while conducting a field sobriety test;
- Statements that were supposedly made to the police officer regarding alcohol or drug use;
- Evidence that shows that you refused to submit to a chemical test of your breath, blood, or urine; and
- Results of any breath, blood, or urine test that you did agree to take.
Every single piece of evidence that your defense attorney can get the court to exclude will increase your odds of winning a motion of dismissal from the court or of obtaining a not guilty verdict, should the case end up going to trial. Before the trial even takes place, filing and litigating several pre-trial motions has been proven to be one of the best ways to compel the prosecuting attorney to reduce the charges against you to a less serious charge, such as reckless driving.
Remember, being arrested and charged with a DUI does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted and have this serious crime on your record forever. A diligent Tallahassee DUI defense attorney can build a strong, solid defense strategy while making sure that your rights are protected at the same time. This will give you your best chance at a dismissal or a reduction of the charges against you. Reach out to us here at Musca Law as soon as possible in order to schedule your free consultation so that we can discuss the details of your case with you.
First Charge of Driving Under the Influence
Drivers who are found guilty of their first DUI would most probably be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. Penalties for this charge include, but are not limited to:
- A fine of anywhere from$500 to $1,000;
- A fine of anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000, if the driver had a blood-alcohol concentration of .15% or higher or they had children in the vehicle;
- Up to 50 hours of supervised community service;
- Up to one year of supervised probation;
- Up to six months in the county jail;
- Up to nine months in the county jail, if the driver had a blood-alcohol level of .15% or higher or they had children in the vehicle;
- Revocation of their driver’s license for a minimum of 180 days;
- 12 hours in DUI School and a requirement evaluation, to be conducted in order to determine if there is a need for recovery treatment; and
- Up to six continuous months with an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle.
Once you are charged with your second DUI, you will naturally be subjected to much harsher penalties, which could include a longer and more expensive advanced DUI school, much larger fines, an ignition interlock device installed in your car for no less than one year, a prolonged suspension of your driver’s license, and the very real possibility of a longer jail sentence. Incarceration could be compulsory, depending on how recent your prior conviction was. If you have been convicted of numerous DUIs, you will most likely be charged as a felon. A charge of felony DUI could bring with it a sentence of up to five years in state prison and a permanent revocation of your driver’s license.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Tallahassee or any other part of Florida, it is imperative that you are familiar with the 10-Day Rule, which says that a driver has exactly 10 days from their DUI arrest date in which to seek out a formal review hearing and dispute the administrative suspension of their license. Provided that you are able to request the hearing within this time frame, a temporary driver’s license will be issued to you, making it legal for you to drive for the duration of the temporary license, which is usually one week.
Asleep Behind the Wheel/Actual Physical Control
In order to be able to convict you of drunk driving, the prosecution must establish that you were in actual physical control of the vehicle. In short, what this means is that you do not have to be actually driving your car to be arrested for drunk driving. Being asleep in a parked car can itself be a reason for being charged with a DUI. Your Tallahassee DUI criminal defense attorney has successfully challenged this kind of charge in the past and might be able to do the same for you as well.
The Elements That Comprise Actual Physical Control
In order to be considered as having actual physical control of the vehicle, the following must apply to the situation:
- Actual, or constructive possession over the key to the car
- The accused was in the driver's seat, passenger seat or backseat of the car
- Proof that the car was mechanically able to be driven
Evidence that a car is able to run without a physical key in the ignition is increasingly standard these days with many of the late model fobs not requiring a keyhole or ignition turnover and with the rise in popularity of hybrid and electric cars. That you had the necessary tool (the key) and that you COULD HAVE driven the car are the major factors for actual possession to be established. There have been instances where the offender was in the back seat of the car, but had the car keys in his pants pocket, and was found guilty of a DUI charge. In order to prove that the car was operable (mechanically able to be driven), the car must be capable of self-propelled movement. The gas tank being empty is not a viable defense, whereas not having all four tires, being up on blocks, or some pressing mechanical issue might be a defense to the accusation. In certain states (although not Florida) you would be required to obtain a document from the state certifying that the car was a jalopy.
So, if you decide to sit in your legally parked car and sleep off the evening's libations without taking the clever precautions of turning the engine off, making sure the car is in park with the emergency brake set, and settling down in the back seat of the vehicle, well…then you could still be arrested for driving under the influence. Reportedly there have even been incidents where the offender placed the car keys outside of the vehicle and was still arrested for DUI under the laws of actual physical control.
Common DUI Mistakes
Not Choosing a Designated Driver
Forethought will spare you from a lot of unpleasant things. Before you go out drinking, ask a friend if they would be willing to get you home safely. If you can't find someone who is willing to be the designated driver, load the Uber or Lyft app onto your phone or put the number for a local cab company in your contacts. If for some reason that doesn’t work, restaurants and bars are usually happy to call a cab for you. Being rational and planning ahead will save you from a lot of things. In this instance, it may save you from a criminal record. It may even save a life.
Not Having Your Paperwork Ready
If you drink and still make the decision to drive, you can help yourself out by having all of your necessary paperwork, usually just your license, registration, and proof of insurance, ready to hand over. Keep your license in the same spot in your wallet. Keep your paperwork in the same spot in your glove compartment, paper-clipped together. It is normal to be nervous with a police officer standing outside your car window, and knowing that you have been drinking is only going to compound that anxiety. Dumping out the contents of your purse, or digging around in your backseat trying to find all these little bits of paper that you need is going to be a major indicator that something is not right. The more you talk and the more you move, the more you are going to give yourself away. The police are already looking for any type of behavior that might indicate that you are under the influence. The less you say and do, the better. So keep all your necessary things together, and always in the same place.
If you or a loved one are facing any of these charges, do not hesitate to call our law firm today to schedule a free, no-obligation, and confidential case assessment today with one of our experienced DUI attorneys.