Vero Beach DUI Lawyers
150 Years of Combined Vero Beach DUI Defense Practice
If a police officer suspects that you were operating your vehicle while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the Vero Beach area, you will probably find yourself under arrest and facing charges of driving while intoxicated. At Musca Law, we understand that this situation may be scary and definitely stressful, but it is vital to keep in mind that being charged with driving under the influence is not the same as being convicted. There are a variety of steps that you are able to take in order to avoid being convicted and to reduce the penalties that you could face, as long as you take action immediately.
Under Florida state law, DUIs are normally classified as misdemeanor charges. The consequences of being found guilty of DUI, however, are both swift and severe, and they won’t be going away anytime soon. The consequences can and will negatively impact your social, professional, and personal life. That is why you need to hire a qualified Vero Beach drunk driving attorney to protect your rights.
What Will Happen Once I am Charged With a DUI?
If you are charged with driving while intoxicated anywhere in the State of Florida:
- You will be held in jail for a minimum of eight hours
- Your driver’s license will be immediately suspended
- You will be allowed to drive for the next ten days, provided that your driver’s license was in good standing at the time of the incident
- You have only those ten days in which to request a formal review hearing to try and have your license reinstated
- A temporary license may be issued until the date of your hearing for a maximum of 45 days
Penalties of Driving Under the Influence
If you are a first-time DUI offender, you could face the following legal repercussions:
- Mandatory enrollment in a DUI school
- Maximum of six months in county jail
- Suspension of your driver’s license for a minimum of 180 days and a maximum of one year
- Minimum of 50 hours of community service
- Minimum of $250 in court costs with a maximum of $500
- Maximum of one year of probation
- Enrollment in a victim awareness program
- Impoundment of your vehicle
- Permanent DUI conviction on your record, which is a criminal charge
Once you are charged with your second DUI, you will naturally be subjected to much harsher penalties, which will likely 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 Vero Beach 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.
If, however, the formal review hearing is NOT obtained within this 10-day window, your driver's license will be suspended. This license suspension will last for anywhere from 6 to 18 months, depending on the specifics of your individual case. You are permitted to drive using your DUI citation from the police as a valid driving permit during the ten days following your DUI arrest.
Successfully fighting charges of driving while intoxicated requires extensive legal knowledge, special skills, and experience in the criminal justice system. Our expertise here at Musca Law comes from our representation of thousands of clients that have all been charged with DUIs.
An experienced Vero Beach DUI lawyer in our Florida law offices will evaluate your case and decide if you were unjustly charged. We will use every available means to disprove your case and receive the best possible result in your favor, all while avoiding any extensive suspension of your driving privileges and assisting you in returning your life to normal.
When is a DUI a Felony?
There is a world of difference between a misdemeanor case and a felony case. A felony charge tends to carry with it penalties that are far more severe than those of a misdemeanor, including heftier fines and increased prison time, not to mention the figurative “scarlet A” with which you will be branded, a stigma worthy of the disdain of Nathaniel Hawthorne himself, long after you have been deposited back into society as a convicted felon. This is an outcome which can have a tremendous amount of negative impact on the rest of your life.
Being arrested for a DUI in Florida can be prosecuted as a felony in the event that:
You are being convicted of your third DUI offense in the span of ten years
- You are convicted of your fourth DUI within any timeframe
- You caused catastrophic injury to another person while you were driving under the influence
- You took the life of another person while you were driving under the influence. In Florida, this also applies to unborn children
Felony DUI charges are certainly not the more commonplace when it comes to these types of arrests, but they are, by no stretch of the imagination, hard to come by either. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 34% of all car accident deaths are instigated by a driver who has had too much to drink. In Florida specifically, there were 8,500 people who lost their lives due to drunk driving accidents over the past decade. Tens of thousands more have been grievously injured.
In those circumstances, if the driver survives, they are normally prosecuted for felony DUI.
When a person is killed by an alleged drunk driver, they are charged with DUI manslaughter.
To ensure that you are convicted for a charge of DUI manslaughter, the prosecutors must prove that you were operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time and that your operation of the vehicle caused, or contributed to causing, the death of any human being, including an unborn child.
DUI manslaughter is charged as a second-degree felony under Florida law, carrying with it a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison. If more than one person should die, then there is absolutely no guarantee that each 15-year prison term will not be sentenced to run consecutively, rather than concurrently.
A DUI Manslaughter charge could be filed as a first-degree felony, which would bring with it a maximum penalty of 30 years in state prison. This would only be the case if, at the time of the deadly accident, the at-fault driver was aware or should have been aware that the accident had occurred but neglected to give the information or render any aid, both of which are required by law. In layman’s terms, a drunk hit-and-run.
The minimum sentence for a charge of DUI manslaughter is four years. Some recent changes to the state law also make it a four-year minimum sentence for fleeing the scene of a deadly collision, and that is with the prosecutors proving that you were drinking. This new law was enacted as a way of getting rid of the benefit that drunk drivers saw to fleeing the scenes of fatal car crashes.
Defenses to Felony DUI
Obviously, every single case of driving while intoxicated is different. However, one proven defense with high success in most cases is stating that there is insufficient proof available that the accused was actually under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol to such a degree that their normal abilities were diminished in their capacity. When it comes to providing evidence, this case would be like any other DUI case. The prosecutors still have to demonstrate, through blood tests, breathalyzer tests, or other circumstantial evidence, that you were too impaired to drive.
At Musca Law, we will make every effort to examine the many tests along with the validity of law enforcement’s methods. We will investigate whether or not the machines were properly calibrated or whether an unknown medical ailment could have caused an incorrect result.
Each DUI case, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony, has to be investigated thoroughly and proper procedure must always be followed. Our Vero Beach DUI criminal defense attorneys know that anytime a detail has been neglected by the police or by prosecutors, that it is best seized as a chance to suppress that evidence or to raise reasonable doubt with a jury.
Another common defense against felony DUI involves proving that you were unlawfully stopped. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees “protection from unreasonable search and seizures of property and individuals by the government.” It also guards us against wanton, arbitrary arrests, requiring that the police at least have reasonable suspicion before they initiate even a brief stop. Reasonable suspicion entails analysis of the circumstances as a whole, in order to determine whether or not a police officer has an appropriate, understandable, and reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing; the police cannot merely act on a hunch. If it turns out that a stop was unlawfully initiated, then anything that was discovered as a result of that unlawful stop, including breathalyzer tests, observations made by the arresting officer, etc., will not be admissible in a court of law under the doctrine of “fruit of the poisonous tree”.
What Can a Vero Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Do to Help?
As we have stated before, there are very serious potential consequences that come along with a DUI conviction in Florida, some of which are also very long-lasting. You need to make sure that you seek advice from a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible. You might believe that your particular case is impossible to win and that you will be found guilty, especially if a blood or breath analysis test determined that you had a blood-alcohol level that was over the legal limit of 0.08%. Happily, your guilt is not a foregone conclusion, since there are several ways that a drunk driving defense attorney can help you to get the penalties in your case reduced or even eliminated altogether. Some examples of how our committed defense team can help you to win your DUI case are:
- Examining whether or not you being pulled over and/or arrested was in any way a violation of your rights or was unlawful;
- Examining any field sobriety test that was administered to look for errors;
- Test any recollections or observations that were made by law enforcement;
- Offer another explanation for as to why you appeared to be intoxicated, such as severe hypoglycemia;
- Examine if any errors were mead at the forensics testing lab or in the transport to and from causing erroneous results;
- Work with the prosecuting attorney in an effort to get your charges dropped down or enter into a plea bargain for a smaller, less severe punishment; and/or
- Defend you from any unlawful or wrongful charges at trial.
If you know that you are facing charges for driving while intoxicated, or any other criminal traffic violation, it is imperative that you have an experienced attorney representing you in court. An attorney can examine the evidence against you and work to get your charges reduced to reckless driving, or possibly even dismissed. Here at Musca Law, we realize that being charged with a DUI is a stressful and frightening experience.
To schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation, please get in touch with our law offices by calling (888) 484-5057 as soon as you possibly can. The more quickly you act the better off you will be.