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Sarasota DUI Lawyers

The state of Florida has some of the most stringent drinking and driving laws in the United States. A conviction for driving under the influence has some very serious penalties attached to it, including hefty fines, jail time, obligations to perform community service, and even having an ignition interlock device installed in your car. Alongside these criminal penalties, the guilty driver will also most likely face civil and administrative consequences, including the suspension or revocation of their driver’s license.

Just the process of being arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be an embarrassing and frightening experience. The most significant thing for you to remember is that, just because you have been arrested, it does not mean that you will inevitably be found guilty of the driving under the influence charge. Driving under the influence is a serious infraction; however, making sure that you have an experienced and qualified defense attorney by your side will greatly improve your chances of putting this incident behind you with the best outcome possible.

After your DUI arrest, you have just 10 days in which to request a formal review hearing. Hiring the right attorney for the job during that 10 day period is one of the most important decisions that you will ever make. If you or someone you love has recently been charged with driving under the influence in Sarasota, FL then please contact the offices of Musca Law right away so that we may discuss your case and determine your legal options in a free, no-obligation consultation as soon as possible.

Definition of Driving Under the Influence in Florida

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 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.” 

The DUI laws here in Florida 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” variant of a DUI, if your blood-alcohol content is above the state’s legal limit of .08% at the time you were arrested, then you could be convicted of DUI even if you were showing absolutely no signs of physical or mental impairment of any kind. Law enforcement officers have several different methods of determining 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 selected 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.

Can I Get a DUI Charge in a Parked Car?

Part of what makes Florida DUI cases so complex is that you can be charged with driving under the influence even if you were not actually driving a car at the time the offense occurred. According to Florida laws, if you were in a position to be considered in actual physical control of the vehicle while you were intoxicated, you can still be arrested and charged.

This means that you can be charged with driving under the influence just for pulling over to “sleep it off” in a Denny’s parking lot. When this happens, the courts will examine several different factors when they are deciding whether or not there is sufficient evidence to agree to a motion to dismiss the case. The factors that they will consider include, but are not limited to:

  • Was the vehicle running at the time of the incident or was it turned off?
  • Where was the vehicle parked?
  • Was the hood of the vehicle warm to the touch, indicating that it had recently been driven?
  • Were the keys in the ignition at the time of the incident?
  • If not, were the keys somewhere the defendant could easily get to them?
  • Was the defendant sitting in the driver’s seat or somewhere else? Was the seat in a reclined position or was it upright?
  • Was the vehicle parked on purpose or were there mechanical issues that were the real reason for pulling over?

In the majority of these types of actual physical control cases, your defense attorney will most likely dispute the DUI charge by saying that your arrest was illegal to begin with, since the police officer never even saw you driving and had absolutely no cause to detain you. Also, with a lack of adequate proof that you were in actual physical control of the car, your defense attorney can file a motion to have the DUI charge dismissed altogether.

If you have been charged with driving under the influence while you were not physically operating the vehicle in any way, then a criminal defense attorney in Sarasota, FL, will be able to assist you in building a solid defense against the charges as we work to get you the best possible outcome.

Implied Consent Laws in Florida

The state of Florida has what is known as an “implied consent” law. By legal definition, an implied consent law states that anytime a person gets behind the wheel of a car in Florida, they are considered to have granted their permission, or implied consent, to yield to a blood-alcohol content test during a suspected-DUI stop. This does not mean, however, that the driver is also obligated to consent to take any field sobriety tests.

Should a driver refuse to relinquish a blood, urine, or breath sample for a blood-alcohol level test, they could possibly face harsh civil penalties, including an automatic suspension of their driver’s license for as long as one year. If this turns out to be the second time they have declined to submit a blood-alcohol test, then their driver’s license could very well be suspended for as long as a year and a half.

In the event that a driver refuses to take the test, they will automatically be arrested and will receive a Notice of Suspension. The suspension of their driver’s license will go into effect immediately and, as previously mentioned, their license can be suspended for up to one full year. 

A vital piece of information for anyone who has been charged with driving under the influence is that the accused only has a 10 day period after their arrest in which to fight to keep their driving privileges. Inside of that 10-day window, the accused driver has to petition for a formal review hearing with the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,where the accused will be able to contest the suspension of their driver’s license. A skilled DUI attorney will be able to help you qualify for a 42-day driving permit, allowing you to drive to and from work, and for business purposes, while you are challenging your suspension.

It is important to keep in mind that the suspension of your driver’s license is completely separate from your charges of driving under the influence. The license suspension is a civil penalty, whereas the drunk driving charges are criminal penalties. This means that, in some situations, a person who has been charged with a DUI could realistically bypass a DUI conviction but yet still be subjected to the administrative suspension of their driver’s license.

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 a .15%, and whether or not any type of accident occurred and, if so, was any property damaged or was anyone injured or killed.

First DUI

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.

DUI with Property Damage

Oftentimes, when someone is operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, property damage is involved. This offshoot of a standard DUI charge is charged as DUI with Property Damage. Harsher punishments will accompany a common DUI charge in the event that the driver has also been involved in an accident that caused property damage to another car or caused non-serious bodily injury to another person. These harsher penalties may include a longer mandatory length of jail time to serve and much higher fines to be paid to the courts.

DUI with Serious Bodily Injury

In the event that the criminal charge should include a serious injury to another person, the charges will grow even more severe. What was a simple driving under the influence charge has now grown into a third-degree felony. If another person has been seriously injured as the result of your car accident, even if that other person was a passenger in your very own vehicle, the minimum penalty for a criminal charge of a DUI with Serious Bodily Injury is five years incarceration in a Florida state prison.

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 Sarasota 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
  • 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 Sarasota 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 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.

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