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St. Augustine DUI Lawyers

DUI Defense, Over 150 Years of Experience

The state of Florida has some of the most harsh 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. In addition to these criminal penalties, the negligent driver will also most likely face civil and administrative consequences, including the suspension or revocation of their driver’s license.

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 St. Augustine, FL then it is in your best interest to 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.

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 law, 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.

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, however, be a reason for being charged with a DUI. Your St. Augustine 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, but do not take the necessary 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…  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. 

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 St. Augustine, 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 accused of drunk driving 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. This determination will be left up to the judge overseeing the case.

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 can be brought 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, 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 started out as a simple charge of driving under the influence has now grown into a third-degree felony. If another person has been seriously injured as the result of your drunken car accident, even if that other person was a passenger in your very own vehicle, the minimum penalty for a criminal charge of DUI with Serious Bodily Injury is five years incarceration in a Florida state prison.

What Are the Elements of a DUI Manslaughter Charge?

When someone is killed by a drunk driver, they face a charge of DUI manslaughter. To make sure that you face the penalties for a charge of DUI manslaughter, the state has to establish that you were driving a car while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time and that your operation of the vehicle is what caused, or contributed to causing, the death of any person, including an unborn child.

Penalties for DUI Manslaughter in St. Augustine

DUI manslaughter is classified as a second-degree felony according to drunk driving laws in Florida, bringing with it a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. If more than one person dies, then there is no guarantee that each 15-year prison sentence will not be slated to run consecutively (one after the other), instead of concurrently (both at the same time).

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 St. Augustine 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, confidential, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced attorneys so that we can discuss the details of your case with you and determine together how best to support your legal rights.

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