The DUI process in Florida can indeed be an intimidating one. Our Fort Lauderdale DUI defense attorneys recognize you are likely facing a great deal of anxiety due to potential jail time, fines and the concern of a criminal conviction trailing you for life.
If you are arrested for DUI, it’s important to contact a defense lawyer as soon as possible. At The Ansara Law Firm, we work to ensure your rights are protected throughout the proceedings – from investigation to plea negotiations to trial (understanding that not all cases will go to trial). We will explore the circumstances surrounding your arrest, and the evidence against you. Helping you avoid conviction is our primary goal. If that isn’t possible, we work to help you minimize the impact of the penalties you face.The DUI Process in Florida
It’s important to point out that suspicion won’t necessarily equal arrest, and arrest does not equal conviction. You are entitled to due process, thanks to provision of both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Both protect the loss or life, liberty or property without due process of the law.
What this means is that even if you were driving drunk, it’s still incumbent upon police and prosecutors to follow due process at every step if they want to succeed in their case. For example, if you are stopped for an unlawful reason or officers draw blood without a warrant absent exigent circumstances (see Missouri v. McNeely, U.S. Supreme Court 2013), you may have grounds to challenge the consideration of that evidence. Our attorneys will file a motion to suppress evidence that is gathered incorrectly and without consideration for due process, with the goal that it could not be used against you.
From beginning to end, here is the general process of DUI process in Florida:
- Traffic Stop. Law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that you have committed, are committing or were about to commit a crime to stop you in traffic. This burden of proof is lesser than probable cause (what would be required for a warrant or arrest), but it must be more than a hunch. It must be based on articulable facts.
- Field Sobriety Test. Officers may ask you to perform numerous field sobriety tests, including the walk-and-turn and standing on one leg. Unlike breathalyzer tests, you do have the right to refuse a field sobriety test, and you will not suffer automatic license suspension. If you are in fact intoxicated, it may be wise to politely decline.
- Blood-Alcohol Test (BAC). The officer may ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test. F.S. 316.1932 is the state’s implied consent laws, and requires that you submit to a breathalyzer, or else face an automatic one-year license suspension. All drivers are presumed to have given consent to have their breath-alcohol content measured when they get behind the wheel. However, the McNeely ruling requires that if officers do not have consent to draw your blood, they must first obtain a warrant from a judge to do so. There is an exception for “exigent circumstances,” which would involve a pressing reason to obtain it right then and there.
- Arrest and Booking. If police have probable cause to suspect you are impaired behind the wheel, you can be arrested. Usually, probable cause is formulated with some combination of general officer observations (i.e., glassy eyes, slurred speech, imbalance), field sobriety test observations and the results of your BAC test.
- Release. If you are arrested for DUI, you will be held for at least eight hours, unless your BAC falls to 0.05 or below and/ or you are no longer impaired. You may be released on your own recognizance, or you may be required to pay bail. Upon release, you will also need to go to the impound lot to retrieve your vehicle.
- First Appearance. If you are not released, a hearing will be held within 24 hours of our arrest. You will be read the charges and the judge will determine if there was probable cause and if you should be given bail.
- DMV Hearing. Upon your DUI arrest, if you fail to submit to a breath test, your license could automatically be suspended. You can drive with your DUI citation as a temporarily license, but only for 10 days, within which you must request a hearing from the DMV to challenge your license suspension.
- Arraignment. Your DUI citation might have the date of the arraignment on it. You will want to have your Fort Lauderdale DUI defense lawyer at the arraignment. This is when the charges against you will be read, and you will be given the choice of whether to plead guilty, not guilty or no contest.
- Pre-trial hearings, motions and evidentiary hearings. Before trial starts, there will likely be numerous pre-trial hearings. Plea offers may be discussed. There may also be discovery issues resolved, and your attorney may file motions to suppress, seeking rulings to disallow certain evidence to be used against you in court.
- Trial. If your case is not resolved in a plea deal, it will proceed to the trial phase. This is where you will go to court and the prosecutor will have the burden of proving you are guilty. You may have a bench trial before a judge, or it may be necessary to go before a jury. After all evidence is presented, a determination will be made as to your guilt or innocence.
- Probation. It’s possible if you are convicted of DUI or even a lesser charge that you may be required to successfully complete probation. Any violation of the conditions of your probation could lead to serious repercussions, for which it will be important to consult with an experienced DUI attorney in Fort Lauderdale.
Throughout every phase of this process, there are important legal issues that must be considered and resolved. The good news is you do not have to do it on your own.
If you have been charged with DUI in Fort Lauderdale, call The Ansara Law Firm today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.