Did you know that according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles there are over 3,000 people arrested for DUI in Pinellas County every year? Out of that staggering figure, over 90% are convicted of the crime! With the help of a Pinellas County DUI defense attorney, you can increase your chances to avoid becoming simply another statistic.
The Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office has taken a zero-tolerance approach toward DUI prosecutions. Pinellas County does not offer diversion programs for first-time offenders and it is extremely difficult to get a case dismissed or reduced. This attitude has trickled down to the various law enforcement agencies in Pinellas County. Thus, driving after drinking, using drugs or even taking prescription medication can land you in the Pinellas County Jail.
After being arrested for DUI, you will certainly have many questions about what next steps to take and your options. I have handled countless DUIs in Pinellas County and am familiar with the judges and prosecutors who will decide your case. If you are seeking answers from a DUI defense attorney to frequently asked questions regarding a Pinellas County DUI, I hope you will find the following helpful.
Can I Still Drive After a Dui Arrest Even Though My License Was Taken?
If you had a valid license at the time of the DUI arrest, you have options. You will have until midnight of the 10th day following the arrest to choose your option. This is also known as the 10-day rule and you are allowed to drive during this time for any reason. If this is your first DUI and you have never had an alcohol-related driving arrest before, you will likely want to go to the DMV Office of Administrative Review and select the waiver review hearing option. As long as you have signed up for DUI school, you will be eligible to drive for the remaining period of your suspension on a business purposes only (BPO) license. You may drive on the BPO regardless whether your suspension is for 6 or 12 months.
If this is a second or subsequent DUI, your DUI lawyer will likely request an Administrative Review Hearing for you before the 10 days are up. There really isn’t any risk to choosing this option. You will then receive a 6-week temporary BPO license. If you win the hearing, you get a full driver’s license back. If you lose, you will have to serve a hard suspension before applying for a BPO. If this is a second or subsequent refusal case and the suspension is for 18 months, then you will not be eligible for a BPO if you lose the Administrative Review Hearing.
Is It Better to Blow or Refuse During a DUI Investigation?
This is a hard question to answer and it depends on the circumstances. I have had cases where my client told me he almost refused and yet blew .000! My advice is that if you have had 2-3 drinks, your blood alcohol level should be under the legal limit and you should blow. If you have had anything over 3 drinks, then refuse.
Do You have the Right to Speak to a DUI Attorney?
If you have been stopped by law enforcement and are being investigated for DUI, you do not have the right to an attorney. That does not mean that you have to comply with everything that the officer asks you to do, just that you are not entitled to a lawyer. If you do not comply because you are not given a lawyer, it will be considered the same as a refusal. This rule has one caveat. If you are being asked questions during a DUI investigation, you have the right to invoke your right to a DUI lawyer. If you invoke this right (it is one of the rights in the Miranda warnings), then the police officer must stop asking you questions.
What if the Officer Did Not Read Miranda?
Miranda rights are often misunderstood by DUI offenders. People believe that the failure to read Miranda in a criminal case is some sort of technical “get out of jail free” card. Miranda rights only apply to statements that you make while you are in custody and subject to questioning. So, if you are not asked any questions by the police, then there is no Miranda violation. However, if you are being investigated by law enforcement, you are not free to leave, and you are being asked questions, then Miranda should be read to you. Part of the Miranda warnings is the 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination. If the police fail to advise you of this right, it may be possible to strike or suppress any incriminating statements that are made. Since virtually all DUI cases are on video, this is usually an issue that can be discovered easily.
What if You Have a Driver’s License From Another State?
If you have an out of state license and arrested for DUI in Florida, the arresting officer will surely take your license. Your driving privileges in Florida will then be suspended for the appropriate length of the suspension. But, if you head back to the state where you live, it is likely that your state will not have any idea about the DUI suspension for quite some time. Now, because Florida has reciprocity with all other states, the suspension will eventually be reported and you will have to deal with it in your state. The issue is whether you can continue to drive in your state and in other states until your state learns of the suspension and takes steps to enforce it. My advice is that if your state will re-issue you a license, go ahead and get one. If you don’t get a license re-issued, you will have to wait until your state learns of the Florida case. This could potentially add many months to the length of your suspension. It is my belief that you should not be penalized simply because the states are inefficient.
What Does a Business Purposes Only License Mean?
Where you can drive after a DUI arrest is another misunderstood topic. If you receive a Business Purposes Only driver’s license, you likely may have been read the statute by the people at DMV. But, what I’ve found is very frustrating to my clients is that the employees will not answer any specific questions, only direct you to the language of the statute. Under Fla. Stat. 322.271(1)(c), a business purposes only license means driving to maintain your livelihood, to and from work, on the job driving, and driving for educational, church or medical purposes.
Because the statute does not give examples, I advise my clients that the language is broad and that they simply should not drive for recreational purposes or ever drink a sip of alcohol and drive on a BPO. Otherwise, it is virtually impossible to determine what cannot be done. For example, you need to eat to maintain your livelihood. So, if you swing by a fast food place on your lunch break, that is fine. Likewise, you are able to go shopping at a grocery store because you need food to eat. But, taking your girlfriend out for dinner and a movie would be a violation. I also advise my clients that if they work a job with late hours, to always have someone available to call to confirm you are coming home from work. I find that most of my clients get stopped for checks on the BPO license at night, so it is important to be careful.
Can You Get a DUI If You Take Medicine That a Doctor Prescribed?
The quick answer to this question is yes. If you are impaired by prescription medication or medical marijuana, you can be arrested and charged for DUI. Now, if you are only taking lawfully prescribed medication and not combining it with alcohol, it makes the DUI case easier to defend once it arrives at the prosecutor’s desk.
Contact a DUI Lawyer
There are virtually endless questions about DUIs because of the complexities of the cases and the requirements that the Florida Legislature has imposed. The laws change every year and you will want to contact a DUI defense attorney who routinely handles these types of cases. If you have any questions, please contact me at my office in St. Petersburg. I routinely handle DUI defense cases in Pinellas County and offer free consultations.