If you’re facing a DUI charge in Florida, you could face serious penalties because prosecutors and judges take these crimes seriously. However, facing charges is not the same as being convicted. You still have the right to hire a DUI defense attorney to fight a DUI charge and protect your future. Here’s how and why you must act fast:
What to Do If You’ve Had a DUI Arrest in Florida?
After the shock of your arrest has settled in, it’s time to think about what you can do next to protect your future. You will likely be bombarded at your home with letters, boxes, and packages from lawyers soliciting your business. Don’t fall for these ads, do your own independent research before you contact a lawyer.
If you had a valid driver’s license at the time of the arrest, you can still drive for 10 days. During that time, you should consider signing up for DUI school and exploring the possibility of getting a hardship license.
Because there is only 10 days to make these decisions and to complete these tasks, contacting an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible is essential.
Hire a DUI Defense Attorney Fast
Next, contact a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Their guidance could help reduce the charges or get them dropped – saving you from years worth of pain and restrictions to your freedom.
You must do this quickly. If you don’t file for a DUI hearing with the DMV within 10 days of your arrest, then your license suspension will be upheld.
Routes to Defending a DUI Charge in Florida
Before a trial is even held, you may be able to challenge your DUI charge on constitutional, legal, or administrative grounds. If successful, evidence could be thrown out by the court, making it impossible for you to be prosecuted.
Challenging the Stop
Florida law states clearly that a law enforcement officer can only stop your vehicle if:
- The officer has a reasonable suspicion that you’re committing a traffic infraction.
- The officer has probable cause that you’re committing a crime.
In some cases, the officer may have had no reason to stop you. In these scenarios, the State will be forced to drop your charges.
Example: A police officer stopped you for an expired license plate, but they were mistaken and your plate was not expired. The Judge will deem this an illegal stop and be forced to dismiss the case regardless of your BAC level.
Challenging Field Sobriety Tests
In many Florida DUI arrests, law enforcement carries out a Field Sobriety Test. These are tests that study your coordination and balance to see if you’re drunk. However, a DUI defense attorney can ask:
- Does the officer know your true balance and coordination?
- Do you have any physical impairments or disabilities, such as a bad back or injured knee?
- Was the officer qualified to perform the Field Sobriety Test?
Challenge the Breathalyzer
The machines used to measure blood alcohol levels are subject to strict regulations and maintenance standards. They must also be used properly and are sensitive to incorrect use. Any outdated machinery or improper use could result in your breath tests being thrown out – regardless of the blood alcohol levels recorded.
A DUI defense attorney will ask:
- Did the officer observe you for 20 minutes before the test?
- Were you requested to ‘keep blowing’ during the test?
- Was the machine calibrated properly?
Challenge the Refusal
Under Florida Law, refusing to take a BAC test is a failed test. But there are circumstances where law enforcement claims you refused the test when actually you didn’t. These can include:
- Language Barriers: If your English isn’t perfect, you may find an officer loses patience and gives up, documenting a refusal that didn’t happen.
- Impatience: Naturally, some people have many questions for officers when they’re breath tested or stopped. Some officers lose patience and say you were ‘uncooperative.’
- Medical Issues: Some people may be unable to cooperate as the police want. For example, if they have anxiety with urine tests or mental health issues. In these cases, an officer might mark it as a refusal rather than noting the reality of the situation.
These are just some of the common scenarios that are used to fight a DUI charge in Florida. In your case, there could be other reasons. By contacting a DUI defense attorney, you can receive expert advice that could help reduce or drop your charges.
The Quick DUI Resolution – D.R.O.P Program
There is an alternative to choosing to fight a DUI charge. If you’re in Pinellas County, then you may be eligible for the DUI Rehabilitation of Offenders Program (D.R.O.P).
This program was introduced in June 2021 and gives you the chance to reduce your charges and get your life back on track as soon as possible.
To be eligible, you must be facing a first-time DUI offense with a breath test under.15 BAC or you refused the intoxilyzer without having a serious crash.
If accepted into the DROP program, then you will enter a Plea of Guilty to the reduced charge of Reckless Driving and be placed on probation.
This may be a more suitable route for you if you’re looking for a quick resolution and there is no way to defend your charges.
Get Your Charges Reduced
The benefits of the Pinellas county D.R.O.P program include:
- Your charge will be reduced to Reckless Driving.
- If your case is Tier One, then you qualify for having ‘Adjudication Withheld.’ This means you will not be convicted of any criminal offense.
- You’ll have a shorter probation period.
- You won’t receive a court-ordered suspension of your license. (However, under some circumstances, the DMV may still have your license suspended or restricted.)
- This may reduce your insurance costs and get you back on the road sooner.
- Potentially reduced fines.
To learn more about the D.R.O.P program and how to apply, read our Pinellas County DUI Diversion Program guide.
Florida DUI Arrest Statistics
- 4 in 100k fatalities in Florida are caused by alcohol-impaired driving.
- There are 156 arrests per 100k people in Florida for DUI offenses.
- In 2018, over 23,000 DUI arrests were of adult males with just 8,000 DUI arrests of adult females.
DUI Defense Attorney in Pinellas County, FL
If you want to fight a DUI charge in Florida, you must contact a DUI defense attorney quickly. Acting fast can help you retain your license, gather crucial evidence and help you avoid severe penalties.
Sean McQuaid is a top-rated criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County. He is the President of the St. Petersburg Bar Association, a group of 1,100 lawyers and judges in the area. He is the managing partner at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms with the reputation and connections to make things happen.
With decades of experience helping people like you, we believe there is no better place to help you fight a DUI charge in Florida.
Contact us today for a free consultation to get started or CALL (727) 381-2300