Fort Lauderdale DUI Defense Attorney
DUI – Driving Under the Influence
Driving Under the Influence is considered a serious criminal offense in the State of Florida. Most of us rely on the ability to drive to do many of our everyday things, such as getting to work or school, buying groceries, doctor’s appointments, and transporting family members to after school events. Being arrested for D.U.I. can result in the loss of your privilege to drive, large fines, and the possibility of jail or prison. If you or someone you know has been arrested for D.U.I., the Law Office of Steven J. Hammer, P.A. can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation, where we will evaluate your case by discussing the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest, explain to you what your options are, and outline the possible defenses that may be available to help win your case.
What constitutes driving under the influence?
Driving under the influence (DUI) means operating, or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle after having consumed alcohol or drugs that have impaired an individual's mental or motor skills. In the State of Florida, a person will be considered "impaired" if they exhibit objective signs of intoxication, or if they have a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.
When may a police officer stop a driver for being under the influence?
A police officer may stop a vehicle for a violation of any of the many traffic laws in the State. The most common types of traffic violations that give rise to an officer’s belief that a driver may be impaired are weaving from lane to lane, failure to maintain a single lane, straddling the lane dividers, driving at excessive or very slow speeds, braking erratically, coming in close contact with objects or other vehicles, or causing an accident.
How does a police officer determine whether a driver is impaired?
Upon making contact with the driver, the officer will look for what is considered to be “tell-tale” signs of impairment – an odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from the driver; red and/or watery eyes; slurred speech; the inability of the driver to readily produce his driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. If the officer notices any of these “tell-tale” signs, the officer will next request the driver to step out of the vehicle and perform a series of road side exercises, commonly referred to as field sobriety tests, which are designed to test a driver's balance and motor skills. These exercises may include walking heel-to-toe in a straight line; touching your finger to your nose; standing on one leg; or reciting the alphabet. The officer will consider the driver’s ability to perform the requested exercises in determining whether he believes the driver is impaired.
Are these road side exercises mandatory?
Road side exercises or field sobriety tests are voluntary – which means that a driver is not required to perform these tests. However, while these tests may be voluntary, the refusal to perform the tests will be taken into consideration by the officer, and will most likely result in the driver being arrested for D.U.I.
What happens after being arrested for D.U.I.?
Once the driver is placed under arrest, the officer will read the Florida Implied Consent Law. The Florida Implied Consent Law is a law which requires a driver to submit to a chemical test to measure the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC). A driver's BAC is tested by breath, blood, or urine and is measured by the percentage of alcohol in the blood by weight.
Does the driver have a right to refuse to submit to a breath, blood or urine test?
The driver has an absolute right to refuse to submit to this test. However, refusing the test may have serious consequences. In Florida, the refusal to submit to testing can be considered a criminal offense in and of itself; and may also result in the driver’s license being suspended. Additionally, the refusal to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test may be introduced as evidence of guilt in the criminal DUI trial.
What are the penalties associated with D.U.I.?
In Florida, the legislature has established minimum penalties that must be imposed upon a conviction for D.U.I. First time offenders face a minimum of 6 months probation, 6 month driver’s license suspension, $250.00 fine, 50 hours of community service, completion of the Level One D.U.I. course, and the driver’s motor vehicle will be required to be immobilized for a period of 10 days. However, the Judge may impose harsher penalties, including a jail sentence, depending upon the facts of the case. Additionally, if the driver’s impairment caused an accident involving death or serious bodily injury, or if the driver has been previously convicted of D.U.I., the driver may be charged with a felony offense, which may expose the driver to a state prison sentence.
In addition to the criminal penalties, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may impose administrative sanctions relating to your driver’s license, even before the criminal portion of your case has been resolved. As indicated above, the Florida Implied Consent Law is a law which requires a driver to submit to a chemical test to measure the driver's blood alcohol content. If you refuse to provide a breath, blood, or urine sample, under Florida Law, your privilege to drive may be suspended for a period of 1 year for a first refusal. Additionally, if you did take the test, but your blood alcohol content (BAC) was above the legal limit of .08, your license can be suspended for a period of 6 months for a first time offender.
It is important to realize that these administrative suspensions may be challenged by way of requesting a Formal Review Hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles within ten days of your arrest. The failure to file for a hearing within that 10 day time period will result in your license automatically being suspended. The Law Office of Steven J. Hammer, P.A. can assist you in applying for a Formal Review Hearing; and in most cases, will be able to obtain a temporary driving permit, allowing you to drive until your hearing is resolved.
Remember, there are many legal defenses that can be raised in both the Administrative Formal Review Hearing and the Criminal DUI trial; and the penalties for both are very serious. It takes an experienced lawyer to be successful in these administrative hearings and the criminal trial. The Law Office of Steven J. Hammer, P.A. has helped hundreds of our clients get this administrative suspension set aside, and get their driving privileges reinstated; and has successfully defended our clients at trial, enabling them to escape the harsh penalties associated with a DUI conviction, as well as the stigma that goes along with being convicted of a DUI.
Contact us immediately so we can start taking the steps to file the necessary paperwork for you to have a Formal Review Hearing, and let us help you get back on the road.
Contact Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Steven J. Hammer
440 South Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301