How to Fight a DUI Without a Lawyer

(Answer: Don’t)

Carey Meldon-bio

Carey Meldon, DUI defense attorney

According to the CDC, someone dies every 50 minutes because of impaired driving. Across the nation, driving under the influence causes approximately one out of every three traffic deaths. Statistics show that 28 percent of fatal crashes in December—around the holidays—involved impaired drivers. In Florida, 32,177 arrests for DUI took place in one recent year, including 467 in Fort Lauderdale alone.

That’s why police and prosecutors crack down hard on alleged DUI offenders.

If you are facing a DUI charge, you may consider fighting the charge yourself, without the help of a lawyer. Before proceeding alone, you will want to understand the magnitude of that decision and your chances of success or failure without a DUI lawyer. You may have no previous experience with the legal system, but the outcome of your case can have an enormous impact on your future. First, you need to know what you are dealing with. Read on to learn what Meldon Law has to say about it.

What Is a DUI Charge?

You may have heard the terms “DUI” and “DWI” used interchangeably. DUI means driving under the influence and DWI means driving while intoxicated. They both refer to the same thing, but in Florida, the official term is DUI.

A person who is driving under the influence is driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, or a chemical or controlled substance. You may think that you cannot be convicted if you were not actually driving the car at the time of your arrest.

However, actual physical control means that you must be physically in (or on) the vehicle and that you have the apparent ability to immediately drive the car, regardless of whether you are actually operating the vehicle at the time. Therefore, you may have been asleep in a parked car, and the engine turned off. The question of actual physical control is an issue of fact for the jury to decide.

Under Florida law if a driver has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher, or if the driver’s faculties are impaired, whether due to alcohol, recreational drugs, or even prescription drugs, then they may be charged with a DUI. The law sets the limits lower for underage drivers (0.02 percent) and drivers of commercial vehicles (0.04 percent).

A Florida DUI charge is very serious. You may be wondering if the crime is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. A first-offense Florida DUI is generally a misdemeanor. However, if there are aggravating factors, for example, if someone was injured or killed, a charge of driving under the influence may be considered a felony. There is a wide range of DUI penalties. These may include jail time, license suspension, heavy fines, and court fees, and other consequences that may affect your future.

The following penalties apply to those with their first conviction:

  • DUI consequencesFines: For a first conviction, the fine will be $500–$2,000. If there are other factors, such as your blood alcohol level is .15 or higher, or there was a minor in the vehicle, the fine will be set at $2,000–$4,000.
  • Community Service: For a first conviction, you must serve 50 hours of community service, or there will be an additional fine of $10 for each hour of mandatory community service.
  • Probation: The period of probation and incarceration, together, will not exceed 1 year for a first conviction.
  • Imprisonment: Jail time is determined by the court. If it is the first conviction, the sentence is not more than 6 months. If there are aggravating factors, for example, there was a minor in the vehicle or your BAC is .15 or higher, the sentence will be no more than 9 months. In some cases, the judge may permit the sentence to be served in a residential treatment program for alcoholism or drug abuse.

For second, third and fourth convictions, the penalties become much more severe.

Other Consequences of a DUI Charge

Most people are aware that a DUI arrest may result in criminal charges, but they may not understand the impact it has on their driver’s license. If you have been arrested or charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Florida, you face a long driver’s license suspension. After a DUI arrest, a driver only has 10 days to apply for a DMV administrative review hearing.

A DMV hearing, known as a DHSMV hearing in Florida, is separate from the criminal case. At the hearing, the driver is requesting that the administrative suspension be invalidated and removed from his or her driving record. If the driver does not schedule or attend the hearing, their driver’s license is suspended, typically for six to 18 months. If this happens, you may be unable to drive to and from work, school, or tend to your other obligations. Read on to learn why having an attorney at your DMV hearing would be beneficial.

Why Hire an Attorney?

There are several reasons to consider hiring an attorney. You may have been wrongfully charged, or the charges may be more than a DUI. Whatever the circumstances, a DUI lawyer will work to avoid a conviction, minimize the penalties, or limit the potential damage to your life. An arrest does not always mean a conviction. Your lawyer will build the strongest possible defense to challenge the charges against you.

An attorney who has experience handling DUI cases can investigate and contest the arrest. They will consider legal and evidentiary issues, such as:

  • Did the police have probable cause to pull you over
  • Did the police have a reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence
  • Did the police have the right to ask you to do field sobriety tests
  • Were the field sobriety tests were adequately or competently administered
  • Did the police have the right to ask you to do the breath test and was it properly administered
  • Did the police inform you of your rights if you refused the breath test
  • Was the breath test machine working correctly
  • Was the breath test machine inspected regularly
  • Did the police meet the Miranda rights requirements
  • Was there sufficient evidence for the arrest

Before you decide to go it alone, remember that in Florida, a conviction of a DUI will remain on your record for 75 years. An experienced Fort Lauderdale DUI lawyer knows how the DUI process works, and will fight to get your charges dropped, or minimize the penalties if convicted.


Meldon Law
Phone: (954) 334-1276

Fort Lauderdale DUI and Criminal Defense