Florida DUI Defense Attorneys
Have You Been Arrested in the State of Florida?
If so, do not wait in retaining counsel. Call us today at 800-373-8000. Our experienced Florida DUI defense attorneys can help with any criminal matter across the state, our offices are located in Gainesville, Ocala and Ft. Lauderdale.
Protecting the Rights of Individuals Accused of Drunk Driving in Florida
Tens of thousands of people are arrested each year in Florida on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI).
If you’ve been accused of DUI in Florida, you should not wait to contact a highly skilled DUI defense law firm. Timing is extremely important in these cases, so please call Meldon Law to discuss how we can protect your rights today.
What to Do if Pulled Over
Unless you are at a sobriety checkpoint, the police must have some reason to pull you over in the first place. It may be a moving violation that makes them suspect alcohol impairment (improper lane change, driving too fast or too slow, failure to signal, drifting or weaving out of your lane), or it could be something unrelated such as broken taillights or an expired tag. Assuming they have a lawful reason to pull you over, the way you conduct yourself during a traffic stop can make the difference between whether or not you are arrested for DUI and if you are arrested, how much evidence you’ve given the government to use against you at your trial.
Consider the following tips regarding how to behave and your rights during a DUI traffic stop. If you’ve been arrested for DUI, don’t despair. You might have several viable defenses that can keep you from a DUI conviction. A good attorney can counsel you on your options, help you understand your situation, and provide you with a strong defense or negotiate a result that is significantly better than some of the serious consequences you could face from a conviction. Call Meldon Law after a DUI arrest in Florida, and find out how we can help.
The police started observing you before they ever decided to pull you over. As they approach your vehicle and from that moment onward, they will be looking for any evidence of intoxication to support their ability to arrest you and require you to take a chemical test of your blood alcohol level. Getting pulled over can be a nerve-wracking experience for anybody, but the more you remain calm, composed and in control of yourself, the fewer reasons you give the officer to articulate suspicion that you’ve been drinking.
Also, remember that police officers run on adrenaline whenever they make a traffic stop. They might seem calm from the outside, but they are people too, and they want to feel safe when they approach your vehicle and know that you aren’t going to pull a gun, drive away, run away, or act hostile or aggressive toward them. Remaining calm and respectful will help put them at ease while also not making any moves that could be interpreted as signs of intoxication or other reasons to effect an arrest.
Less Is More
If the police suspect that you’ve been drinking, they are going to ask you about it. They will want to know if you’ve had anything to drink, how much and when. They will ask where you came from and where you are going. It’s not just the content of your answers they are after, but anything in the way you move or talk that indicates intoxication – slurred speech, blurry eyes, slow speech, disorientation. It doesn’t matter if you give confused answers because you are nervous; if the police can interpret your confusion as evidence of intoxication, then they will.
You aren’t really obligated to answer every question put to you by the police. In fact, you have the constitutional right to refuse to answer any questions that could incriminate you (like whether you’ve been drinking, if you just came from a bar, etc.). While you may be required to provide your driver’s license and vehicle registration and comply with commands, you don’t have to converse. When you do answer questions, the shorter they are, the less the police have to work with to say that you were impaired.
Chemical Tests Are Mandatory, Field Sobriety Tests Aren’t.
One of the things the police will want you to do during a DUI traffic stop is give a series of tests called field sobriety tests. These are things like the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (following the officer’s pen or finger as they move it across your field of vision), the One-Leg Stand Test, and the Walk-and-Turn Test. Officers use your performance on these tests to decide whether you are impaired and should be arrested and taken to the station for a breathalyzer. The problem with these tests is that they are subjective, and any mistake like a momentary loss of balance gives them all the evidence they need to say you are impaired.
These tests are voluntary in most instances, but the police might make it seem like they are required. When the police need your consent to perform these tests, you have the right to decline them with no repercussions. If you do take the tests and end up “failing,” don’t despair. A skilled and experienced Florida DUI defense attorney will take a hard look at the circumstances surrounding the tests and challenge the results if the tests were improper. If the field sobriety test is truly voluntary, consider a polite yet firm refusal to protect your rights.
A chemical test of your blood or breath (blowing into a machine at the police station) is required, however. If the police have probable cause to arrest you, you are required by law to submit to the test or face an immediate license suspension for your refusal and have your refusal used against you in court. Taking the test does give the police evidence to use against you, and some people refuse to blow even knowing the consequences if they are worried they would give a very high reading and face additional penalties for an enhanced DUI.
Florida DUI Laws
Unlike some states, Florida law does not treat driving under the influence of alcohol as a traffic offense but instead, the law makes DUI a criminal offense with potentially serious consequences. To convict you of DUI, the prosecutor must prove that you were in physical control of a vehicle while:
- Your faculties were impaired by alcohol, or
- Your blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08 percent or higher
The legal limit for underage drivers is 0.02 percent and the limit for drivers of commercial vehicles is 0.04 percent.
Even if a chemical test shows that you are under the legal limit, an officer can still arrest you if they claim they have probable cause to believe you were impaired. Prosecutors can present evidence including an officer’s observations of intoxication or your performance on field sobriety tests to prove such impairment without a BAC reading over 0.08. For this reason, even if a test showed you were under the legal limit, you could still be convicted and should always take your case very seriously.
At Meldon Law, we can assist in DUI cases whether or not they involve breath or blood test results over 0.08. We will build an individual defense strategy based on the evidence against you and the circumstances of your case. The sooner you call, the sooner we can begin protecting your rights.
Possible Penalties for a DUI in Florida
There are many possible penalties for a DUI conviction in Florida, both imposed by the criminal court and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The court can issue a sentence for probation, fines, or even jail time, as well as other requirements such as drunk driving education classes or community service. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles can revoke your driver’s license for a certain period of time and can require that you have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle for reinstatement under certain circumstances.
The specific penalties you face will depend on whether you are accused of causing bodily injury while drunk driving and whether you have prior DUI convictions within a certain period of time. The following are possible penalties for a first DUI conviction in Broward County:
- Misdemeanor conviction on your permanent record
- Fines between $500 and $1,000
- Up to six months in jail
- Driver’s license suspension from 180 days to one year
If you refused to submit a breath sample when requested by a police officer, you can have your license suspended for one year under Florida’s implied consent laws. Losing your license and having a criminal record can affect many aspects of your life, including your job, educational opportunities, and even where you live.
DUI- related charges are not always misdemeanors, as the following will likely be charged as felony offenses with significantly escalated penalties:
- Third DUI within a ten-year lookback period (third-degree felony)
- Fourth or subsequent DUI within any timeframe (third-degree felony)
- Your DUI involved an accident that caused serious bodily injury (third-degree felony)
- You DUI involved a fatal accident, which constitutes DUI manslaughter (either a second-degree or first-degree felony)
Such felony convictions can result in years of imprisonment. No matter what type of DUI charges you are facing, you need qualified legal representation to limit the consequences that you face.
Defending Against Drunk Driving Charges
Just because you’ve been charged with DUI does not mean that a conviction and harsh penalties are inevitable. Our experienced legal team has many ways to defend against DUI charges to have your charges reduced or dismissed altogether. Only some examples of the many defense strategies in Florida DUI cases include:
- Challenging the legality of your traffic stop or arrest
- Challenging the accuracy of chemical tests
- Identifying when there were problems with field sobriety testing
- Challenging the testimony of the arresting officer
- Providing another explanation of why you may have seemed impaired, such as fatigue or illness
In addition, our attorneys know how to negotiate with Fort Lauderdale prosecutors to reach a plea bargain. This can result in a lesser charge, known as a “wet reckless,” or lesser penalties for a guilty plea. We explore every possible option to obtain the most favorable result we can for each and every client-facing DUI allegations.
Find Out How a Florida DUI Defense Attorneys Can Help You
At Meldon Law, we have represented many people in the Gainesville, Ocala and Fort Lauderdale Florida area in DUI cases. While a DUI arrest may disrupt an enjoyable evening, we work to minimize the long-term effects that a DUI case may have on your life. We are thoroughly familiar with the criminal justice system in Florida and we are here to assist you with both the criminal and administrative aspects of your case. Contact us online or call (954)-334-1276 to discuss your situation for free today.
We have also recently written a DUI Guide Book for each location in Florida that we serve, Ways to Possibly Avoid A DUI Charge or Conviction. You can request your free copy today. This book, written by these experienced DUI defense criminal trial attorneys, gives insight into what a DUI charge is, what it takes to be over the legal limit, ways the State can prove the charge, and possible legal defenses.