Representing Clients Facing First-Time DUI Charges in Ft. Lauderdale
Many people incorrectly think that getting a DUI is not a big deal, because they know someone who got one without serious consequences—or they’ve heard of someone who got several DUIs and is still out there driving around. In reality, if you are arrested and charged with driving under the influence, even for the first time, it can have very serious immediate and permanent impacts on your life. It can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first encounter with the Florida criminal justice system, and difficult to know what to do and where to turn for help.
At Meldon Law, we understand that a first DUI arrest in Ft. Lauderdale can be stressful, and the legal process that follows can be confusing. You may hear conflicting advice from your family and friends and not know what to expect each step of the way. We are here to help you and ensure your rights are protected throughout your case. Our experienced DUI defense lawyers always fight for the best outcome in every case we handle, so please do not wait to call our office today at 954-334-1276 to learn more.
Your Traffic Stop and Arrest
Many aspects of your case will depend on the circumstances of your traffic stop and arrest. A police officer may have asked you take field sobriety tests after pulling you over. Although you cannot “pass” or “fail” these tests, the officers will be looking for certain signs of intoxication. How you perform on the field sobriety tests may lead to your arrest and be used as evidence of impairment in your DUI case.
An officer may also request that you submit to a breathalyzer, which tests your blood alcohol content (BAC) to determine if it is over the legal limit of 0.08 percent (or 0.02 percent for drivers under age 21). If your BAC exceeds the limit, it can be used as evidence to presume that you were intoxicated, even without any other evidence. Some people refuse to take the breathalyzer or refuse to blow into the testing machine. Florida law does provide alternative chemical testing methods to the breathalyzer test, including blood and urine tests. You should know and understand what your rights are in taking these kinds of tests. You also may have the right to independent testing to challenge the results of any tests performed by the police.
Although refusing to take any type of chemical test prevents the police from obtaining presumptive evidence of a BAC over the limit, a refusal may also result in additional and immediate consequences under Florida’s implied consent law. Specifically, you will face a 12-month license suspension for a refusal to submit to a breathalyzer, whether or not you ultimately receive a DUI conviction, unless you can prove that your initial traffic stop was somehow unlawful. If you are stopped for DUI and refuse a breathalyzer, a skilled attorney can help you determine whether the traffic stop was unlawful—and if it was, prove it to the judge—helping prevent an automatic revocation of your license.
That is just one of the reasons it is critical to discuss every aspect of your case with a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after a traffic stop and arrest for DUI. Our lawyers can identify whether your traffic stop was unlawful, and ways to possibly challenge any evidence from field sobriety or breathalyzer tests. We can also help you challenge your administrative license suspension, although you must do so quickly after your arrest to meet the very short deadlines set by law. Don’t delay in seeking legal help after a DUI arrest, or you may lose important rights and face expensive fines and penalties, including jail.
Possible Penalties for a First Offense
A first-time DUI in Florida is a second-degree misdemeanor. The law provides maximum penalties for a conviction of this charge, including:
- Fines of up to $1000 plus court costs
- 50 hours of community service
- One year of probation
- Six months in jail
- Six-month suspension of your driver’s license
- 12 hours of DUI school
These penalties can increase if an accident occurred, if there was a child in the car, or other aggravating circumstances. The consequences listed above reflect only the maximum penalties. Each DUI case is unique and can result in different penalties, depending on how your case is handled. For example, although a judge is allowed to sentence you to six months behind bars, this may be rare for a first offense if your attorney handles your case correctly. If you choose a good attorney, your attorney can work to help ensure you receive probation instead of jail time, or possibly reach a plea bargain to a reduced offense such as reckless driving instead of DUI. This can make a huge difference on the consequences of a first-time DUI.
Remember, the penalties set out by law are not the only impacts of a DUI conviction. A conviction can affect your job, especially if you have to drive as part of your work. A DUI can also risk other kinds of professional licenses, your employability, and in some instances, your parenting rights. Your insurance costs can increase substantially, and your reputation could also be affected. A knowledgeable attorney can help you try to avoid these potentially devastating consequences, as well as work to get you a hardship license as soon as possible so that you can still drive to work, school, and other obligations.
Don’t Take a First-Time DUI Arrest Lightly
Even a first-time DUI conviction can negatively impact your life in many ways. In addition, once you have a DUI conviction on your record, you cannot have it expunged or sealed. If you are charged with DUI again in the future, the penalties can significantly increase for a second, third, or subsequent DUI. For these reasons, it is essential to avoid even a first conviction whenever possible.
There are many ways that the right defense attorney can work to prevent a conviction. Your attorney can present legal defenses depending on the specifics of your case, including challenging any lab results, Fourth Amendment violations, or providing another explanation for the appearance of intoxication—such as fatigue or illness. These circumstances may result in your charges being dropped or substantially lessened consequences.
A skilled attorney will also know how to negotiate successfully with the prosecutor for a plea agreement. This agreement can involve your charges being reduced to reckless driving, a reduced sentence without spending time in jail, and other more favorable outcomes in exchange for a guilty plea. You should always carefully discuss your options with an attorney skilled in your type of case.
A first-time DUI case can be a complex matter. You may have both an administrative case with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles involving your license suspension, as well as your case in criminal court. There also should be some investigation conducted regarding any breath or blood tests, field sobriety tests, and other aspects of your case. A DUI defense law firm can handle every aspect of your DUI case and help relieve the stress of your situation.
Contact a Ft. Lauderdale DUI Defense Lawyer for Help as Soon as Possible
At Meldon Law, we regularly represent clients facing first-time DUI charges in and around the Ft. Lauderdale area. We know many legal strategies to help improve the outcome of your case, or have your case dismissed altogether. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, call 954-334-1276 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation today.
They have also recently written the DUI Guide Book for South Florida, 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 lawyers, 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.