Close Menu
Home > Lake City Personal Injury Lawyer > Lake City DUI Defense Attorney

Lake City DUI Defense Attorneys

In 2017, law enforcement officials arrested more than 100 drivers for driving under the influence (DUI) in Lake City and throughout Columbia County. A court found more than 80 of those drivers guilty, resulting in heavy consequences for each one of them. Regardless of whether it is your first DUI, or you have been in this situation before, you are facing life-changing penalties if you are convicted.

If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, you need to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Under Florida law, a DUI is a criminal offense. In addition to the stress and expense of a criminal trial, a conviction might cause you to lose your job, have to pay expensive fines, and possibly serve time in jail. A seasoned DUI criminal defense attorney can advocate for your rights and fight to get the best outcome for your charges.

Whether you were arrested in Columbia County and are still in jail, were released, or you are seeking a DUI attorney for a friend or family member, call the experienced Lake City DUI defense attorney at Meldon Law that serve Lake City at 800-373-8000 to discuss your case and determine the best path forward for your situation.

Meldon Law’s Results Defending Criminal DUI Charges

The criminal defense attorneys at Meldon Law have years of experience defending clients who have been charged with DUIs. Their committed legal team has helped clients get charges dropped, get charges reduced to a lesser offense like reckless driving, and get fines and jail time reduced in more than 100 cases in Florida courts. Whether this is your first DUI or you are a repeat offender, you are guaranteed certain rights as you go through the legal process. The legal team at Meldon Law advocates for their clients’ rights and diligently pursues the best possible outcome for their cases.

How Does Florida Define Driving Under the Influence (DUI)?

Florida law clearly defines what constitutes a DUI in their statutes. Under Florida law, a person is guilty of driving under the influence if:

  • They are driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle and
  • They are under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance to the extent their normal faculties are impaired or
  • They have a breath alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath or
  • They have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more per 100 milliliters of blood.

Lack of Reasonable Suspicion is a DUI Traffic Stop Defense

Police officers are not allowed to stop any vehicle for any reason, or at any time. When law enforcement wants to pull someone over, they must have reasonable suspicion that the driver is committing a crime, or that they have committed a crime. In terms of DUIs, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that a motorist was driving while impaired. Driving too quickly or too slowly, weaving in and out of lines, and running through stop signs are just a few indications that could give police reasonable suspicion to pull someone over for a DUI.

If law enforcement did not have reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence, anything that happened after the stop was made can be thrown out of your case. This may include chemical test results and other important evidence.

Lack of Probable Cause is a DUI Traffic Stop Defense

Even after law enforcement has reasonable suspicion and legally pulls someone over, they still have certain rules they must follow. After the officer has approached the driver, they must then have probable cause to make an arrest. A hunch or theory that a driver is impaired is not enough. The officer must have observed certain behavior or items, such as slurred speech or an open container of alcohol, which could have given them probable cause.

If a police officer did not have probable cause to arrest you, the arrest is illegal. Like with an illegal stop, if your lawyer can prove this, any evidence obtained against you after the arrest, such as the answers you gave during an interrogation, can be thrown out of your case.

Illegal Search is a DUI Traffic Stop Defense

Just as law enforcement must have probable cause to arrest you, they must also have probable cause to search your vehicle. It is important to never consent to a search, as that will make it legal. However, if the police did not have probable cause and searched your vehicle, it is an illegal search. Any evidence obtained through that search can be thrown out of your case.

DUI Defense Motions: Motion to Dismiss

When a criminal defense lawyer files a motion to dismiss, they are asking the court to dismiss your case. Your attorney may do this for a variety of reasons. If your rights were violated, such as if the officer that stopped you did not have reasonable suspicion that you were under the influence, that could be reason to get your case dismissed. Your lawyer will present these arguments to the judge, and present a strong case of why your case should be dismissed, to give you the best chance of a positive outcome.

DUI Defense Motions: Motion to Suppress

Your criminal defense lawyer may also file a motion to suppress as part of the DUI defense motions. With this motion, your lawyer is asking the court to throw out certain evidence so it cannot be used against you. For example, if the officer made an illegal arrest because they did not read you the Miranda warning, or they did not have probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence, those are all valid reasons to file a motion to suppress. If your lawyer is successful with this motion, any evidence obtained after the illegal act or improper procedure can be thrown out, so it cannot be used against you. This is often devastating to the prosecution’s case.

DUI Defense Motions: Motion in Limine

A motion in limine is similar to a motion to suppress, but there are differences. A motion in limine is not based on an illegal or improper act but instead, it is based on irrelevant evidence. If the prosecution wants to submit evidence that is not relevant to the current DUI case, your lawyer may file a motion in limine to have that evidence thrown out.

For example, the prosecution may argue that you have a previous arrest for assault on your criminal record, even though you were never convicted. Your lawyer may file a motion in limine and argue that the prior arrest has nothing to do with your current case because you were never convicted and it is not even for the same offense. Being successful with a motion in limine means the jury will never hear that evidence against you.

Attendance at a DUI Driver’s License Suspension Hearing is Crucial

In the vast majority of DUI cases, a person has their driver’s license suspended for a minimum of 6 months. A previous DUI arrest on your criminal record, or a previous refusal to allow law enforcement to take a blood, breath, or urine test, you may face a driver’s license suspension of 18 months. You only have 10 days to challenge the revocation and if you do not take action within that time, you may not be able to restore your driver’s license until the suspension period has expired.

Hardship Licenses and DUI Driver’s License Suspension Hearings

When trying to restore your driving privileges, you may face many challenges. You may have to appear in court multiple times, and pay high fines. It is important to submit your request to the DHSMV within the allotted ten days because once the agency receives your request, they will grant you a hardship driver’s license within 45 days of your request. A hardship license will also allow you to drive to certain places, such as work or school. You can retain your hardship license until the day you have to appear in court for the criminal charges.

When to Refuse a DUI Driver’s License Suspension Hearing

For some individuals, it makes sense to waive their right to the driver’s license suspension hearing. If you waive your right to this hearing, you do not have to wait until the sit-out period expires, which can be for as much as 30 or 90 days. By waiving this right, you can receive a business license, temporarily, after paying a reinstatement fee. Unfortunately, not everyone can waive their right to this hearing. This is not an option if you have been previously arrested or convicted of a DUI or any other offense related to alcohol, such as public drunkenness.

What is a Felony DUI in Lake City?

A person may face felony DUI charges in three unique circumstances. These include:

  • DUI with serious bodily injury: It is not uncommon for an impaired driver to be involved in an accident that results in injury. When this is the case, a person will face third-degree felony charges, regardless of their criminal history.
  • Repeat offenders: A third DUI conviction in ten years is treated as a felony DUI. Anyone that is convicted of a fourth DUI charge, regardless of the time that has passed, will also be charged with a third-degree felony.
  • Habitual violent or traffic offender: A person does not even have to have a previous DUI charge on their record to be considered a habitual offender. If a person has many criminal convictions on their record for violent or traffic offenses, they will face felony DUI charges.

All of the above offenses are considered third-degree felonies. If convicted, you face a maximum of five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both.

Felony DUIs Causing Death

Drunk driving does not only cause accidents that result in serious injury, but also death in the most tragic of situations. When this is the case, a person may also face felony DUI charges. Common felony DUI charges in these cases may include:

  • DUI manslaughter and fleeing the scene: All drivers are required to stop at the scene of an accident or they risk being charged with a hit-and-run. The consequences are even more serious when a drunk driver flees the scene. These individuals will face first-degree felony charges, which carries a maximum prison term of 30 years.
  • Florida DUI manslaughter: This offense is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
  • Vehicular homicide: This charge typically applies when an impaired driver operates their vehicle in a reckless manner and causes a death. This too, is a second-degree felony charge.

It is critical to speak to a Lake City felony DUI lawyer that can provide the strong defense you need to beat these charges.

DUI BAC Test Defenses: Breath Tests

If a police officer has probable cause to arrest you, a breath test may soon follow. The offer may administer these tests roadside, or they may take you to the police station to take the test. Regardless of where the test was given, the results of breath tests can be challenged. The devices used are not always calibrated properly, and officers do not always follow proper procedure.

For example, officers are required to wait 20 minutes before they administer a test, and they must observe you that entire time. If they did not do this, or they otherwise did not comply with proper procedure, it can serve as a defense that can get the results thrown out.

DUI BAC Test Defenses: Urine Tests

Law enforcement officers also have the right to ask you to take a urine test if they suspect that you were driving under the influence. These tests are not administered as often as breath tests because officers must obtain a warrant before they can ask you to take one. Urine tests are also some of the most unreliable BAC tests administered, as it is difficult to determine the amount of any substance or its metabolites in the urine. A lawyer will use this information to challenge the results and get them thrown out.

DUI BAC Test Defenses: Blood Tests

Blood tests are the most invasive form of DUI BAC tests, but a police officer may still ask you to take one. Law enforcement officers usually have to obtain a warrant before they can draw blood, but these tests are much more accurate than any other type of BAC test. It is important to never consent to a blood test, as your permission will release the officer’s legal obligation to obtain a warrant. You can also request a blood test after submitting to a breath test and if the officer does not comply, the blood test results can be thrown out.

Lack of Probable Cause is a DUI Arrest Defense

Law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion to pull you over for a suspected DUI. However, to make an arrest, they need to have probable cause, which is a much higher level. Probable cause may include hearing a driver’s slurred speech, seeing an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, or the driver admitting that they had several drinks before getting behind the wheel. If the officer did not have probable cause to arrest you, any evidence obtained, such as breath test results, can be thrown out of your case.

An Illegal Arrest is a DUI Arrest Defense

In most cases, law enforcement must obtain a warrant before they make an arrest, but the law gives police great authority to make a warrantless arrest in DUI cases. This is due to the fact that while an officer leaves to obtain a warrant, the driver could leave the scene. Under the law, police officers can make a warrantless arrest if a crime was committed in their presence, which also applies to many DUI cases. Still, if the officer did not actually see you driving, it can serve as a DUI arrest defense. For example, if police arrested you based on an anonymous tip, that is an illegal arrest and any evidence could be thrown out.

Failure to Read Miranda Rights is a DUI Arrest Defense

Any time an officer arrests you, they must read you your Miranda rights. Under these rights, you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. If they ask you questions after they have arrested you and have not read you your rights, it is an illegal arrest and anything you say can be thrown out of your case. Still, it is important to note that officers are not required to read you these rights until they place you under arrest. If you say anything before that time, it can still be used against you. As such, it is always best to say as little as possible to law enforcement any time they pull you over.

What Penalties Are Associated With DUI Convictions?

Penalties for DUIs and DUI-related offenses vary widely. If a driver causes property damage or injury to another person, the penalties are even steeper. In fact, DUI manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Those with multiple offenses will find that each offense carries a larger fine and more time in jail. An attorney will give you the specifics for your situation, but here is a broad overview of penalties for DUI convictions in Florida:

  • Fines. A person’s first DUI conviction will result in a minimum $500 fine, but not more than $1,000, and a second conviction has a minimum $1,000 fine. Repeat offenders charged with a third offense DUI can expect a minimum fine of $2,000.00 with a max of $5,000.00, while a fourth offense has a minimum fine of $2,000.00 with no maximum fine. Fines levels increase if the DUI is considered enhanced. An enhancement could be based on breath or blood alcohol level that is above a 0.15 or if is a minor is in the vehicle during the time of the offense. In this these case, for a first conviction, the minimum fine is $1,000.00 with a max of $2,000.00. A second conviction is punishable by a minimum of a $2,000.00 fine with a maximum of $4,000.00, while a third and fourth offense would have a minimum fine of $4,000.00 with no maximum.
  • Jail time. First time DUI convictions in Florida do not require mandatory jail time—however, depending on the circumstances a judge could impose a jail sentence. For a first offense DUI, the maximum amount of jail time is six months, while if the DUI is enhanced the maximum is nine months in jail. Subsequent convictions do not have mandatory jail time unless the conviction occurs within a certain period of years. If a second conviction occurs within five years of the prior offense, there is a mandatory 10 days in jail with a maximum of nine months, while a third conviction that occurs within a 10-year period, the minimum amount of jail is 30 days with a maximum of five years in prison.
  • Vehicle immobilization and Ignition Interlock Devices (IID). Under Florida law, those convicted of a DUI might lose access to their vehicle or have to breathe into a special device to use their vehicle. First time DUI convictions require 10 days of vehicle immobilization; second and third convictions may come with a 10, 30, or 90 day period of immobilization. After a second DUI conviction that involves alcohol, offenders must have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on their vehicle under Florida law. The law requires increased time periods with an IID as a person gets more DUI convictions. If a person has an enhanced breath or blood alcohol level or second DUI convictions, offenders are required to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles. For a first DUI conviction that is enhanced, the minimum time period is six months, while a second and third offense has a minimum of two years and a fourth offense is five years.
  • License suspension. After a driver’s first DUI conviction, the state suspends their license for six months. A second DUI within five years will result in a five-year revocation and a third DUI within ten years of the second will result in a ten-year revocation. Four DUI convictions result in permanent revocation of an offender’s driver’s’ license.

Meldon Team

We are here for you 24/7

(Consultations are Free)

Call Us Now

What to Do if Pulled Over in Lake City

Being pulled over by the police is always a very scary experience, even if you have not had anything to drink or have not violated any other laws. Unfortunately, many people become nervous, which is natural but can also work against you as you deal with law enforcement. Many people do not know what to do if pulled over in Lake City, and that causes them to become more nervous and make even more mistakes. Those mistakes can work against you if you are charged and so, it is crucial to understand the most important steps to take. Our criminal defense lawyer in Lake City has outlined these steps below.

Pull Over Slowly

Any time a police officer tries to pull you over, you must comply. Failing to do so is a violation of the law and will likely only result in charges being filed against you, even if you are innocent of any other violation of the law. Pull over as soon as you can, but do not put yourself or others in danger. If you cannot pull over right away, turn on your signal to alert the officer that you intend to pull over. After you have made it safely to the shoulder, turn off your vehicle, roll your window down, and place both hands on the wheel. These actions will tell the officer that you want to cooperate once they approach you.

Provide Appropriate Documentation

Law enforcement will likely ask you for certain information any time they pull you over. This includes your registration, proof of insurance, and your driver’s license. All drivers in Lake City are required to carry this information on them when they are driving and so, you should provide it. If it is not readily available and you need to reach into other areas of the vehicle, such as the glove compartment, tell the officer before you make any movements. Once the officer has the information, place your hands back on the wheel.

Know the Questions to Answer

The officer will ask you several questions and the ones you answer, and choose not to, is important. You should provide the officer with basic information, such as your name and address if they ask. However, you should not provide any information that would incriminate you.

For example, you should never tell an officer how much you have had to drink. If a police officer asks you this after pulling you over, simply ask if you are under arrest. Do not become belligerent or rude and always remain polite. You do not have an obligation to answer their questions though, and you are entitled to tell them that.

Why You Need a DUI Criminal Defense Attorney

A DUI conviction creates hardships for offenders and their families. The expense of fines and other court-ordered services might cause financial hardship, especially if it results in job loss. Additionally, offenders often struggle with family relationships after a conviction and suffer damage to their reputation. Hiring an experienced DUI criminal defense attorney cannot undo the arrest, but with an attorney’s help the prosecutor might drop or reduce charges and/or penalties. After investigating the circumstances of your arrest, your attorney might discover poor handling of lab evidence, police misconduct, or other violations of your rights. Hiring a DUI attorney might help you avoid job loss and much more.

Contact a Seasoned Lake City DUI Defense Attorney

If you were arrested for a DUI in Lake City, let a skilled Lake City criminal defense attorney advocate for your rights and minimize your penalties. Contact Meldon Law‘s experienced DUI defense attorneys at 800-373-8000 for a confidential free consultation to discuss your charges and the next steps for your case.

Share This Page:
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn