Lake Worth and Wellington DUI & DWI Attorney
Hiring a Florida DUI Attorney can do much more than give you peace of mind; it can have a meaningful impact on your DUI case’s outcome. For many drivers facing a DUI, it can represent a momentary lapse of judgment with dire and long-standing consequences, depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime. With the help and guidance of a DUI lawyer in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Wellington or the general South Florida area, you can better prepare yourself to operate within the confines of the law. An experienced DUI attorney can leverage the wisdom gained from past cases and updates in the law to your benefit.
What to do if You Are Charged with a DUI in Florida
If you have been charged with Driving Under the Influence in Palm Beach or Martin county, you should call a local South Florida DWI lawyer for help immediately; not only will they be in close proximity to help you quicker, but they will also be familiar with Florida law and the local Lake Worth, Wellington and West Palm Beach court systems. You should refrain from speaking with the Court, law enforcement, or prosecutors without an attorney present.
Dealing with a DUI charge can often be a stressful endeavor, and speaking with a DUI lawyer with experience in the Palm Beaches will help you understand the process and the complications you may face. Many people experiencing a pending or possible DUI want to put the unfortunate event behind them. Acting with urgency to address the consequences with an experienced South Florida DUI attorney by your side is the smart choice.
Common Misconceptions About DUI Charges in Florida
Most people are familiar with the general concept of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). In Florida, the law uses these terms interchangeably. The intricacies of DUI law, however, are difficult to understand.
With so many variables surrounding the circumstances of a possible DUI charge, there is a lot you should know. In the state of Florida, there is no separate charge for driving under the influence of drugs. Any driver operating a vehicle in an impaired state could face a DUI charge. The same holds true for drivers operating a vehicle under the influence of legally prescribed drugs that could affect your judgment, such as pain killers. Drivers in possession of illegal drugs could face additional charges in addition to the possible DUI charge.
Another common misconception is that a breath sample is required for a DUI arrest or conviction. There are two ways to prove DUI in Florida – the “breath” theory and the “impairment” theory. The impairment theory involves the government proving that the accused was under the influence “to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired.”
Navigating DUI charges can be challenging, especially without a South Florida DWI attorney to help you navigate your options. That’s why knowing a reputable DUI lawyer in Lake Worth, FL is helpful if you’ve been convicted of a DUI or DWI.
What is Considered a DUI/DWI in Florida?
It’s important to understand that the legal definition of intoxication can vary depending on your location. In the State of Florida, and at the time of this writing, that blood alcohol content (BAC) level is 0.08% or higher.
A person’s level of intoxication can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors, including the time frame in which the alcohol was consumed, body size and mass, and more. There is no formula for determining what your BAC might be, and even a drink or two can put you at risk.
If you do find yourself facing a DUI charge, it is important to know exactly what that means. Speaking with a DUI lawyer in Lake Worth can greatly improve your understanding of the laws governing these matters, what your options might be, and reduce your level of stress in putting it behind you.
What are the Penalties for a DUI in Florida?
If you are charged with Driving Under the Influence in Florida, you can face grave consequences that begin almost immediately after arrest and continue throughout the length of the case. A DUI is a criminal traffic violation that could result in jail time or driver’s license suspension.
The penalties for DUI vary depending on the facts (like “Was there a crash?” or “Was anybody seriously injured?”), as well as the Defendant’s criminal record (“Does the defendant have any prior DUIs?”).
A DUI is a misdemeanor offense unless it is the accused’s third DUI or the DUI involves serious bodily injury or death. These aggravating factors can result in felony charges. The important thing to note about DUI penalties is that even if the DUI is classified as a misdemeanor there are statutory minimum sentences that do not exist for most other misdemeanors. This means that a conviction for DUI carries mandatory minimum penalties that cannot be waived by a judge. Mandatory penalties include probation, community service hours, DUI school, fines, and driver’s license suspension.
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles can automatically suspend your driving privileges upon receiving notification that your breath alcohol level was over the legal limit (.08) or that you refused to provide a breath sample at the time of arrest. This administrative suspension occurs almost immediately (without regard for the final outcome of the criminal case), and can range from six to 18 months.
You have 10 days from the date of arrest to either challenge the license suspension through an administrative hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles or request a hardship license for work purposes. That is why contacting a DWI law firm in Lake Worth is a smart next step after you’ve been charged with a DUI or DWI.
In addition to the loss of driving privileges, a DUI can result in heavy fines, probation, and incarceration. Mandatory terms of probation for a DUI conviction include DUI school, vehicle immobilization, and community service hours.
Worst of all, a DWI conviction will permanently taint your criminal and driving record. In light of the serious penalties that come with a DUI charge, it is critical to receive the advice of a competent South Florida DWI lawyer before proceeding with your case.
What Happens if You Are Charged with a DUI or DWI in Florida?
A DUI investigation usually begins with a traffic stop or a crash. A law enforcement officer may observe some common DUI indicators – bloodshot glassy eyes, slurred speech, and the odor of alcohol. The stopping officer then calls the DUI Unit.
An officer from the DUI Unit arrives on scene and asks the driver to step out of the car. The officer asks the driver if he or she is willing to “perform some exercises” to see if the driver is “okay to drive.” These exercises are called Roadside exercises, and they are used as evidence of a driver’s impairment. Some common roadside exercises include the Penlight Task, The Walk and Turn, Finger-to-Nose, One Leg Stand, and Romberg Alphabet.
A driver may refuse these exercises. In a case of refusal, the police officer makes his or her arrest decision based on any observations of impairment up to that point.
If the driver chooses to proceed with the roadside exercises, the officer determines probable cause for the arrest based on the “totality of the circumstances,” which includes the exercises, the driving pattern, the “exit sequence” (yes – they even observe how you get out of the car), the driver’s appearance, the driver’s odor, and the driver’s behavior.
An arrest for DUI results in transport to the Breath Alcohol Testing Facility (the BAT center for short). In Palm Beach County, this is either at Gun Club (Palm Beach County Jail) or the Boca Raton Police Department. The Boca Raton Police Department has its own breath test equipment. Most other police departments in Palm Beach County rely on the instruments issued to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office.
At the BAT center, the officer asks the driver if he or she is willing to provide a breath sample “for purposes of determining alcohol content.” A driver may also refuse this request; however, refusal will prompt the law enforcement officer to read “implied consent,” warning the driver that his or her license will be suspended.
If the driver agrees to the breath sample, he or she will actually provide at least two breath samples that will be recorded on the Breath Test Affidavit and later submitted to the prosecuting agency. Regardless of the results of the breath test, the suspect will remain in custody for several hours.
After the breath sample request, the officer reads the suspect his or her Miranda rights. The suspect can remain silent or agree to answer questions about the DUI. The entire interaction in the breath testing room is video recorded and submitted as evidence to the State Attorney’s Office.
Florida DUI Charging Process
Whether charged as a felony or misdemeanor, a DUI or DWI is a serious charge. If the DUI is charged as a misdemeanor, the Defendant will generally be released on his or her own recognizance. If it is a felony, law enforcement may include a schedule bond amount in the arrest paperwork. If the Defendant is not released prior to First Appearances, the Defendant has the opportunity to argue for a lower bond, an O.R., or a supervised release in front of a judge.
Law enforcement normally submits the DUI Filing Packet to the State Attorney’s Office as well as the clerk of courts. The clerk inputs the case into the system, creates a case number, and sends the accused a Notice of Hearing to appear for arraignment (the formal reading of the charges). The State Attorney’s Office reviews the Filing Packet, which includes reports and videos, and makes a filing decision on the case. The Filing Assistant State Attorney can file the charges as originally charged by the police, “upfile” (meaning file more serious charges), “downfile” (file lesser charges), or “no file” (drop the charges). Their decision can be based on several factors, but a common analysis is whether they believe there is a “reasonable likelihood of successful prosecution.”
If formal charges are filed, the State Attorney’s Office transfers the Defendant’s case to the Trial Assistant State Attorney for litigation. The Defendant’s case continues through the normal court process. This includes a series of pre-trial hearings. The purpose of these pre-trial hearings is to gather evidence, negotiate the plea offer, and prepare a defense. The Defendant may decide to take a plea offer or go to trial.
First Time Offender vs. Repeat Offender
Certain jurisdictions like Palm Beach County offer the DUI First-Time Offender Program, also known as DUI diversion or Reckless diversion, for those with no prior DUI record. The First Time Offender Program allows a first-time DUI Defendant to plead guilty to the lesser charge of reckless driving and avoid a formal conviction. Terms of this DUI diversion program include probation, fines, DUI school, and community service.
Within the DUI diversion program, there is no driver’s license suspension or DUI conviction. These two perks alone make the DUI diversion program an attractive option for most people. You may also have the ability to seal your case later if adjudication is withheld. However, a guilty plea of Reckless driving is still a big deal and possibly the wrong option if there is no evidence of guilt or the police engaged in violations of law and procedure.
An experienced West Palm Beach DUI lawyer can help you view your plea offer from the proper perspective after reviewing all of the evidence and counseling you on the law.
An offer of DUI diversion is not automatic or guaranteed simply because you have no prior record. Because diversion is not a certainty, it is critical to review the case with a Lake Worth DUI lawyer and provide any mitigating documents to the prosecution as early as possible. Being proactive will increase your chances of success.
Choosing an Experienced Florida DUI Lawyer
Casanova Law is a South Florida criminal defense law firm with a special focus on DUI law. Founding Attorney Casanova has litigated hundreds – if not thousands – of DUI cases, first as a prosecutor for Palm Beach County and then as a criminal defense attorney. Attorney Casanova has particularized DUI experience as a result of the many DUI trials, depositions, motions, and evidentiary hearings she has conducted over the years. This experience is a critical component of a successful outcome.
From the moment we are hired on a DUI case, our clients can expect immediate demands for evidence, requests for videos with the law enforcement agency, contact with the State Attorney’s Office, and crucial court filings. In other words, we are on the ball. From beginning to end, we will use our knowledge, experience, and passion to fight for you.
Florida DUI Lawyer FAQs
Can a lawyer help with a DUI?
A DUI attorney is critical to the handling of your DUI case. Whether you’re fighting to avoid jail time, a DUI conviction, suspension of your Driver’s License, or charge enhancements, an experienced and committed DUI lawyer will give you every chance at success. Most people can review a DUI case and understand whether the facts are good or bad for the accused. The real value of a lawyer is in her legal and practical knowledge; this includes knowledge about police procedure, administrative orders, case law, Florida Statutes, judges, prosecutors, and courtroom etiquette. Oftentimes a person accused of DUI doesn’t realize that his or her charges could be dismissed or reduced due to procedural, legal, or technical issues in a case; the accused may miss the chance at a better result without a DUI lawyer to detect those issues.
Can a DUI be dismissed in Florida?
A range of outcomes exist for Palm Beach and Martin County DUI cases. The best case scenario is an experienced DUI attorney securing a dismissal of your DUI charge. This may occur due to a combination of weak facts and a faulty police investigation; a great DUI lawyer knows how to spot weaknesses in a DUI case and use it to the client’s advantage.
How much does a DUI lawyer cost?
The exact price of a DUI varies from case to case and depends on the facts, the defendant’s prior record, the charge level (misdemeanor or felony), and the complexity of legal issues. When quoting a price, an experienced DUI law firm will explain some of the issues involved and a plan for handling your case. If you are comfortable with the knowledge base of the firm, the level of service, and the anticipated trajectory of your case, then you have likely found the right fit for your DUI representation. In general, an accusation of Driving Under the Influence requires extensive review of the evidence that typically includes hours of video footage, several pages of police reports, the breath test affidavit, inspection reports on the breathalyzer, and witness statements. It also requires intense legal argument, often preceded by legal research on issues unique to the case. Additionally, a DUI charge may call for scientific research; gas chromatography, a method used in chemistry to separate and analyze compounds, is the technique used in reading a breath sample. Add to this a series of court hearings, possible depositions, and attorney-client conferences, and you will correctly guess that a great DUI lawyer will spend a significant amount of time on your case. Securing an experienced, dedicated DUI attorney will inevitably cost money; but the alternative is costly in other ways. Deciding to not retain counsel – or to retain a “bargain” lawyer – may come back to haunt you in the form of increased court costs and fines, higher sanctions, and the loss of your liberty. When weighing financials against your rights and freedom, it becomes clear that hiring a great lawyer is money well-spent. Invest in your protection and your future by hiring the right attorney.