With the hard-line stance taken by Florida law enforcement regarding driving under the influence, an alleged DUI charge can have massive ramifications on your life. A conviction can lead to unintended problems in your professional, social, and financial livelihood.
Taking the time to develop an understanding of what the state laws entail should give you a more educated perspective on the issue, allowing you to approach the situation in the most effective manner possible.
Under Fla. Stat. §316.193, an individual is guilty of the offense of driving under the influence if the person is driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle within the state and:
• Is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any illegal chemical substance or controlled substance when affected to the extent that normal faculties are impaired, or
• Has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of.08 or more grams.
For drivers under age 21, Fla. Stat. §322.2616 requires a 6 month license suspension if the driver’s BAC is over.02. Commercial drivers face disqualification from holding a commercial license under Fla. Stat. §322.64 if their BAC is over.08.
With regard to the definition of “actual physical control” this is seen as when an individual is in the driver’s position of the front seat of a vehicle and having possession of the vehicles ignition key or other ignition device.
As for the penalties, Fla. Stat. §316.193 states that a first conviction for a driving under the influence charge has a presumptive sentence of up to 6 months in prison and / or a fine of up to $1000.
If it was confirmed that your BAC was.15 or higher at the time of arrest, your sentencing could include up to 9 months in jail and / or up to $2000 in fines.
In addition to the jail time and fines that are possible, you will also be required to serve a mandatory 50 hours of community service, or an additional fine of $10 for each hour of community service required (Fla. Stat. §316.3193). With regard to probation, if this is part of your sentence, the required time period may be no longer than one year.
The initial arrest will include at least 8 hours in jail before release, along with an administrative license suspension. You will have 10 days from the time of arrest to file the necessary paperwork to request a hearing from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to challenge your suspension. Failure to request a hearing will result in an automatic suspension.
The criminal process itself includes a first appearance (always within 24 hours of arrest) where you will be informed of the charges against you. Several weeks later you must enter a plea at arraignment, where it is advisable to have defense attorney representation. In some cases an attorney can have you sign a waiver of presence, allowing them to represent you without you having to attend.
If you enter a not guilty plea, your case will be set for a pretrial hearing. This is done to negotiate with the prosecutor and update the judge on the progression of the case. After this, if a bargain has not been reached, motions or evidentiary hearings come next, with your presence being mandatory. This is the opportunity to present testimony, evidence and argument.
If a resolution has not been found, the case will go to trial, where you have a constitutional right to a trial by jury. You can also waive your right to a trial by jury and instead have a judge decide the case, if it would be in your best interest.
As you can see, the process is straight-forward and transparent if you have a basic understanding of the situation. With a knowledgeable and informed outlook, along with proper defense attorney representation, you have a much better chance at fighting the charges that have been brought against you.
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