Florida DUI First Offense Lawyer
Getting charged with driving under the influence (DUI) for if it’s your first DUI is a harrowing experience. From getting questioned and tested at the roadside, to going to jail, to defending yourself in court, the process is neither simple nor pleasant. For this reason, it’s wise to have a skilled and experienced Sarasota first DUI lawyer by your side. Not only can a Florida DUI first offense lawyer help you win your case, he or she can defend your rights and help lessen the consequences of a guilty verdict.
When you are charged with your first DUI in Florida, your life can be affected in many unexpected ways if you’re convicted. The potential consequences of a first DUI offense can include:
- A jail sentence
- Costly fines and court fees
- House arrest
- Community service
- Suspension or revocation of your Florida drivers license after DUI
- A permanent criminal record that can affect your job or career
- Increased car insurance rates
- Civil liability for causing injuries in an accident related to your DUI
If you’re facing your first DUI charge, don’t hesitate to contact a skilled Sarasota DUI lawyer who can help you to avoid or reduce some of the ways that a DUI can affect your future. A good defense lawyer may be able to get your charge dismissed or reduced and help you keep your driver’s license. Florida DUI first offense lawyer Erika Valcarcel has the practical courtroom experience to help with your first DUI charge. She has tried cases as both a prosecutor and a defense lawyer in Sarasota and Manatee counties — including numerous DUIs. Call Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation.
Penalties for a First DUI Conviction in Florida
Even a first DUI can result in a jail sentence in Florida. The charge is serious — and you can be arrested even if your blood alcohol level is below the Florida legal limit of .08. If you consume any alcohol and then show signs of impairment behind the wheel, you can be arrested for driving under the influence.
If you’re convicted, the penalties increase depending on certain factors. Statutory penalties for a first DUI conviction in Florida include:
- Impaired or BAL over .08 — Up to 6 months in jail, a fine of $500 to $1,000, 50 hours of mandatory community service or an additional fine of up to $500, up to 1 year of probation, 10-day vehicle impoundment, driver’s license revocation for 180 days to 1 year
- BAL over .15 — Up to 9 months in jail, a fine of $1,000 to $2,000, 50 hours of mandatory community service or an additional fine of up to $500, up to 1 year of probation, 10-day vehicle impoundment, driver’s license revocation for 180 days to 1 year, installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
- Minor in the Vehicle — Up to 9 months in jail, a fine of 50 hours of mandatory community service or an additional fine of up to $500, up to 1 year of probation, 10-day vehicle impoundment, driver’s license revocation for 180 days to 1 year, installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
Florida DUI Traffic Stops
Your DUI charges are probably the result of a traffic stop or a DUI checkpoint. The initial thing your Florida DUI first offense lawyer can do is to determine whether the traffic stop or DUI checkpoint was lawful.
- For a traffic stop to be lawful, the police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime or probable cause that you committed a traffic infraction.
- For a DUI checkpoint in Sarasota to be lawful, it must be publicized in advance and follow the guidelines of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
If your lawyer can show that your DUI checkpoint or traffic stop was unlawful, it may be possible to have your charges dismissed.
When Can the Police Ask to Give You Field Sobriety Tests?
If the police stop you lawfully, the next issue your lawyer will look into is whether the police officer had reasonable suspicion that you were driving impaired. If the police officer has reasonable suspicion of DUI, he or she can ask that you submit to field sobriety testing such as a Breathalyzer or breath test. Factors that can give rise to this reasonable suspicion could be:
- Bloodshot, watery, or glassy eyes
- Slurred speech
- Slow or delayed movements
- Odd behavior
- Smell of alcohol
But these factors could also have innocent explanations, such as fatigue, illness, or medical conditions. The smell of alcohol cannot reasonably be equated with intoxication or impairment since people will smell like alcohol even after one drink.
The police will attempt to use the above physical observations along with the results of your field sobriety tests to develop the probable cause necessary to request a breath test and arrest you for DUI.
This is why it’s important to have an experienced Florida DUI first offense lawyer working on your case who can argue that the arresting officer lacked reasonable suspicion to give you field sobriety exercises.
When Can the Police Ask to Give You a Breath Test?
Only probable cause can justify a police officer’s request that you submit to a breathalyzer. Factors that can give rise to this probable cause could be:
- Driving pattern
- Physical appearance and demeanor
- Performance on field sobriety tests
- Answers to questions that indicate your impairment or intoxication
However, a skilled Florida DUI defense lawyer may be able to argue that the arresting officer lacked probable cause to give you a breath test. If a judge agrees, the evidence obtained through the breath test may not be used against you in court.
What Happens if You Refuse the Breath Test?
You have the legal right to refuse a breathalyzer test, but in this case, Florida law mandates the administrative suspension of your license for 1 year. If you agree to a breathalyzer test, and you blow over .08, your license will be suspended for 6 months. These suspensions are administrative and are distinct from the license revocation that the court may sentence you to if you are found guilty of DUI.
Another consequence of blowing over .08 is that the officer will have probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence. The officer will read you your rights and take you to jail, where you’ll need to stay until you are no longer intoxicated. Be calm and polite, but you should take advantage of your right to remain silent.
However, you should know that police typically make their arrests before administering breath tests. They use their observations and the results of field sobriety testing in developing the probable cause to make a DUI arrest. That’s why it’s important to know your rights and discuss your case with an experienced Sarasota first DUI lawyer.
In some cases, you will be asked to submit to a blood or urine test. If you are unconscious or if you were involved in an accident causing serious injury or death, your consent is not required.
Receive Help from a Florida DUI First Offense Lawyer Today
After you get released from jail and return home, you’ll probably be charged with DUI. The consequences of a DUI conviction are serious, but a knowledgeable attorney can help defeat the prosecution’s case against you by challenging their evidence and their version of the story.
First DUI attorney Erika Valcarcel offers a free consultation, and to make the most of it, you should come prepared with documents such as the police report, police search inventory report, and your court summons. During your consultation, Valcarcel can answer questions about your case and explain your options for a defense.
Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. is committed to giving people charged with DUI every advantage possible when they face the Florida criminal justice system. As a former prosecutor, Florida DUI first offense lawyer Erika Valcarcel knows how the case against you will be built and where its weaknesses may lie. If you want help with your DUI charges, call Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. today at (941) 363-7900 to schedule your free consultation.