First DUI Charge
If you or a loved one are arrested and charged with a DUI for the first time, there are numerous thoughts running through your mind, including the fear of the unknown. Most first time DUI offenders have never been in trouble before and have no experience with the criminal justice system. This is where a skilled DUI attorney can help guide you through the difficult and lengthy legal process.
DUIs are commonly referred to as the every man crime. They are referred to as such because the majority of people have at some point in their lives had a couple of drinks and got behind the wheel to drive. If it were illegal to have a couple of drinks and drive, then there would not be parking lots outside of bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. A DUI lawyer can use this simple principal and argue it in your case to obtain a favorable result.
At the time an officer makes a decision to arrest a person for DUI the officer does not know breath alcohol level of the person. It is not until after the person is under arrest for DUI can the officer ask for a breath sample. As backwards as this process seems, this is the law. This means that when the officer makes a decision to arrest a person for DUI, it is only the officer's opinion that the arrested person is DUI, since at the time of the arrest the officer does not know the breath alcohol level. Police officers are human and their opinions are not always correct. This is where a knowledgeable DUI lawyer can successfully defend your DUI arrest.
At Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh, we have three former prosecutors that have all handled numerous DUI jury trials. Additionally, one of the partners is a former supervisor in the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office and supervised all DUI cases in Palm Beach County. Our experience in handling DUI cases is unparalleled.
What do you need to know?
There are two aspects to every DUI case. The criminal justice side, which deals with everything that happens in court, and the administrative side, which deals with your driver's license. If a person provided a breath sample over the legal limit of .08 or they refused to provide sample, then there will be a driver's license suspension. These two aspects concern the same incident, but they are separate and independent from each other. In other words, you could obtain differing outcomes in both sides.
It is important to know that the driver's license suspension (administrative side) must be dealt with immediately. There are only ten (10) days from the date of arrest to challenge the driver's license suspension and attempt to obtain hardship license. If this ten (10) day period is missed, the suspension becomes permanently effective. If this is your first DUI arrest, you can either challenge the driver's license suspension (referred to as a Formal Review Hearing) or obtain a hardship license immediately. A hardship license will allow you to drive for work, getting food, and doctor's office visits. If you are like the majority of people in Florida, it is nearly impossible to survive without the ability to drive. A skilled DUI lawyer will help you through this process and help save your ability to drive.
How long will your DUI case last?
It is important to know that the criminal justice process takes time. Your case will not be resolved at the first court hearing. Many times, people have a preconceived notion that their case will be over after the first court date. There will not be a trial on the first court date and there's generally not a plea on the first court date. Prepare yourself mentally that there is a process to all DUI cases and they take time for even the best attorneys to handle properly.
Are you facing jail time on a first DUI?
Yes, any time a person is charged with any criminal case they face jail time. However, if it is a first time DUI, a skilled DUI attorney can usually avoid jail time.
What are the penalties for a first time DUI?
The penalties for a first time DUI range can vary depending on a few factors. These factors include whether there was a crash as a result of DUI, whether there were children present in the car, and whether the breath sample was above an enhanced level of .15. First time DUI penalties can range from no jail time to a year in jail along with probation. The conditions of probation can include:
- Community service hours
- Fines and court costs
- Complete DUI school (with an evaluation) and any recommended treatment
- Complete a session of the Victim Impact Panel
- Ignition Interlock installed in your car
- SCRAM monitor
- Visual Alcohol Monitoring device
- Car impoundment
- No possession or consumption or drugs or alcohol with random testing at your expense
- Driver's License suspension
- Attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings
Will a DUI be on your record forever?
If a person either pleads guilty to a DUI or is convicted of a DUI after a trial, then there will be a DUI conviction on your record. You will not be able to expunge your record unless you are able to avoid a DUI conviction. An experienced DUI defense lawyer can help you successfully defend against a DUI in order to avoid a DUI conviction.
What if you passed the field sobriety tests?
The field sobriety tests are not tests. In other words, they are not pass or fail. They are merely a series a of exercises that are subjective. There is no standardized set of criteria that require the officers to place a person under arrest for a DUI if the person does meets specific criteria. You can read more about the field sobriety exercises here.
Are there videos of your DUI?
It depends on the police department that made the arrest. Most police departments have either in-car dash cameras that record the DUI or body worn cameras. If there is a video, then an attorney will be able to obtain the video. However, in some cases there are no videos. Even if there are no videos in your case, it does not mean that your DUI case will be thrown out. There were not DUI videos years ago before the abundance of video recorders, yet there were still DUI arrest and convictions. Videos are not required because an officer can always come into court and testify as to what they saw and why they made a DUI arrest. However, when there are no videos a DUI lawyer can attack the officer's memory and credibility as to why the officer did not call for an officer with a video camera to show up on scene.
What if you a blew over the legal limit .08?
Even if you blew over the legal limit, it does not mean your case cannot be successfully defended. There are legal thresholds that law enforcement must satisfy before the breath limit is admissible. Additionally, there may be legal challenges to the Intoxilyzer (breath machine).
What if you refused to provide a breath sample?
If you refused to provide a breath sample, then your case is based solely on the subjective opinion of the officer. This makes hiring an experience DUI lawyer to advocate on your behalf all the more important. A skilled DUI lawyer can cross examine the officer and illustrate the weaknesses in his testimony.
Does your license get suspended if you refuse to provide a breath, blood or urine sample?
Yes, but a DUI lawyer can fight the license suspension. Additionally, you may be eligible for a hardship license. You can read more about fighting the license suspension and hardship licenses.
Should you give a breath, blood or urine test?
At the time the breath, blood or urine sample is requested, you are already under arrest by the police. Even if you blow and you blow under the legal limit, you are not going to be released from arrest. Once you are under arrest criminal charges against you have begun, and you will remain in custody for a DUI arrest for at least eight (8) hours before you are released from jail.
By providing a breath, blood or urine sample, you are only providing the police more potential evidence against you that they otherwise would not have. Furthermore, if you provide a sample and it is above the .15, then you will face enhanced minimum mandatory criminal penalties that you would not be facing if you would have refused to provide a sample.
Is there diversion for DUI, and can you get diversion for your case?
Diversion is a program for first time offenders to avoid a DUI conviction on their record. Depending on the county the DUI case is in, there may be a diversion program. For example, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade both have diversion programs for first time DUI offenders. If you qualify for the diversion program, then the prosecution can break down the DUI charge and avoid a conviction. Every county that has a diversion program is different. An experienced DUI lawyer can tell you if the county you were arrested in has a diversion program and if your case qualifies for diversion.
How will a DUI conviction effect your life?
As a practical matter, aside from any of the possible penalties of a DUI, there can be other long-lasting effects of a DUI conviction. First, a DUI conviction will remain on your criminal record permanently and can come up on a background check when you apply for a job. If you have job that requires a CDL (Commercial Driver's License), your your job may be in jeopardy with a DUI conviction. If you have any professional license, a DUI conviction may impact your professional license. Some professional licenses require that a license holder report a DUI conviction. Additionally, a DUI conviction can cause your car insurance premiums to increase. It is even possible that your car insurance will drop you from coverage with a DUI conviction.
Contact us now at (561) 295-5825 for a free consultation to find out more about how we can defend your case. Our experience as three former prosecutors gives us an advantage that we use to represent our clients.