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Law Practice in Jacksonville

SELECTED 2013-2017

DUI: A Legal Breakdown by Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer Reid Hart

Jacksonville-DUI-lawyerDUI is a crime of degrees:
It is legal to have a drink with your meal and drive. Bars have parking lots after all, don’t they? However, it is illegal to drink too much and then drive. The threshold for legal intoxication (.08 in Florida) is easy to exceed. The best advice to follow is not to drink and drive. Ever. If you do, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Metabolism: 
It is universally recognized that most people metabolize one drink per hour.  Your weight has a direct effect on the amount of alcohol you can consume before you are considered DUI.  The amount of food intake and water consumption does, too. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Drinking on an empty stomach speeds the rate of alcohol absorption. Drinking carbonated or caffeinated beverages also can increase the speed of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream.
Breath Tests:
You will be presented two tests- one roadside and one at the jail in most circumstances. The roadside units are subject to frequent challenges and are rarely recommended. When in doubt, it is best to refuse in many circumstances. Why create evidence against you when it is optional if you are, indeed impaired.
Driver’s license suspension for first refusals is for one year; second or subsequent refusals are 18 months. If you have a commercial driver’s license, your first refusal means that you cannot drive for one year. If you have a second refusal in a commercial motor vehicle, you are not allowed to have a commercial driver’s license anymore. Consider your decision carefully.
Field sobriety tests:
If the officer asks you to do field sobriety tests, there is no requirement that you must stick your leg up in the air for 30 seconds or walk down a line in the middle of the road or recite the alphabet frontward or backwards with ease. It is a gauge and must consist of reasonable requests. You may refuse, but cooperation is usually recommended depending on the situation. Realize everything is being filmed. Without the field sobriety test, the state’s case can become weaker. However, it will increase the likelihood of arrest if the officer deems you as uncooperative. Whether or not someone should complete field sobriety tests is totally up to that person and a lawyer cannot necessarily advise as to whether the person should refuse the tests.  It depends on the situation.
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Dos and don’ts:
When stopped for a DUI, you generally should:
  • Be polite to the police officer, move slowly and make sure you have your license and registration ready.
  • Realize you are likely on videotape as most police cars record stops.
  • If interrogated, mention that you are nervous and ask if you can call your lawyer.  You may not be entitled to do so, but it shows you are prudent.
  • Cooperate at all times, including when being handcuffed.
  • Give careful answers to questions.
You generally should not: 
  • Beg the officer to let you go.
  • Apologize to the officer or accept any liability.  In fact, simply be quiet.
  • Admit what you have been drinking, discuss where you have been and never say anything to the effect of “I couldn’t even do that sober…”  Speak in generalities when you have to speak.
  • Start crying and trying to negotiate or bargain with the officer.
  • Tell the officer you’re going to lose your job, your occupation, your career or your spouse.
  • Mention that you know his supervisor or others on the police force.

Other tips:

Drive safely. Most DUI stops are for traffic violations such as speeding, unsafe lane changes, not driving within the lane, illegal turns, etc. Be focused and attentive while driving so that you are protecting other drivers on the road and not giving police probable cause to pull you over.  Make sure you turn on your headlights, fasten your seatbelts, and have calm passengers. Do not use your cell phone in any way, play with your car stereo, eat while driving, or do anything that will divert your attention from your driving.

Jail time:

  • 1st offense. Jail time for a first conviction is not more than six months, however if you have a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher or a minor in the vehicle, it goes to nine months, which is the maximum penalty. Probation on a DUI first conviction is no more than one year; if it’s a felony DUI, then it’s up to five years.
  • 2nd conviction. On a second conviction, you can face nine months jail time; however if you have a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher or a minor in the vehicle, it’s 12 months possible jail time. If your second conviction for DUI is within five years, you face mandatory jail of at least ten days and at least 48 hours of that confinement must be consecutive. So, you have to do at least two days consecutive jail.
  • 3rd conviction. If you get a third conviction and it’s within ten years, there’s mandatory jail of at least 30 days. In addition, you can face up to five years in prison on certain third and fourth DUI convictions.
Penalties:
  • 1st conviction. On a first conviction for DUI, it used to be a $250 fine to a maximum $500 fine. Now it’s a $500 fine to a maximum $1,000 fine.
  • 2nd conviction. The fine on a second conviction used to be $500, now it is $1,000 to $2,000. Fines are again increased if you blow over .15.
  • 3rd conviction. If you are convicted of a third DUI within ten years, that’s a felony punishable up to five years prison or $5,000 fine.
  • 4th conviction. If you have a fourth DUI, it’s also a felony punishable up to five years prison, a $5,000 fine, or if you cause serious bodily injury while driving under the influence regardless of whether it’s your first, second or third offense, it’s a third degree felony punishable up to no more than $5,000 and five years prison.
  • When a death is involved. If death is involved, the DUI becomes a second-degree felony in the state of Florida, which can expose you to a maximum of a $10,000 fine or 15 years in prison. If you’re charged with DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, failing to stop and give information or rendering aid to the victim, you can be charged with first degree felony, which is punishable by more than a $10,000 fine or 30 years in prison.
  • Causing property damage or personal injury. Any person who causes property damage or personal injury to another while driving under the influence can be guilty of a first degree misdemeanor which can mean a $1,000 fine or one year’s jail.
There are mandatory adjudications for DUI in Florida and judges are prohibited from withholding adjudication in many instances. So, if you plead to a DUI, you must be convicted and the judge is also prohibited from reducing a DUI charge to a lesser DUI if your blood alcohol level was .15 or greater.  The prosecutor can reduce it and in many cases if you hire a lawyer that can negotiate with the state, the state will reduce it to under a .15 to resolve the case or a different charge, thereby saving you money and enhanced penalties in many cases. 
For more information or for a consultation contact Reid Hart, our criminal defense lawyer, who serves all of Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Nassau and surrounding counties.