In the hands of a driver with impaired judgment and/or physical abilities, a motor vehicle can become an incredibly large heavy and dangerous projectile. That’s a serious problem and Florida takes it very seriously—the Florida statute describing the various DUIs and the penalties for them runs is over 4,500 words long! In Florida in 2011, the DMV reported a total of 33,625 DUI convictions. In 2010, there were more than 3,000 convictions just in Hillsborough County and another 1,824 in Pinellas County. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, contact an experienced Tampa DUI lawyer who can assist you in forming a defense strategy. Will Hanlon at Hanlon Law is a trusted criminal defense lawyer that aims to protect his client’s future in Tampa.
What DUI Means in Florida
Florida treats drunk and drugged driving as DUI, but it is often referred to as DWI. For Florida drivers, driving under the influence means that you were operating a vehicle while impaired by any of the following:
- A blood alcohol level (BAL) of .08% or higher for adults, .02% or higher for minors (under 21)
- A chemical substance
- A controlled substance
The law sets up a system of penalties that take account of how many previous DUIs you have had, whether your BAL was .15 or higher, whether there was a minor in the car at the time you were driving impaired, and whether your impaired driving caused injury or death. Depending on how those factors work in your case, your penalty can include:
- Fines that range from $500 up
- Community service (or an additional fine instead)
- Attending DUI school
- Jail time ranging from 6 months up
- Long probationary periods following jail time
- Having your vehicle impounded (or immobilized) for 10 days and up
- Revocation of your license for one year and up
- An ignition interlock device on your car
Florida also employs “ignition interlock” devices for DUI convictions. These devices-which periodically require the driver to breathe into it, record the BAL each time, and transmit the data to the Department of Motor Vehicles—can be ordered installed at the judge’s discretion at the first conviction, and are mandatory upon a second conviction.
Misdemeanor and Felony DUI
Injuring or killing someone while driving impaired (and a few other circumstances) can bump your ordinary DUI conviction up as high as a first degree felony. If the circumstances fit the definitions of DUI Manslaughter or Vehicular Homicide, and you exacerbate the case by leaving the scene, the first degree felony penalties include up to 30 years in prison.
Defending DUI Charges
In many cases, your Tampa DUI lawyer can challenge the validity of the initial stop by police (was there really probable cause) and the two primary elements of DUI:
- Were you actually in control of the vehicle?
- Were you, in fact, impaired at the time or simply nervous, tired, etc.?
While blood and breath testing sound very scientific and trustworthy, this isn’t always true. In some cases, you can challenge the accuracy of the breathalyzer, the experience of the officer who administered it, and the reliability of any lab that performed blood testing.
Speed and Experience Matter in Defending the DUI
The stiff penalties for DUI are enough reason to get experienced DUI defense help as soon as possible. Even the DUI arrest alone can have major adverse consequences for drivers with a commercial license, and even more consequences if drivers who were operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the DUI arrest.
There is also a very practical reason to get legal help quickly: the suspension of your license is automatic and effective immediately, and you have 10 days to request an administrative review of the suspension. The actual review–you can get extended driving privileges while awaiting the hearing– is an opportunity for your Tampa DUI lawyer to raise defenses to the basic DUI charge. The outcome of that hearing can seriously affect the future course of your case.
Don’t delay if you have been charged with DUI. Call the law offices of Will Hanlon for an aggressive DUI defense from an attorney with 20 years experience in the Tampa area and the West Central Florida coastal region.