What are the DUI laws in Florida?

In the state of Florida, if you are driving under the influence and have a blood/breath alcohol level of .08 or higher you will be charged with a DUI. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the penalties upon conviction are the same but depending on certain factors such as prior convictions or if there was a minor in the car, the suspect will face heavier consequences.

Referenced from the Department of Highway and Safety and Motor Vehicles, here is an outline of the consequences and suspension laws for a DUI in Florida.

First offense:

  • Pay a fine anywhere between $500- $1000.
  •  50 hours of community service is mandatory; you can either complete the community service or pay $10 for every hour that is required.
  • Probation (should not exceed a year).
  • You will not face more than 6 months jail time.
  • Your license will be suspended anywhere from 180 days to a year.
  • Mandatory DUI school before hardship reinstatement.
  • Your car will be impounded 10 days.

If it is your first offense AND you have a BAL of .15 or higher or have a minor in the car your sanctions will worsen. Your fines will increase to $1,000-$2,000 and you could face up to 9 months in jail.

Second offense:

  • A fine of $1,000- $2,000
  • You will not face more than 9 months of jail time.
  • If it is within 5 years of prior offense, license will be suspended for 5 years.
  • Mandatory DUI school.
  • Your car will be impounded for 30 days.

If you have a BAL of .15 or higher or a minor is present, your fines increase to $2,000-$4,000 and you can face up to 12 months in jail.
Third offense:

  • A fine of $2,000-$5,000
  • You will face at least 30 days of jail time but no more than 12 months.
  • If it is within 10 years of prior offense, license will be suspended for 10 years.
  • Mandatory DUI school.
  • Your car will be impounded for 90 days.

Again, if you have a BAL of .15 or higher or a minor is present, your fines increase to no less than $4,000.

The most important thing you can do after receiving a DUI is to contact a criminal defense attorney. Hillsborough County is one of Florida’s most active counties in cracking down on drunk drivers. Generally speaking, if you are pulled over for DUI questioning, you will be arrested. Unfortunately you must pay the price, but having a Tampa defense attorney present throughout your process will ensure that you are making the right decisions as you go forward. A Board-Certified attorney should know the DUI laws like the back of their hand, so they will be able to educate you on what happens next.

Is your personal information up for sale?

If you have a Florida driver’s license, then yes. And believe it or not the State of Florida has been doing this for years.

It’s logical to think this act must be breaking a law when in reality, “the courts have ruled there is nothing illegal about it” according to an ABC Action News article.

Not anyone has the ability to purchase your license; the state only sells information to companies like ShadowSoft, Inc., which claims to sell the information they get from the state to businesses to whom use it for customer verification.

For example, if a doctor’s office was trying to track a patient down and came across that the patient has since moved or changed their mailing address, they would buy the patient’s personal information from a business like ShadowSoft.

There are 10 different companies that Florida sells drivers license information to. According to the article, our personal information is worth a lot – $62,968,946 to be exact.

So the question arises, is this constitutional? Courts say yes but the public, or at least the ones who know about it, say no. Larry Brindley was stopped outside of the Department of Motor Vehicles and asked his thoughts on the topic. After ABC Action News explained what was happening with Florida drivers’ personal information, Larry responded with

“I have a problem with that, it’s just another cash cow for somebody, and I think information is exploited to the max.”

This spring, a group Florida citizens attempted to shut down the relationship between ShadowSoft and the state. The judge declared it legal and said it did not violate the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act. So now we wonder… the more the public finds out about what is happening to their personal information, will we see an appeal to this case in the future?

DUI Suspension Rules Change

Last Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state can no longer suspend motorist’s license if they refuse a DUI test. What’s the catch? That is only if the driver felt the refusal did not follow a lawful stop.

Prior to this ruling, Florida’s “implied consent” law required that if police officials had probable cause to pull a suspected motorist over and they denied the sobriety test, their license would immediately be suspended. Officials never had to consider the legality of the stop.

In the article, DUI License Suspension Rules Will Change After Ruling, attorney David Robbins says, “This gives defendants a fighting chance.” He and another attorney believed that since law enforcement had the ability to suspend someone’s license right on the spot, suspects had no chance to appeal the decision.

So what does the passing of this law tell us? It’s safe to say that we’ll see an uptick in the number of people that will challenge the lawfulness of their stop.

This law applies to DHSMV administrative suspension proceedings and excludes all criminal DUI cases.

Blood Tests Banned in Misdemeanor DUI Investigations

Not too long ago, I touched upon the idea that Florida could see “no refusal” DUI checkpoints in the future, but last week Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeal put an end to that idea, at least for now. The court ruled that law enforcement cannot forcibly draw blood in a DUI investigation if it is a misdemeanor. The ruling still stands that blood can be drawn if it involves injury, death or if it is a felony case.

According to an article from Key News in Key West, attorneys on both sides of the argument agree on one thing: that blood tests are the most accurate of all sobriety tests. Where they differ is how the blood is used. Sam Kaufman, Key West defense attorney states,

“What they’re saying is that blood is not being used as a means to commit a crime…In other words, the statute states that evidence has to be property used to commit a crime. They’re saying that a person’s blood doesn’t fall into that category.”

Dennis Ward of Monroe County is for the “no refusal” forced DUI blood tests. He wants everyone who is pulled over and has a prior DUI to be subject to a blood test. Currently, the law stands that blood can only be drawn in felony cases. A suspect’s third DUI is only considered a felony if it happens within 10 years of the last convicted DUI but the fourth DUI is always a felony.

Ward says that this ruling is not going to stop his fight against drunk drivers. At this point in time he cannot do anything about first or second time offenders, but says this will not hold him back from moving forward with felony offenders.

Although this case stems from Key West, the article explains that this “ruling affects all of Florida because no other precedent has been set.” This sets back any movement towards the “no refusal” DUI check points coming to Tampa. It raises the question of whether or not the Geiss case mentioned in the previous post or any other current cases dealing with forced BAC tests will be appealed. Although the law has passed, this is likely not the last we will hear of the “no refusal” checkpoints and blood tests. This situation underlines the importance of effective legal representation if you’ve been charged with DUI/DWI.

Can Police Now Enter Homes Without a Warrant?

We’ve all seen it in the movies; “cop” bangs on door, people inside scatter and hide weapons/drugs, someone answers the door and “cops” search the home. Pretty standard right? This is not what happened in a recent case in Kentucky…

According to an article from the Orlando Sentinel, Kentucky police were following a man who they believed to be a drug dealer. The man went into an apartment building but the law enforcement officials lost track of which unit he entered. The police smelled marijuana coming from one door and knocked on it. They heard rummaging and announced they were coming in. They did not find the drug dealer but instead found Hollis King with marijuana and cocaine. King convicted of drug trafficking but later his conviction was overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court accusing the officers of violating his 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure). The U.S Supreme Court then heard an appeal from prosecutors and reversed the ruling. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr said

“…the police conduct in this case ‘was entirely lawful,’ and they were justified in breaking down the door to prevent the destruction of the evidence.”

 

The Supreme Court passed a ruling allowing law enforcement to enter homes without a search warrant. If law officers knock loudly on the door and hear suspicious noises coming from inside, they can enter the home without a warrant or consent. Before this ruling, the law stood that officials could only enter the home without a search warrant if they had consent from the owner or if there was an emergency situation.

In the article, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argues

“the court’s approach arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases. She said the police did not face a ‘genuine emergency’ and should not have been allowed to enter the apartment without a warrant.”

 

This new law could potentially complicate the job of criminal defense lawyers because in the past, there was a logical defense when police didn’t have the explicit right to enter the home of the suspect. Now, we may come across the gray area of what was thought to have been heard and what the accused says happened. The line of violating the 4th Amendment could become blurred.

The Supreme Court arrived at an 8-1 decision allowing law enforcement officials to enter without a warrant if they are in pursuit of someone with drugs, knock loudly and can hear the destruction of evidence.

What You May Not Know about a DUI in Florida…

“It can and does happen to anyone.”

DUI charges rank among the Top 5 charges in Hillsborough and Pinellas County. Hillsborough County alone is ranked one of the highest charging DUI counties in the state of Florida. There are a couple of things that you probably don’t know about a DUI that you should…

  • – The DUI charge has two components creating two separate cases. Administrative (Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles) and Criminal.
    – Enrolling quickly in DUI school could help with your criminal case.
    – You have a strict 10 calendar day deadline from the date of your arrest to file a Formal Review Hearing with the DHSMV.
    – Previous DUI/DWI cases are considered a prior conviction, no matter what state.
    – A DUI usually consists of driving under the influence of alcohol, but could also mean driving impaired by drugs; even prescription drugs.
    – There are many possible penalties for a DUI. For a guideline of Florida’s DUI penalties contact a Criminal Defense Attorney.

If you unfortunately do happen to get arrested for a DUI, the most important thing you can do is contact a Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer can advise you the rest of the way after your arrest. Knowing what to do and expect during the investigation process is also very important.

“No Refusal” DUI Checkpoints- Could Florida see more in the future?

Towards the end of last year, we heard the idea that “no refusal” DUI checkpoints could be introduced to Tampa’s fight against drunk driving.

The “no refusal” checkpoints would consist of having a judge on scene, allowing them to issue a warrant for the driver in question requiring that they take a blood test to acquire if the driver was intoxicated.

Currently, a blood test is only to be used when there is serious injury or death involved. Obviously anyone can agree to a consensual blood test but it is very unlikely that anyone would.

According to an article from Floridatoday.com, an appeals court in Daytona on Tuesday questioned whether or not law enforcement could forcefully obtain a blood sample in certain DUI cases. This case dates back to 2009 when Gregory Geiss was pulled over for swerving between lanes. There was no serious injury or death involved but a judge was on scene, a warrant was issued, he had to take a blood test and was charged with a DUI.

The judge in the 2009 case did not allow the blood evidence to be used in the courtroom, but later the state appealed. Two arguments surfaced: Is blood a searchable property? Is the searching of blood an invasion of privacy?

According to the article, Defense Attorney Ernest Chang called the forced tests, “a judicial expansion of powers.”

In 2003, there was a similar case where the defendant was charged with a DUI because of a blood test. In this case, a panel of circuit judges decided in favor of the state 2-1.

It will be interesting to see how the circuit judges in Daytona decide on the Geiss case. With what has happened in past cases, and the decision of this case, we will see if the “no refusal” DUI checkpoints will make way to Tampa anytime soon, or if the current publicity to the Geiss case will put a hold on that.

Drug Offenses- What you should know.

Drug offenses are both Federal and State statutes. If you have left Florida or your state of residence and get charged with possession, you could be charged with a US Federal statute.

In the drug offense video below, Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer Lori D. Palmieri states that the most recent, serious drug related crime is the possession of controlled substances.

“As we sit here in 2011, the primary focus of law enforcement is the distribution and possession of controlled substances that are prescription drugs.”

But that is obviously not the only type of drug that constitutes for a drug offense. Any type of drug from crack-cocaine to marijuana will land you a drug charge.

Penalties for drug offenses will be determined by any of the following factors:

  • – Quantity of the drug?
  • – Was it simple possession?
  • – Was it possession with intent to sell, distribute, and/or deliver?
  • – Were there weapons involved?

Drug cases are very fact specific. If evidence is wrongfully obtained or there were problems with the search and seizure, the possibility to move the court in motion of suppress is there. Generally, the case will go away.

A conviction of any drug offense can result in the loss of your Florida drivers license and the length of suspension depends on the specific factors of the crime. A qualified attorney will know what can be done to avoid or minimize the loss of a license.

 

I’ve Violated My Probation- Now What?

Unfortunately, there are many ways one can violate probation or community control (house arrest).

When you are under either probation or house arrest, you are placed under demands that limit your freedom including confinement to your home, weekly meetings with a probation officer, random drug tests etc,. (full list of probation violations )

Probation is given either in replace of jail time or following jail time. During this time period it is important to demonstrate to the courts that you are staying out of trouble.

Generally, people violate their probation the follow two ways:

1.) you are charged with a new crime, or

2.) You are given a ‘Technical Violation.’

House arrest is similar to probation, the only difference being that you are confined to your home unless instructed by the courts. Simply put, if you are not home you are violating house arrest.

If you violate your probation or house arrest, it is important to contact a Board Certified criminal defense lawyer to guide you through the next step.

After the violation, your probation officer will issue a warrant for your arrest. At this time officials have the right to arrest you at any given time or you could opt for self arrest. There is generally NO BOND for probation violators but law offices like Palmieri Law can expedite the bond hearing to reduce the time spent in jail.

If you do violate your probation or house arrest sanction, the most important thing you can do is contact a criminal defense lawyer. If you are in the Tampa area, Board Certified criminal defense lawyer Lori D. Palmieri has over 18 years experience with probation violation.

There’s an App for That- US Senators Request to Ban DUI Checkpoint Alert Applications

There is literally an app for everything these days; a food guide, calorie counter, music streamer… DUI checkpoint finder? Applications such as “Trapster”, “PhantomAlert” and “iRadar” are driving alert applications that notify drivers of speed traps, red light cameras, school zones and DUI checkpoints.

These apps are facing scrutiny from US Senators specifically for the DUI checkpoint feature. Senators Harry Reid, Charles E. Shumer, Frank R. Lautenberg and Tom Udall wrote a letter to Apple asking for the applications to be banned unless altered so that the DUI feature is removed.

In the article, Senators Ask Apple to Pull DUI Checkpoint Apps, we are introduced to the argument of whether or not the application helps or hinders the safety of the public. Captain Paul Starks of the Montgomery County (Md.) Police Department fears that the application will not stop people from drinking and driving but will only be used when people have been drinking and want to drive. He remarks,

“They’re only thinking of one consequence, and that’s being arrested. They’re not thinking of ending the lives of other motorists, pedestrians, other passengers in their cars or themselves.”

In the same article, Joe Scott, CEO and founder of PhantomAlert argues that they are doing the same thing police departments are doing to deter people from drinking and driving, the only difference is that the app puts awareness in real time. He stated that

“If they really understood what we are doing and aim to achieve, they would actually support us.”

So what it boils down to is whether or not this app is actually helping the safety of the public, or creating a tool that drunk drivers can use to dodge a DUI checkpoint and possible arrest. Could this be something that police officers and attorneys will have to start considering when investigating a DUI case?

The applications have not yet been removed but it will be interesting to see how Apple and other parties involved will respond.

Ratings and Reviews

Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rated

FL Bar Board Certified

Former Prosecutor