DUI Defense

a man blowing an alcolimeter

Florida has very strict driving under the influence (DUI) laws, which can result in serious penalties if you are convicted of this crime. Under Florida law, you do not necessarily have to be over the state’s legal limit of .08% to be charged with DUI. Simply having any amount of alcohol or controlled substances in your system while in actual physical control of a vehicle can result in an arrest. However, an arrest for DUI does not have to ultimately result in a conviction.

After a DUI arrest, two cases are pending against you – an administrative proceeding and a criminal proceeding. It is important to immediately contact an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer once you have been arrested for DUI.

You only have 10 days after your arrest to dispute your administrative license suspension. Therefore, it is essential to consult an experienced Jacksonville DUI defense lawyer to begin crafting your best legal strategy today.

Bill Roelke of Roelke Law, P.A. has years of experience defending Jacksonville residents against alleged DUI charges. He represents clients charged with a refusal, high BAC readings over .15, and DUI with property damage. He knows how serious a DUI accusation can be and is not afraid to stand by you and fight the allegations you are facing.

Contact Roelke Law today at (904) 354-0333 or send an online message if you have been charged with a DUI offense throughout northeast Florida, including the areas of Duval County, St. Johns County, Nassau County and Clay County.

Duval County DUI Information Center

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DUI Formal Review Hearings in Jacksonville, Fl

When you operate a motor vehicle in Florida, you have constructively agreed to the state’s implied consent laws. This means you have agreed to submit to a lawfully requested chemical test of your breath, blood or urine.

However, implied consent does not include submitting to field sobriety tests. The field sobriety exercises are completely voluntarily, although your refusal to submit can be used against you at trial as “consciousness of guilt.”

If you refused to submit to chemical testing, then your driver license can be administratively suspended. Additionally, if you do submit to chemical testing and have a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit of .08, your license can be administratively suspended.

According to Fla. Stat. § 322.2615, you can receive an administrative license suspension when you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI if:

  • You refuse to submit to blood, breath or urine chemical testing, OR
  • You fail to pass an intoxication test (also known as per se DUI).

If your driver’s license was confiscated by the law enforcement officer after you blew over the legal limit or refused to submit, your attorney must file a request for a formal administrative license suspension review hearing within ten days after you receive notice of the suspension. Florida law considers “notice” to have occurred when the officer took your license.

If the hearing officer at the formal review hearing determines there was insufficient evidence to suspend your license, your license will be returned to you. Even if your administrative license suspension is not overturned at the hearing, you attorney may be able to help you obtain a hardship permit so you can continue to drive to school or work throughout the remainder of your criminal case.

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Actual Physical Control DUI in Duval County, Fl

You can be charged with a DUI in Florida even if you were not driving. Florida law only requires the prosecutor to prove that you were driving OR in actual physical control (APC) of the motor vehicle at the time of your arrest. The prosecutor will look at a variety of factor to determine whether you had APC of the vehicle. These factors can include:

  • Whether your car’s engine was on;
  • Whether your keys were in the ignition;
  • Whether your keys were close enough to you to put in the ignition;
  • Whether the hood of your car was hot, indicating it was recently driven; and
  • Whether the car was even capable of being driven.

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Jacksonville DUI Offenses and Penalties

The criminal DUI proceeding is separate from the administrative DUI proceeding in Florida. This is what most people are familiar with, and generally involves pre-trial motions, hearings, the trial and sentencing. The following is a list of common DUI criminal charges in Florida and the possible penalties you could face if convicted.

First DUI – This offense is usually punishable as a second degree misdemeanor and can occur ifyou are in actual physical control of a vehicle and are under the influence of alcohol, controlled substance or another chemical substance. If your BAC was over the legal limit of .08, you can be charged with per se DUI. The penalties for this offense can include:

  • A fine from $500 to $2,000
  • Community Service
  • Probation
  • Up to six or nine months in jail
  • License suspension for at least 180 days (separate from an administrative license suspension)
  • DUI School
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device

Second DUI – This offense is usually punishable as a misdemeanor of the first degree, and can occur if you are in actual physical control of a vehicle, are under the influence of alcohol, controlled substance or another chemical substance, and have previously been charged with one DUI related offense. If your BAC was over the legal limit of .08, you can be charged with per se DUI. The penalties for this offense can include:

  • A fine from $1,000 and $4,000
  • Community Service
  • Probation
  • Up to nine months in jail with possible mandatory jail sentences
  • License suspension for at least 180 days (separate from an administrative license suspension)
  • DUI School
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device

Third or Subsequent DUI – This offense is generally punishable as a felony offense and can occur if you are in actual physical control of a vehicle, are under the influence of alcohol, controlled substance or another chemical substance, and have previously been charged with two or more DUI related offense. If your BAC was over the legal limit of .08, you can be charged with per se DUI. The penalties for this offense can include:

  • A fine from $2,000 and $5,000
  • Community Service
  • Probation
  • Up to 12 months in prison with possible mandatory prison sentences
  • License suspension for at least 180 days (separate from an administrative license suspension)
  • DUI School
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device

Felony DUI – This offense can occur if you have been convicted of three or more DUI violations within ten years of any previous DUI conviction, or have been charged with DUI involving death or serious bodily injury.

DUI with Property Damage – This offense is generally punishable as a misdemeanor of the first degree, and can occur if you are operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a BAC of .08 or higher, and you cause or damage to the property of someone else.

DUI with Serious Bodily Injury – This offense is generally punishable as either a first, second or third degree felony and can occur if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, operate a vehicle with a BAC over the legal limit, and cause the death or serious bodily injury of another person.

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Possible Defenses and Mitigating Factors to Your DUI in Jacksonville

Convictions are never automatic in Florida DUI cases. Even when alleged offenders submit breath samples or other specimens that would seemingly be evidence of guilt, there can often be any one of a number of errors or oversights by police officers that can possibly lead to criminal charges being reduced or completely dismissed.

Every case is different, and some common defenses in DUI arrests may include, but are not limited to:

  • Chemical Testing Errors — Breath test operators must receive their permits from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Tests that are performed by individuals without such permits may be invalid. Additionally, law enforcement must conduct an observation period of 20 minutes before a breath test to ensure that an alleged offender has “not taken anything by mouth or has not regurgitated for at least 20 minutes before administering the test.” Failure to conduct this observation period can lead to test results being suppressed. Other issues with breath tests can include equipment malfunction, improperly calibrated machinery, and failure to maintain devices.
  • Illegal Stop — If it can be proven that the reason for a police officer’s initial traffic stop that led to the DUI arrest was unlawful, it can lead to any evidence obtained after the stop being inadmissible in court. For example, law enforcement cannot stop a driver simply based on an anonymous report of drunk driving. Additionally, DUI sobriety checkpoints in Florida must comply with the standards established before police set up these roadblocks. If law enforcement deviates from such a plan, then the checkpoint will be considered unconstitutional and any arrest is illegal.
  • Improperly Administered Field Sobriety Tests — Before asking an alleged offender to submit to chemical testing, a police officer will often get drivers to perform a series of field sobriety tests. The three tests standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk-and-turn, and one-leg stand. In addition to having very questionable levels of accuracy, law enforcement will frequently commit several errors in conducting these tests. The use of other non-standardized tests such as the finger-to-nose or reciting the alphabet backwards may also be challenged in court.
  • Inoperable Vehicle — In cases in which alleged offenders were not driving but were charged with DUI for being in APC of a vehicle, one possible defense is that the vehicles they were allegedly in APC of were not capable of being driven. APC-related charges rely heavily on the presumption that the police officer was preventing an intoxicated motorist from getting on to a public road and injuring or killing other motorists. If the automobile the alleged offender was allegedly in APC of could not be operated at the time of the offense, then he or s he typically cannot be found guilty of DUI.
  • Police Videos — Many Florida police cars have cameras in the dashboards. Similarly, there are also cameras in many booking rooms. The video taken in either of these settings may contain evidence that directly contradicts the written statements of arresting officers. If video does not support the claims of law enforcement, it can often lead to their testimony being called into question.

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Recent Florida DUI News

  • Appeals Court Upholds Constitutionality of Criminal Charges for Test Refusal — On June 5, the Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled that it was not unconstitutional to punish a person criminally for refusing to submit to a breath-alcohol test when the officer conducting the test does not have a warrant. William Williams was arrested in October 2013 for DUI and refused to submit to a breath test to determine his blood-alcohol content (BAC). The court determined the breath test to be “minimally intrusive” and Williams’ expectation of privacy was diminished, initially, because he was driving on a public road and further diminished when he was arrested, based upon probable cause, for DUI. District Judge Jay P. Cohen wrote, “In sum, balancing Williams’ diminished expectation of privacy and the minimal invasiveness of the search against the State’s legitimate interest in curbing driving under the influence leads us to conclude that a post-arrest warrantless breath-alcohol test would have been permissible under the Fourth Amendment.”
  • Study Finds Florida Has 21st Strictest DUI Laws in Nation — A study released in June by the personal finance website WalletHub determined that the Sunshine State ranks 21st for the strictest DUI laws in the United States. Florida tied with Nevada while Arizona was determined to have the most strict laws in the country and South Dakota had the least. Florida’s criminal penalties ranked 29th, but the state’s prevention ranked fourth strictest in the nation. Prevention was calculated be examining when ignition interlock is mandatory and how long it is mandatory for, whether there is an administrative license suspension, whether an alcohol abuse assessment and/or treatment is mandatory, and the average insurance rate increase after a DUI, among other factors.
  • Man Sentenced to 33 Years in Prison for Drunk Driving Crash — Stanley Robert Jefson was sentenced on May 27 to 33 ½ years in prison for the April 2014 DUI manslaughter death of a 12-year-old Savannah Pfeiffer. The Florida Times-Union reported that Jefson drove his Pontiac G8 at speeds of up to 121 mph when he struck the back of a pickup truck with four people inside, including Pfeiffer. His blood test showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.279. According to WJXT-TV, Jefson’s sentence is the longest DUI sentence ever handed down in Duval County.
  • Florida DUI Flyers Garner National Attention — Earlier this year, a video shot last New Year’s Eve of a man stopped at a DUI checkpoint in Florida went viral. In the video, the man has a bag hanging outside his window that contains his driver’s license, registration, and insurance card along with a flyer reading “I REMAIN SILENT. NO SEARCHES. I WANT MY LAWYER.” When stopped at the checkpoint, the police officers examine the bag and allow him to proceed. The video has now been viewed more than 3 million times and generated much discussion about the legal rights of motorists during traffic stops not only in Florida but all across the United States. While the video raised an important point that drivers are under no obligation to make any statements to police about where they have been, where they are going, or whether they have been drinking, it is important for motorists to understand that such a flyer will not be an effective way to avoid being arrested for DUI—and in some cases, it may even worsen criminal charges. The United States Supreme Court has upheld the use of random DUI checkpoints, and police officers in Florida can detain alleged offenders if there is reasonable suspicion of drunk driving or arrest them if they have probable cause.

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Find a DUI Lawyer in Jacksonville

Contact Roelke Law today for a consultation about your alleged DUI offense throughout Duval County in Florida. Bill Roelke is knowledgeable in all areas of Jacksonville’s DUI laws and will make every effort to help you avoid the most serious penalties and punishments for your alleged DUI offense.

Contact Roelke Law at (904) 354-0333 for a consultation about your DUI charges throughout Jacksonville and the surrounding areas of Florida, including Jacksonville Beach, St. Augustine, Orange Park and Fernandina Beach.

Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney Blog - DUI

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