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DUI

Jim kontos
By James Kontos

Law Office of James Kontos
Florida DUI Lawyer in Brevard County

If you’ve just been arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Rockledge or Melbourne, Florida, you may be worried about your future. Will you lose your job—or your driver’s license? What will happen if you have a criminal conviction on your record? Will you spend time in jail, and how much will your defense cost?

Although DUI charges can be serious, they don’t need to be life-altering—and, in many cases, a lawyer experienced with Florida DUI laws may be able to have these charges reduced or even dismissed. But if you want to pursue these options, you’ll need to seek legal advice right away. There are important court deadlines associated with these criminal charges, and missing even one deadline could limit your options.

At the Law Office of James Kontos, we are committed to helping those who have been wrongfully charged with a DUI in Florida. In your initial consultation we will review the facts of your case, explore all of your defense options, and fully explain all possible penalties that you may face.

What Constitutes a DUI in Florida?

Although most people associate DUI arrests with driving under the influence of alcohol, DUI arrests can involve other types of intoxication as well. If you’re pulled over for suspicion of DUI and fail a field sobriety test (which can include walking in a straight line, touching the tip of your nose with your finger with your eyes closed, and reciting the alphabet in reverse order), you may be arrested and booked into jail. If a blood test reveals that you had cocaine, amphetamines, or opiates in your system at the time of your arrest, your DUI charges may stand.

But in most cases, those charged with DUI will face allegations that they were operating a motor vehicle (which can include a scooter, ATV, or any other street-legal vehicle) with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or more. If your BAC is 0.15 or higher, you may be subject to additional charges.

How Are Florida DUI Charges Classified?

The severity of DUI charges can depend on whether you’re over 21, whether it’s your first, second, or subsequent offense, whether you’re considered a “habitual offender,” whether you had any passengers (including children) in the car at the time of your arrest, and whether anyone was injured or killed as a result of your driving.

First-time DUI Conviction:

  • If you’re a first-time DUI offender and plead guilty or no contest, you’ll receive 12 months of supervised probation, a 6-month license suspension, 50 hours of community service (including attending a Victim Impact Panel), and may be restricted from using alcohol or going to bars or clubs for the next year. You’ll also be assessed a range of fines and court costs, including the cost of investigating and prosecuting your case. And, perhaps most importantly, if you plead guilty to a DUI and receive an “adjudication of guilt,” you won’t be able to seal or expunge this conviction in the future.
  • If you’re a first-time DUI offender whose BAC was 0.15 or greater or who had a minor in the vehicle at the time of your arrest, you’ll be assessed the same penalties but will pay a higher fine and may be required to have an ignition interlock device placed on your vehicle for 6 months. This device requires you to blow into it to start your vehicle and to blow into it at random intervals, when prompted while driving. If the device detects any alcohol in your bloodstream, it will shut off your car’s engine.

Second-time DUI Conviction:

  • If you’re a second-time DUI offender who had a first DUI within the last 5 years, you’ll have your driver’s license revoked for 5 years and your vehicle impounded for 30 days. You may also be required to spend 10 days in jail. Although you may qualify for a hardship license to drive to and from work, you’ll be required to have an ignition interlock device for at least one year.

Third-time DUI Conviction:

  • If you’re a third-time DUI offender whose prior arrests occurred within the last decade, you’ll be charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor. Conviction of your third DUI in 10 years may mean a prison sentence of up to 5 years. If you’ve had two prior DUIs more than 10 years ago, you’ll be charged with the highest level of misdemeanor and may be sentenced to up to a year in jail.

Additional Charges:

  • If your DUI arrest occurred after an accident involving serious bodily injury, you’ll be charged with a third-degree felony and may spend up to 5 years in prison. Each person who is injured in a DUI accident, including your own passengers, is counted as a separate crime, which can increase the penalties upon conviction.
  • If your DUI causes another person’s death, including the death of an unborn child, it’s classified as “Felony DUI Manslaughter.” This second-degree felony can be punished by up to 15 years in prison, and anyone convicted of this crime will receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 4 years in prison.
  • And finally, if you’re driving under the influence and leave the scene after an accident (or refuse to stop and help the person you struck), you could be charged with Hit and Run or Failure to Stop and Render Aid, both felonies. If the victim dies, these charges are elevated to a first-degree felony—the most serious under Florida law. Drivers convicted of Hit and Run Manslaughter may be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

Will Your Driver’s License be Automatically Suspended After a DUI Arrest? 

If you’ve been issued a DUI citation by the arresting officer, this citation acts as your driver’s license for the next 10 days. Unless you request a formal review hearing within this 10-day period, after the 10th day, your license will be administratively suspended. This means that even if you’re ultimately acquitted of the DUI charges or charges are dropped, your license will be suspended for at least 6 months or until the case has concluded.

This is one of the reasons it’s so important to seek legal advice as quickly as you can. Having an experienced Florida DUI attorney to request an administrative review hearing on your behalf and defend you at this hearing can be the difference between keeping and losing your license.

Why You Should Hire an Experienced and Aggressive Florida DUI Attorney

Being arrested for DUI doesn’t mean a conviction is inevitable. Unless the prosecutor can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the charges won’t stand. This means that there are several possible ways your attorney can attack the evidence against you and provide the reasonable doubt necessary for acquittal.

Although the best defense for your case will depend on the specific facts presented, some of the most common (and successful) defenses include:

  • Questioning the accuracy of the breathalyzer or alcohol breath test results. The breathalyzer results are often the most crucial piece of evidence against you, and if the arresting officer isn’t able to prove that these results are accurate, it’s likely that charges will be dropped. Your attorney may ask questions about the last time the breathalyzer test was calibrated, whether inaccurate results have been reported before, or what steps the department takes to maintain the accuracy of this test.
  • Chain of custody issues. Even if the breathalyzer itself is accurate, if there isn’t a clear way to trace those results to you—and not another driver—these results may not be admissible. This is especially common in cases where an initial breathalyzer is inconclusive so you’re taken to the hospital for a blood draw. Unless the prosecutor can show that there’s a valid, verified chain of custody from the phlebotomist who drew your blood to the lab that tested it and then back to the police station, there may not be sufficient evidence that the blood test results belong to you.
  • Lack of probable cause for the initial stop. Even if you were unequivocally intoxicated while driving, if the arresting officer didn’t have a valid reason to stop you—for example, if you weren’t breaking any traffic laws, didn’t have an expired license plate, too-dark tint, or malfunctioning brake lights, and weren’t involved in an accident—any subsequent evidence the officer gathers becomes “fruit of the unlawful search” and may be inadmissible.

In other cases, you may be able to negotiate a plea deal that allows you to plead guilty to a reduced set of charges. This can ensure that a felony or high-level misdemeanor isn’t on your record, and may even allow you to keep your driver’s license after your conviction.

Frequently Asked Questions When Charged with a Florida DUI:

Am I required to ‘blow’ into the Breathalyzer test?

Not necessarily. If you have a previous DUI arrest in Florida and refused to blow at that time, the second refusal can be punishable by up to one year in a county jail (Florida § 316.1939). There are other reasons that a refusal to have a Breathalyzer test administered may land you with an additional charge, which is why it is so important to seek legal counsel immediately after a DUI arrest in Florida.

Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test in Florida?

Absolutely! You can refuse to perform any test that the arresting officer asks of you. At that point, law enforcement must decide, based on the evidence at hand (if there is any), whether or not to arrest your for driving under the influence. If you are arrested, it would be up to a jury to decide if you were impaired while driving based on any other evidence.

Is it True that my Florida License Will be Suspended for One Year if I Refuse a Breathalyzer or Field Sobriety Test?

No! We can fight the suspension within 10 days of your DUI arrest with a request for a formal review. On the other hand, if you do submit to a Breathalyzer or field sobriety test, and fail, your license will also likely be suspended (after a review process), possibly for six months.

What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony DUI under Florida Law?

There a few types of Florida DUI charges that constitute a felony charge, such as:

  • DUI Hit and Run, or Failure to Stop and Render Aid
  • Causing a death while driving under the influence is felony DUI manslaughter
  • DUI causing serious bodily injury
  • 3rd DUI conviction within 10 years
  • 4th DUI conviction is an automatic felony

These are all very serious felony charges. If any of these circumstances apply to your DUI arrest, contact us immediately!

What is an Aggravated DUI Charge?

You can be charged with a Florida Aggravated DUI if there are extenuating circumstances such as an extremely high BAC, having a minor child in the car, or driving while impaired without a valid driver’s license.

Why Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Florida DUI Charge?

A conviction of Driving Under the Influence in Florida can have serious consequences, and affect the rest of your life. Don’t put your license, employment, family and freedom at risk! Call the Law Office of James Kontos for a confidential consultation today! James Kontos will personally review your case and discuss your options with you.