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DUI Charges Attorneys in Port Charlotte, Florida

Facing driving under the influence (DUI) charges can be a complicated and sensitive matter that could hurt your reputation and job and affect your future. When facing DUI charges in Florida, you should not take them lightly. With your reputation, employment, and freedom on the line, you should do whatever it takes to fight against the charges and enlist the support of a Port Charlotte DUI lawyer.

Just because you have been charged with DUI does not necessarily mean you will be convicted. The DUI charges attorneys at Ruhl & Lux, P.A. can help you build a strong case and identify the greatest possible defense strategy based on the facts of your DUI arrest. With an office in Port Charlotte, Florida, the attorneys at Ruhl & Lux, P.A. also represent clients in Sarasota and Desoto county.

DUI Charges in Florida

Florida law has multiple DUI charges for those arrested for driving or having physical control of a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. In Florida, you can face DUI charges for:

  1. operating a vehicle or being in physical control of one while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or any controlled substance that affects a person’s normal mental or physical faculties or
  2. operating a vehicle or being in physical control of one with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more.

The legal limit of .08% applies to the vast majority of adult drivers in Florida. However, the legal limit for drivers of commercial vehicles is .04%. Underage drivers are prohibited from driving with a BAC level of .02% or more.

In other words, you can face a DUI conviction in Florida even if your BAC is below the legal limit. That is because law enforcement in Florida can arrest you for DUI if they have probable cause to believe that your normal mental or physical faculties are impaired by alcohol, drugs, or any controlled substance.

Sobriety Tests and Your Rights

Many drivers on Florida’s roads do not understand their rights pertaining to DUI tests and, specifically, field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a series of tests performed by officers to evaluate a driver’s level of impairment. FSTs help law enforcement decide whether or not a driver should be arrested and taken into custody.

However, field sobriety tests are very subjective and are not the most accurate way of determining impairment. In most cases, field sobriety tests are voluntary, though the police may make it sound as if you are required by law to take these tests. When asked to take a field sobriety test, drivers in Florida have a right to decline without facing any penalties. The same principles do not apply to chemical tests, which are mandatory under Florida’s implied consent law.

Refusing a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer, will result in the immediate suspension of your driver’s license. In addition, your refusal will most likely be used as evidence against you in your DUI case. However, even if you took a field sobriety or chemical test, it might still be possible to challenge the results of the test with the help of a DUI charges attorney in Port Charlotte, Florida.

Possible Penalties

The penalties for a DUI conviction vary greatly depending on multiple factors, including the severity of the offense and the number of prior DUI convictions, if any.

When no enhanced penalties apply, drivers convicted of DUI in Florida can face from up to six months in jail for a first conviction to a maximum sentence of five years for a fourth or subsequent conviction, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV).

Fines, impoundment, ignition interlock device, and driver’s license suspension also vary depending on the number of prior convictions and the severity of the offense. In Florida, penalties for a DUI conviction can be imposed by the state’s DHSMV and the criminal court. The DHSMV can require a motorist to have an ignition interlock device installed and suspend/revoke the driver’s license, while the criminal court can issue a sentence for:

  • Fines. First-time convictions will be fined $500-$1,000, and second-DUI convictions and first-time convictions with aggravating factors will be fined $1,000-$2,000. Second-DUI convictions with aggravated factors could be fined as high as $4,000.
  • Jail time. First-time convictions face up to six months of jail time, and second-DUI convictions and first-time convictions with aggravating factors face up to nine months of jail time. Drivers with a second DUI conviction with aggravated factors could face up to a year in jail.
  • Probation. Probation is commonly imposed on DUI offenders, though the total period of both incarceration and probation cannot exceed one year for a first offense.
  • Drunk driving education classes. Florida requires first-time DUI offenders to attend a mandatory DUI school or other substance abuse education course. For subsequent convictions, more comprehensive education is required.
  • Community service. First-time offenders are required to complete 50 hours of community service, with additional hours required for subsequent offenses.
  • Interlock ignition device. All drivers convicted of a DUI are required to install an interlock ignition device (IID) on their vehicle for at least six months unless they are eligible for a hardship permit, which requires meeting certain criteria and eliminates this requirement. However, subsequent offenders are not eligible for this exception and must have one installed for a minimum of one year.

Enhanced penalties may apply when your DUI results in property damage, bodily injury, or death, when driving with a minor in the car, and when operating a vehicle with a BAC level of .15% or greater.

Defending Against Drunk Driving Charges

Just because you are facing DUI charges does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted. You may still have a chance to have your charges reduced or dismissed with the help of a skilled DUI charges attorney. However, this will require you and your attorney to develop a defense strategy. When defending against drunk driving charges, you can challenge:

  • The legality of the traffic stop. Law enforcement officers must have a valid and justifiable reason for pulling a driver over. Suspected drunk drivers are usually stopped after the officer observes unsafe or erratic driving behavior or the driver commits a violation, such as speeding or running a stop sign. Your attorney can challenge the legitimacy of the traffic stop if the driver was not cited for any other traffic violation or posed no danger to other drivers before being pulled over, potentially leading to the DUI charge being dismissed.
  • The legality of the arrest. If the driver is not made aware of their rights by having their Miranda Rights read to them, any statements made during the arrest could be voided as evidence.
  • The accuracy of chemical tests. Chemical tests, such as breathalyzers, should not be used as evidence on their own, as they can suffer from miscalibration, improper maintenance, insufficient training by the arresting officer administering the test, and other issues that could lead to inaccuracies. Drivers must be observed for at least twenty minutes prior to a breathalyzer being conducted or the breath result may not be admissible at trial.
  • The accuracy of field sobriety tests. A study conducted in 2005 found that the standard field sobriety tests were only between 30-60% effective at correctly evaluating a person’s BAC when it was between 0.06 and 0.08. This means a driver with a BAC within the legal threshold could be wrongly assessed. Especially if there were no other indications that a driver was intoxicated, this could challenge a conviction on the basis of the field sobriety test alone.
  • The arresting officer’s testimony. It is possible to use evidence from the arresting officers’ history of conduct to challenge their handling of the arrest. For example, the officer’s disciplinary record may be used as a defense for the driver to establish a lack of trust in their testimony or conduct. If the officer provided misleading statements in their report or at the time of the arrest, this could challenge the officer’s credibility.

The DUI charges attorneys at Ruhl & Lux, P.A. can help you explore every possible defense option to obtain the most favorable outcome possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. Serving clients in Charlotte, Sarasota, or Desoto Counties. Call 941-505-7845 or 855-784-5529 today.

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