What you need to know about your Florida DUI

As St. Petersburg DUI lawyers, we often get asked to explain what goes on if you or a loved one gets arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Florida. Florida DUI law is a mixture of both criminal and civil actions, starting with your DMV hearing. As a courtesy to our clients and to anyone who receives a DUI in Florida, we have composed a list of tips. These tips are bits of information that may help you find the right criminal defense attorney for you!

1. On the Civil portion of your DUI case, please know that the DUI citation that you received, upon your arrest, also acts as a temporary driver’s permit for 10 days from the date of the citation. You should carry it with you when you drive. Unless an Application for Formal Review of Driver License Suspension is filed within 10 days of your arrest, at the end of this 10-day period, you will suffer a “hard suspension” of your driver’s license and will be unable to drive for any reason for a period of 30 days (if you performed the breathalyzer) or 90 days (if you refused the breathalyzer). At the end of this period of time, you may be eligible to apply for a hardship license which will allow you to drive for business, educational, medical and church purposes. This license can be obtained at your local DMV office. A list of phone numbers and address of your local DMV office can be obtained at www.florida.dmv.org. Please note in order to be eligible for a hardship license, you must have completed or be enrolled in DUI School prior to applying for your said license. You must take your original DUI school completion certificate and a 30-day traffic search (this must be obtained from traffic court) to the DMV office at the time you apply. Please do not attempt to drive to the DMV office. Instead, have someone take you there.

2. If you have retained a DUI defense lawyer to represent you on your DUI charge within 10 days of receiving your citation, they should request a “formal review hearing” before a hearing officer of the Department of Motor Vehicles. In most cases, it is not necessary for the client to attend the formal review hearing. This hearing will take place approximately 30 days after your arrest. You will receive a temporary driving permit, which becomes effective upon expiration of the 10-day permit issued at the time of your arrest, which will allow you to continue to drive until 12 days after the day of the formal review hearing. This temporary permit is restricted (like a hardship license). You may only drive for business, educational, medical, or church/religious purposes. At the formal review hearing, the following items will be considered:

a. Whether the arresting law enforcement officer had probable cause to believe that you were driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle in this state while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or controlled substances;
b. Whether you were lawfully arrested and charged with a violation of section 316.193, Florida Statutes;
c. Whether you had an unlawful alcohol level of .08 or higher; and d. Whether you refused to submit to a blood, breath or urine test after being asked to take the test by a law enforcement or correctional officer.

3. If your attorney is successful in convincing the hearing officer to invalidate the suspension, your license will be reinstated and you will be able to obtain a duplicate driver’s license at no charge.

If your DUI attorney is unsuccessful, you will suffer a “hard suspension” of your license as outlined in number 1 above and it will be effective upon the expiration of your temporary driving permit.

The outcome of the formal review hearing has no bearing on your DUI case which will take place in criminal court. Make sure to ask your defense lawyer if he or she plans on attending and participating in this administrative review hearing!

4. On the Criminal side of your DUI case, your criminal defense attorney should file with the court having jurisdiction over your case the following documents: a Notice of Appearance, a Written Plea of Not Guilty, a Demand for Discovery, and if necessary a Demand for a Jury Trial. Your case will be set for an Arraignment; however, by the virtue of your lawyer having filed the above-mentioned pleadings, it will not be necessary for anyone to be present at the arraignment. Your case will then be set for a pre-trial hearing approximately 30 days after the arraignment date. Unless you are told otherwise, you must appear in person at all pre-trial hearings. Your failure to appear will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. You will receive a notice of the pre-trial hearing in the mail from the Clerk of Court. When you appear in court, you should wear the type of clothing you would wear if you were going to church. Remember: the Judge has the ability and power to sentence you to JAIL on your DUI.

5. If a videotape of your field sobriety exercises exists, your attorney should obtain a copy of the videotape and will notify you when it arrives so that you can schedule a time to come to his or her office to review it.

6. Your DUI lawyer should also contact you when the discovery (police reports, witness statements, DUI packet, etc.) is received from the State Attorney’s Office and you will need to schedule an appointment to review it with him or her.7. There are many things the Court may require of you. These things will vary depending on the facts of your case and whether or not you submitted to, or refused, the breathalyzer and the number of prior DUI convictions you already have. These things may include: completion of DUI School or Multiple Offender DUI School, performing community service hours, attending a Victim Impact Panel, Fines and Court Costs, and Impoundment of your vehicle.

8. You should register for DUI School as soon as possible. The course is offered through the Suncoast Safety Council. There information can be found at www.safety.org.

9. If you are convicted of a DUI, any license you hold will be surrendered and you will suffer a revocation of your license for a period of time depending upon whether or not you submitted to, or refused, the breathalyzer and the number of prior DUI convictions that you have. You may be eligible to obtain a hardship license which will allow you restricted driving during the revocation period (see number 1 above).

10. If you are ultimately convicted of a DUI in Florida, the Court may order that your vehicle be impounded for at least ten (10) days. (This impoundment means that your vehicle may not be driven by anyone during that period of time. It will not be removed from your property). A law enforcement officer should contact you to provide you with advance notice of the date the impound period begins and he/she will come to your residence to make note of the odometer reading. Additionally, many counties in our state now allow private companies to “impound” your vehicle (usually by putting an anti-theft device on your steering wheel). This is usually done for a low cost and can be convenient, as you get to decide what days you choose to impound your vehicle.

11. If you received any additional traffic tickets at the time you were stopped for DUI (i.e., speeding, careless driving, seat belt violation, etc.), make sure your chosen attorney also be handles those charges for you. Do not pay any of the fines which are due for these tickets unless and until your lawyer (or the Court) direct you to do so.

12. Finally, let your Florida criminal defense lawyer know if you receive anything from the Court. Be sure to advise them immediately of any changes in your address or phone number. Prior to any pre-trial hearing, make sure to let them know your status as far as completion of DUI School, alcohol counseling sessions, etc.

The Clearwater, Florida based Blake & Dorsten, P.A. handles all criminal and personal injury cases throughout the west coast of Florida including Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota Counties. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense or a DUI email or call us at 727.286.6141. We are located across from the Pinellas County courthouse, minutes from Tampa Bay and downtown St. Petersburg.

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