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Driving Under the Influence: Know Your Rights

If you have been stopped by police while operating a motor vehicle, you need to understand your legal rights before submitting to any field sobriety test. Driving in the State of Florida is deemed a privilege, not a right. The law assumes that drivers arrested for driving under the influence have given their “implied consent” to breath and urine tests. Drivers who are suspected of being impaired are usually asked to perform a field sobriety test. In addition, the driver may also be asked to consent to a breathalyzer or urine test. Prior to administering a breath or urine test, the police officer must have “probable cause” that the driver was operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Probable cause carries somewhat of a laxed standard, meaning the law enforcement officer must believe that with the available facts, a criminal act or offense has been committed. Drivers may elect a “first-ever” refusal to give their consent to a urine or breath test. Under Fla. Stat. 316.1392, the arresting officer or breath test operator must inform the driver that refusal to participate in the tests will result in a mandatory one-year suspension of driving privileges.  The suspension is eighteen months for a subsequent refusal.

In 2011, the Florida Supreme Court held that if the DUI arrest was deemed unlawful, a person’s driver’s license could not be suspended for refusing to take a breath or urine test. If the police officer, without “reasonable suspicion” stopped the motor vehicle and made the arrest without probable cause, the driver’s refusal to consent cannot be used against the driver, and the suspension of the driving privilege would be re-instated.

Top 10 Things You Should Do If You Have Been Pulled Over for Suspicion of DUI

  1. Pull over to a safe place to protect you and the officer from traffic.
  2. Stay calm.
  3. Do not make any sudden movements that could make the officer nervous.
  4. Be polite to the officer.
  5. Don’t answer any incriminating questions.
  6. Ask to speak to a lawyer immediately.
  7. Do not admit to drinking.
  8. Call a professional DUI lawyer to negotiate your bond with the State Attorney’s Office and the Court.
  9. Once released, write down everything that you remember taking place between the beginning of your night and your release from custody.
  10. Hire a reputable DUI lawyer immediately.

Legal Remedies for DUI Charges

If you have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence, whether you blew over the legal limit on the breathalyzer test or not, an experienced DUI attorney will review the evidence and circumstances under which you were arrested and explore possible defense options. There must be a traffic violation or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before an officer can stop a motor vehicle. The officer must have probable cause that a violation of the law has occurred, such as a driver improperly changing lanes or speeding. DUI laws in Florida are harsh, and anyone operating a motor vehicle should be aware of the serious consequences. The penalties for a first-time DUI offense can include more than a thousand dollars in fines and court costs, up to six months in jail (or a year for future DUIs or if there is a crash), community service, DUI school, victim classes, impoundment of your vehicle, and ignition interlock devices.

The State of Florida recognizes that even good people sometimes make poor choices. Unfortunately, the incidences of alcohol related accidents is high, and even a good person’s actions can impose a threat to the safety of other drivers and pedestrians. Prescription drugs also play a role in the number of DUI violations. Many medications have warning labels stating to not operate machinery or other mechanical devices. Failure to properly heed these warnings could result in a violation of a DUI. If you have been charged with DUI, you need to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced Criminal Defense and DUI attorney.

Why Hire Fallgatter & Catlin P.A.

At Fallgatter & Catlin P.A., we have knowledgeable former State and Federal prosecutors who are experienced in handling DUI cases. We believe anyone arrested and charged with a DUI is innocent until proven guilty, and the burden of proof is on the State. Even if, in the opinion of the arresting officer, you have failed the field sobriety test, there might not have been probable cause for the officer to pull you over. An experience Jacksonville DUI defense attorney can explore many options and protect your legal rights. Just remember, you only have 10 days after your arrest to request a Formal Hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles. That hearing is important to extend your driving privileges and will give our attorneys the opportunity to examine the arresting officer under oath.

At Fallgatter Catlin & Varon P.A., we will leave no stone unturned in defending your rights. Call us for a free criminal defense consultation at 904-353-5800

Visit our website for a complete list of our services and credentials at Fallgatterlaw.com