DUI, driving under the influence, is a serious charge and one that should not be taken lightly. In Florida, as in other states, the penalties for a DUI conviction are severe, even for those convicted of DUI for the first time. In many cases you’ll first be stopped for a traffic violation, at which time the police officer may determine that you have been drinking and may proceed with a DUI charge. If you are arrested for DUI it is important to seek help from an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible.

Your attorney will need to review all aspects of your arrest in order to develop a successful defense. You are entitled to defend yourself against these harsh charges.

What to Do When Stopped for DUI

The first thing that will happen when you’re stopped for DUI is that you will be asked to complete some initial field sobriety tests. These may consist of several different things. The officer may shine a light into your eyes to see if your pupils dilate. If the officer has reason to believe that you were drinking he will ask you to step out of the vehicle. This may be because he felt you were slurring your speech or because he thought he smelled alcohol on your breath. Once out of the car you’ll probably be asked to perform a few tests including walking a straight line, reciting the alphabet, or touching your finger to your nose. These are coordination tests but are highly subjective in nature.  Next, the police officer may request that you take a breathalyzer test.

The Breathalyzer Test

The breathalyzer test is performed by blowing into a special device. The device measures the amount of alcohol in your system. The legal BAC (blood alcohol content) in Florida is 0.08% for those over the age of 21. Anyone under the age of 21 is subject to a “no tolerance” law targeting underage drinkers. In Florida, anyone who has a driver’s license has already consented to submitting to a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test if requested. Failure to comply with the test will result in additional charges including the automatic suspension of your driver’s license. The breathalyzer test isn’t always administered properly and the results aren’t always correct. A knowledgeable DUI attorney will be able to review and evaluate the test to determine if there were any problems with it. The test must be performed within two hours of your arrest. Remember that these tests are not infallible!

DUI Arrest

If you’ve been arrested for DUI you will be set for an initial hearing that will occur very soon. At this hearing the judge will determine the actual charges against you and will set bond. In most cases you’ll be allowed to post bond, however, if you were involved in a DUI accident with injuries the charges will be more severe. If you have an attorney representing you at this point it is very helpful because your lawyer will try to immediately get some of the charges dropped and will also try to get your bail reduced. Sometimes the police overcharge you and this will become apparent to your attorney. Your lawyer will then immediately begin working on your defense. He will review the arrest and view the video, if there is one. He’ll interview you to determine everything that happened before, during, and after the arrest. Additionally, you’ll want your attorney to request a DMV hearing within 10 days. This is a separate hearing that determines the fate of your driver’s license until your trial date. If you don’t request a hearing your license will be suspended.

Defending DUI

It is possible to have a successful defense against DUI charges. A skilled DUI attorney knows what to look for in your case and how to best proceed. Sometimes the police will arrest you for DUI even if the evidence against you is inconclusive. If the officer made errors or the arrest was not properly done it may mean that there isn’t a strong case against you. When this occurs, your attorney may be able to get your charges reduced or the case dropped completely. A DUI conviction has strong penalties that may include jail time, fines, and suspension of your driver’s license. It’s always in your best interest to have a strong legal team on your side to protect your rights and fight for you.