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Tampa DUI Lawyer

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Under Florida law, driving under the influence (DUI) is a criminal offense.  The government can establish a DUI when they prove that either 1. The driver of a vehicle operated that vehicle while their “normal faculties” were impaired by alcohol or drugs or 2. The driver of a vehicle operated the vehicle while having a blood or breath alcohol concentration above a certain threshold level. Below, we will lay out information that applies to those facing a DUI charge.

DUI Laws in Florida are strict: a conviction for DUI can result in consequences including jail time, fines, community services, and other restrictions such as an ignition interlock device on your car. Beyond the criminal consequences, a driver accused of a DUI in Tampa could also face administrative/DHSMV consequences such as a license suspension or revocation.

While being arrested for a DUI is a scary experience, it is not the end of the world. Our experienced DUI Defense Lawyer is here to help you navigate the process.

DUI Lawyer in Tampa, FL

When arrested for a DUI in Hillsborough County or Tampa, Florida, you have a small 10-day window to demand a formal review with the DHSMV to try to avoid a license suspension.

Hiring said DUI attorney during that 10-day window is a CRITICAL decision. If you are looking for an experienced DUI lawyer in Tampa, FL, contact us today to schedule your free consultation with attorney Joel Elsea.

Joel Elsea has years of experience navigating DUI cases, from the point-of-view of both a defense attorney and prosecutor. The Elsea Law Firm is experienced in thoroughly evaluating DUI cases in Tampa, Florida.  If arrested for a DUI in Hillsborough County or elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area, contact an experienced Tampa DUI attorney as soon as possible: ideally, within the first 10-days of your arrest. Call us today to schedule your free DUI consultation.

DUI Resources

DUI Definition in Florida

Florida Statutes § 316.193 states that drivers simply need to be in “actual physical control” of the vehicle to be charged with a DUI.  A challenge to the government’s allegation that a person was in “actual physical control” of a vehicle is something with which an experienced criminal defense attorney can help.

However, at the time of the DUI stop, the officer must determine if the individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the point of impairing his or her normal faculties. “Normal faculties” are considered the ability to perform mental and physical acts required in a day to day life, including driving.  Florida law allows jurors to presume that a driver is impaired if the driver has a certain amount of alcohol in his or her system

Beyond actual impairment, prosecutors are able to utilize Florida’s “per se” law in regards to DUI, which states that if your breath or blood alcohol content is above 0.08 at the time of the stop, you may be convicted of a DUI without regard to your level of impairment. Determining the concentration of alcohol within a driver is the task of the law enforcement officer involved in the DUI investigation. The officer has a few ways to determine a suspect’s BAC, including a breath test, blood test, or even a urine test. In Florida, the Intoxilyzer 8000 is utilized as a breathalyzer for the breath test.

Regardless of what tactic the arresting officer uses to accuse the defendant of DUI, the penalties for the crime are the same. Both, just one, or even none of the methods of proving a DUI may be alleged in trial, but regardless of how a DUI is determined, the defendant will only receive a sentence on one count of DUI.

Field Sobriety Tests

Florida has what is known as an “implied consent” law. Under Florida Statute § 316.1932 (and according to the fine print at the bottom of the front of your Florida-issued license), when a person operates a motor vehicle, that action constitutes (through implication) consent to any sobriety test required by law.

A driver may choose to refuse a breath, blood, or urine sample for the purposes of a blood-alcohol test. However, if the driver refuses a breath or blood test, he or she may face penalties such as the automatic suspension of a driver’s license for as long as a year. If this is not the defendant’s first DUI or refusal to submit a breath or blood test, the license can be suspended for a longer period of time.

Upon refusing a BAC test, the driver will automatically be arrested and issued a “Notice of Suspension” which goes into effect immediately and can last up to one year. As previously mentioned, any individual accused of DUI in Florida has 10 days, from the day of their arrest, to request a formal review with the DHSMV to fight for your driving privileges. You may want to contact a DUI Attorney in Tampa to discuss your options.

The driver must request a formal review hearing with the Florida DHSMV within that 10 day period. A DUI attorney can assist in obtaining a temporary permit which allows one to drive for business purposes while fighting the suspension of their license.

The penalty of license suspension based on a refusal to submit to testing is a civil penalty, and is a different matter from the criminal component of a DUI charge. As a result, someone could avoid DUI conviction and still have their driver’s license suspended due to the refusal.

Charges and Penalties for DUI in Florida

When someone is operating a motor vehicle in the state of Florida with a BAC of over .08, that is considered a DUI, or driving under the influence. If convicted of a DUI in Florida, there are many different penalties, depending on which number offense it is, the BAC level, any damage to property, if a child was present, if anyone was injured, and many more factors.

First DUI

A first-DUI in Florida is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. Penalties may include:

  • $500-%1000 Fine
    • $1000-$2000 fine if BAC is over 0.15 or a minor is in the vehicle
  • 50 hours of community service
  • One year on probation
  • 6 months in jail
    • Up to 9 months in jail if BAC is over 0.15 or a minor was in the vehicle.
  • Revocation of Driver’s License for at least 6 months
  • 12 hour DUI School Evaluation
  • Ignition Interlock Device

Second DUI

A Second DUI in Florida is a first-degree misdemeanor. Penalties may include:

  • $1000-2000 fine
    • $2000-$4000 fine if BAC is above .15 or a minor is in the vehicle
    • 9 months in county jail
    • Driver’s License revoked for a minimum of 6 months
    • 21 hours of Level 2 DUI School
    • Minimum of 1 year with Ignition Interlock Device

Third DUI

A Third DUI in Florida could be a third-degree felony. If the DUI arrest occurs within 10 years of the most recent DUI arrest, it may be charged as a felony crime. Penalties may include:

  • $2000-$5000 fine
    • Fine over $4000 if BAC is over .15 or a minor is in the vehicle
    • Up to one year in county jail
    • Driver’s License revoked for a minimum of 6 months
    • 21 hours of Level 2 DUI school
    • Minimum of 2 years with Ignition Interlock Device

Fourth DUI (Felony DUI)

When arrested for your fourth or more DUI in Florida, the charge will be Felony DUI. Penalties include:

DUI with Serious Bodily Injury

When charged with a DUI in Florida, if another individual is injured, the charges will be enhanced to a charge of DUI with Serious Bodily Injury, which is a third-degree felony. This charge carries up to five years in the Florida Department of Corrections.

DUI with Property Damage

When, in the course of being charged with a DUI, other property is damaged, the crime will be enhanced to a charge of DUI with Property damage. This charge carries longer periods of incarceration than a standard DUI, as well as larger fines and possible restitution to pay for the damages.

Juvenile DUI

In the state of Florida, there is “zero tolerance” for any underage DUI. Rather than .08, the BAC threshold for a juvenile is .02. Penalties for a Juvenile DUI include a license suspension and fines.

DUI Manslaughter

DUI manslaughter is a felony charge in the state of Florida. This charge occurs when an alleged drunk driving results in the death of another individual. Penalties for this crime can be very severe. As a second-degree felony, DUI Manslaughter has a maximum sentence of 15 years. However, if during the accident the driver leaves the scene the charge could be enhanced to a first-degree felony and the defendant could face up to 30 years in Florida Department of Corrections.

Defenses to Driving Under the Influence

DUI cases are often complex.  They can feel overwhelming. Hiring an experienced DUI lawyer in Tampa can help make the process much more manageable. Certain evidence, through careful examination of the stop and subsequent investigation, may be omitted from a trial. This evidence includes, but is not limited to:

  • Officer observations from the field sobriety test
  • Statements made to officer by the defendant during the investigation
  • Refusal to submit to a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer
  • Results of chemical test, such as breathalyzer or blood test
  • Evidence obtained during an improper or illegal traffic stop

Analyzing the entire situation is critical in increasing a defendant’s chance at a not-guilty verdict, securing a reduction in charge, or getting the charge dropped or dismissed altogether.

Find a DUI Lawyer in Tampa, FL

While being arrested for a DUI can be a traumatic experience, this does not automatically mean you will be convicted and labeled a criminal. Hiring an experienced Tampa DUI Lawyer can really help cultivate a defense that will ensure your rights are protected. The Elsea Law Firm works hard to give every client the best chance at a dismissal of charges, reduction of charges, or not-guilty verdict. Simply put: we do NOT want our clients in jail! We are here to help our clients navigate the murky waters that are a DUI arrest and prosecution.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence in Tampa, FL, call the Elsea Law Firm today to schedule your free consultation!

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