In the hands of a driver with impaired judgment and/or physical abilities, a motor vehicle can become an incredibly large heavy and dangerous projectile. That’s a serious problem and the police in St. Petersburg, Florida take it very seriously. If you are charged in St. Petersburg, you need an experienced DUI lawyer.
The Florida statute describing the various DUIs and the penalties for them runs is over 4,500 words long! In Florida in 2011, the DMV reported a total of 33,625 DUI convictions. In 2010, there were more than 3,000 convictions just in Hillsborough County and another 1,824 in Pinellas County. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, contact an experienced St. Petersburg DUI lawyer who can assist you in forming a defense strategy. Will Hanlon at Hanlon Law is a trusted criminal defense lawyer that aims to protect his client’s future in St. Petersburg.What DUI Means In Florida
Florida treats drunk and drugged driving as DUI, but it is often referred to as DWI. For Florida drivers, driving under the influence means that you were operating a vehicle while impaired by any of the following:
- A blood alcohol level (BAL) of .08% or higher for adults, .02% or higher for minors (under 21)
- A chemical substance
- A controlled substance
The law sets up a system of penalties that take account of how many previous DUIs you have had, whether your BAL was .15 or higher, whether there was a minor in the car at the time you were driving impaired, and whether your impaired driving caused injury or death. Depending on how those factors work in your case, your penalty can include:
- Fines that range from $500 up
- Community service (or an additional fine instead)
- Attending DUI school
- Jail time ranging from 6 months up
- Long probationary periods following jail time
- Having your vehicle impounded (or immobilized) for 10 days and up
- Revocation of your license for one year and up
- An ignition interlock device on your car
Florida also employs “ignition interlock” devices for DUI convictions. These devices-which periodically require the driver to breathe into it, record the BAL each time, and transmit the data to the Department of Motor Vehicles—can be ordered installed at the judge’s discretion at the first conviction, and are mandatory upon a second conviction.Florida Misdemeanor And Felony DUI
Injuring or killing someone while driving impaired (and a few other circumstances) can bump your ordinary DUI conviction up as high as a first degree felony. If the circumstances fit the definitions of DUI Manslaughter or Vehicular Homicide, and you exacerbate the case by leaving the scene, the first degree felony penalties include up to 30 years in prison.Defending DUI Charges
In many cases, your St. Petersburg DUI lawyer can challenge the validity of the initial stop by police (was there really probable cause) and the two primary elements of DUI:
- Were you actually in control of the vehicle?
- Were you, in fact, impaired at the time or simply nervous, tired, etc.?
While blood and breath testing sound very scientific and trustworthy, this isn’t always true. In some cases, you can challenge the accuracy of the breathalyzer, the experience of the officer who administered it, and the reliability of any lab that performed blood testing.Speed And Experience Matter In Defending The DUI
The stiff penalties for DUI are enough reason to get experienced DUI defense help as soon as possible. Even the DUI arrest alone can have major adverse consequences for drivers with a commercial license, and even more consequences if drivers who were operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the DUI arrest.
There is also a very practical reason to get legal help quickly: the suspension of your license is automatic and effective immediately, and you have 10 days to request an administrative review of the suspension. The actual review–you can get extended driving privileges while awaiting the hearing– is an opportunity for your St. Petersburg DUI lawyer to raise defenses to the basic DUI charge. The outcome of that hearing can seriously affect the future course of your case.
Don’t delay if you have been charged with DUI. Call the law offices of Will Hanlon for an aggressive DUI defense from an attorney with 20 years experience in the St. Petersburg area and the West Central Florida coastal region.
In 2015, there were 3,336 DUI citations issued throughout Pinellas County, where St. Petersburg is located. Often, drivers do not challenge DUI charges, not understanding that there may be long-term consequences and that a conviction results in a criminal record. You can face stiff penalties if you are convicted of a DUI. There is an implied consent law in Florida, whereby when you sign your driver's license, you agree to take chemical tests to determine your blood alcohol content upon request by a law enforcement officer. However, you should not assume that you will be convicted simply because you agreed to a BAC test. At Hanlon Law, St. Petersburg DUI lawyer Will Hanlon protects the rights of the accused and can evaluate your situation to determine a defense strategy.Driving Under the Influence Charges
Under Florida Statute section 316.193, you can be convicted of a DUI if the prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle in Florida, and either you were under the influence of alcohol or specified chemical substances to the extent that you were impaired, or you had a BAC of .08. In other words, you can be convicted of drunk driving for being impaired and in a car, but you can also be convicted if you had at least a specific blood alcohol or breath alcohol content.
In most cases, if you are convicted of a first DUI, it is a misdemeanor. This means that you face the possibility of a $500-1,000 fine and imprisonment for a maximum of six months. In many cases, you will not actually go to jail but get probation. However, the penalties increase for a second conviction. In addition to increased jail time and fines, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device for at least one year. You need to pay for the cost of installing this device.
For a third DUI within 10 years of a prior conviction, the penalties are substantially greater because this is charged as a third-degree felony, similar to a drug crime or a more serious type of offense. This means that you face the possibility of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Additionally, the court will order the installation of an ignition interlock device for at least two years. A third DUI that happens outside the 10-year look back period can result in a fine of $2,000-$5,000 and going to prison for at least 12 months, as well as a two-year period during which you must have an ignition interlock device installed. You should consult a DUI attorney in St. Petersburg without delay if you are facing a third DUI charge.
A fourth or higher DUI is a third-degree felony. The minimum fine imposed is $2,000, and you will be required to install an ignition interlock device.
When your DUI causes a serious bodily injury to somebody else, you can be convicted of a third-degree felony. If the DUI results in the death of a human being or someone's unborn child, you can be charged with DUI manslaughter. This is a second-degree felony. However, it can be charged as a first-degree felony in a hit and run situation, if you knew or should have known that the crash happened but did not stop and give help and information as legally required. The court must impose a mandatory minimum imprisonment term of four years for a DUI manslaughter conviction. However, a DUI lawyer in St. Petersburg can help you try to minimize the penalties by presenting your side of the story.
When your DUI involves a BAC of .15 or higher, or you had a minor in the car, you can be punished by a $1,000-$2,000 fine plus nine months’ imprisonment for a first conviction, $2,000-$4,000 plus 12 months’ imprisonment for a second conviction, and harsher penalties for any later convictions.
You may also need to complete a substance abuse course and complete probation, with the condition that you participate in community work or public service as part of the probation. Your car can also be impounded or immobilized.
A conviction is not inevitable. There may be procedural or Constitutional violations associated with the pre-arrest period or the arrest that can result in a successful motion to suppress. In other cases, there may have been issues with the lab that processed your chemical test or issues of officer credibility.Consult a Knowledgeable St. Petersburg DUI Attorney
If you are charged with a DUI, you should consult our criminal defense firm. Our founder, Will Hanlon, has been providing criminal defense representation since 1994. We are dedicated to guarding the rights of the accused. Call Hanlon Law at 727.289.0222 or complete our online form.