Driving while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a controlled substance is one of the most serious traffic violations you can commit. In fact, it is classified as a traffic crime and in some circumstances a misdemeanor, or under more limited circumstances, even a felony. If you are found guilty of driving while under the influence, you are subject to heavy penalties for a first offense. These include imprisonment of up to six months, a loss of your driver license for a minimum of six months, a fine of between $250.00 and $500.00 in addition to court costs, completion of a substance abuse course, and 50 hours of community service. Second and subsequent offenses are dealt with more severely.
If you operate a motor vehicle in the State of Florida, you are subject to the “implied consent” law. This means that because you are operating a motor vehicle in the State of Florida, you have agreed to take a chemical test of your breath if you are arrested by a law enforcement officer who believes you are under the influence of alcoholic beverages. A urine test can be requested if drugs are suspected. A blood test can be requested under some limited circumstances. If you have a Florida driver license, the statement, “I hereby consent to any chemical test for sobriety as required by law” appears directly above your signature.
These tests are to determine your blood alcohol or drug level — to find out how much alcohol or drugs are in your bloodstream. If you refuse to take the test, you are subject to a suspension — taking away — of your driver license for a period of one year for a first refusal and a period of 18 months if your driving privilege has been previously suspended for refusing to submit to such a test. Additionally, a second or subsequent refusal may be charged as an additional criminal offense. If you take the test and the test reveals a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, the periods of suspension are 6 months or 1 year if a prior violation exists on one’s record. This is even if you are acquitted on the D.U.I. charge itself. You do not have the right to have your own doctor give you the test at the time of the arrest, and you do not have the right to have an attorney present when you take such a test. You do have the right to have a second test administered by a physician or a laboratory technician of your choice. However, the second test must be paid for by you.
If you refuse to take the test, or if you take the test and the test reveals a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, your license will be seized by action of the law enforcement officer on the very evening of your arrest, and suspended in 30 days.
You then have a right to review the action of the officer as follows:
- A request for a formal or informal review of the suspension must be filed with the appropriate division of the Department of Motor Vehicles office within 10 days from the date of arrest or issuance of the notice of suspension, whichever is later.
- If the person arrested requests a formal review, the department shall schedule a hearing to be held within 30 days after such request is received. The driver may request subpoenas from the division for the purpose of compelling the attendance of any witness. The driver is responsible for service of the subpoenas and payment of any witness fee.
- At the hearing, the hearing officer, who is employed by the Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, shall receive into evidence any documents timely submitted to the division including the citation, arrest affidavit, breath or blood test results, refusal affidavit, alcohol influence report, and any videotape of the driver. The hearing officer shall determine from these documents and any relevant evidence presented by the driver whether the suspension is supported by a preponderance of the evidence. The department shall forward the hearing officer’s order to the driver within seven (7) days from the hearing. A driver may appeal the order by petition for writ of certiorari to the circuit court.
- If the person requests an informal review, the department shall conduct an informal review, which shall consist of an examination of all materials submitted by the officer and the driver. No testimony of a witness or other evidence shall be heard. The hearing officer shall determine whether the suspension is supported by a preponderance of the evidence. The order shall be transmitted to the driver no later than 21 days after the expiration of the temporary permit. A driver may appeal an informal review order by petition for writ of certiorari to the circuit court.
You will definitely want to contact an attorney immediately about these matters due to the strict deadlines involved.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for a DUI, it is critical to consult with an experienced Miami attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. You need the counsel of an experienced lawyer to guide you through the process and maximize your chances of resolving your case with a favorable outcome.
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