If you have been charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI), you should seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure the best outcome of your case. There are specific penalties for a DUI that are based on the Blood Alcohol Level (BAL) of the driver. If you had a BAL of .08 percent or greater, you can be charged with DUI. If the BAL was .15 percent or greater, you can be charged with an enhanced DUI and stiffer penalties will be imposed. If you are charged with an enhanced DUI, a criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to have the charged reduced to a normal DUI.
Penalties for DUI and Enhanced DUI
You face significantly less jail time, fines and costs if you are convicted of a normal DUI instead of an enhanced DUI.
Jail and Fines
For the first offense, the potential jail time is up to 180 days for a DUI and up to 270 days for an enhanced DUI. The fines for a DUI range between $500 and $1000. For an enhanced DUI, the fines range between $1000 and $2000.
Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
If you are convicted of a DUI, the court in its discretion can require you to have an IID installed in your vehicle. However, for an enhanced DUI conviction (DUIs where your Breath and/or Blood alcohol level are at or above .15%), the court is required by law to require you to place an IID in your vehicle for a period of six months. An IID is an expensive and embarrassing device into which you must blow before driving the vehicle. If your BAL is higher than .05, the IID will prevent the vehicle from starting. In addition, your probation officer will receive notice of the illegal BAL, and you will be guilty of violating your probation. You pay all of the costs associated with the IID.
How Can a DUI Lawyer Help?
Here are a couple of ways a criminal defense attorney can help you get your enhanced DUI charge reduced to a regular DUI.
Field Sobriety Tests
To convict you of an enhanced DUI in Florida, the prosecutor must prove that your BAL was at least .15 at the time the officer pulled you over, not when you actually took the breath test. Assume that your breath test showed a BAL of .15, but you did not appear impaired while performing the field sobriety tests (FSTs) as evidenced by the officer’s dashboard video camera. BALs tend to fluctuate because people metabolize alcohol at different rates. Given that the breath test is often taken more than an hour after the FSTs, a skilled DUI lawyer may be able to convince the prosecutor that your BAL was lower than .15 at the time the police stopped and asked you to do the FSTs.
What if you failed the FSTs, not because you were intoxicated, but because of physical limitations caused by your age or pre-existing injuries? Senior citizens or people with pre-existing back, neck, knee or ankle injuries may not be able to perform some of the FSTs, such as the One Legged Stand. An experienced DUI lawyer can use those mitigating factors to help get the enhanced DUI charge reduced to a regular DUI.
One way to get a reduced charge is to attack the results of the breath machine. Florida law requires that the breath machine be calibrated and otherwise maintained an annual and monthly basis. A DUI attorney can go through public records to determine whether the machine you blew into had been properly maintained. If it has not, the attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the enhanced DUI down to a lesser charge or even a dismissal.
Risks of Representing Yourself
Florida’s DUI laws and criminal justice system is tricky. If you choose to represent yourself, you may find yourself accepting plea bargains that are not in your best interests. Law enforcement or the prosecution may mislead you. You could find yourself facing heavy court fees, jail time and fines. You could lose your current job or reduce your chances of getting a job in the future with an enhanced DUI conviction. An experienced criminal defense attorney specializing in DUI cases may be able to help you avoid these unfortunate consequences.