Is My DUI Public Record in Florida?

Florida imposes some of the most severe penalties on drivers convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or another chemical substance. Once convicted in Florida, the records of the arrest and the sentence become a permanent public record available to anyone who looks. Prospective employers, insurance companies, bank loan officers, neighbors, and even your own children can locate the records generated by what may be the worst day of your life. 

The events leading to a DUI arrest can’t be undone, but an experienced DUI defense lawyer can use the law and the rules of evidence to stop the driver’s actions from becoming a permanent negative mark on their character. Preventing a DUI conviction is essential if a driver hopes to get the case either sealed or expunged in the future. 

At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we approach every DUI defense with the goal of winning a dismissal, winning acquittal, or convincing the prosecution to reduce the charge from a DUI to a lesser offense like reckless driving, and then have the court “withhold adjudication.” 

This blog post explains the law and what Stechschulte Nell can do to help you avoid a permanent, public DUI record. 

Florida Public Records Law — DUI Convictions 

The Florida legislature enacted FS §943.0584(1) declaring that the term “conviction” means “a determination of guilt which is the result of a trial or the entry of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld, . . .” 

In DUI cases, Florida law forbids a judge from withholding adjudication. Any plea of guilty or nolo in a DUI prosecution, or any finding of guilt by a judge or jury, results in a permanent public record of conviction.  

The Florida “Sunshine Law” provides that, “It is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person. Providing access to public records is a duty of each agency.”i Not only are the final records of conviction available for public inspection, so too are records of arrest and other related documents. 

Getting Records Expunged or Sealed Following a DUI Arrest 

Florida DUI conviction record is not eligible for either expungement or sealing. Your DUI defense lawyer needs to have the expertise in the criminal courts to use every available avenue to prevent your DUI arrest from becoming a conviction. 

Skilled criminal defense lawyers who specialize in DUI defense law know precisely what the prosecution must prove to convict a driver of DUI, including these elements: 

  • defendant was operating or in physical control of a motor vehicle, and 
  • during the time defendant operated or controlled the vehicle, 

— they were under the influence of alcohol, or a chemical substance, or a controlled substance (drug), to the extent that their normal faculties were impaired, or 

— they had a blood-alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath. 

To someone who is not a DUI defense lawyer, the two proof requirements we just listed don’t seem too difficult for a prosecutor to prove. But as long-time Tampa and Hillsborough County DUI defense attorneys, Stechschulte Nell know precisely where the gaps in the prosecution’s evidence are and we focus on the holes in the evidence to prevent your conviction. 

Our primary goal is to defeat the prosecution entirely and to either win an outright dismissal or an acquittal.  

Our secondary goal is to persuade the prosecutor that they can’t win a conviction with the flawed evidence they have, and to convince them that your past life of law-abiding behavior, your otherwise commendable social interactions, and your family’s financial dependence on you justify a reduction of the DUI charge to a lesser offense, like Reckless Driving. 

In Florida, when a DUI charge is reduced to a Reckless Driving offense, we call it a “Wet Reckless,” which indicates that it was not originally charged as a reckless driving offense but was reduced from a DUI.  

If a Florida DUI charge is reduced to Reckless Driving and then continued the judge agrees to withhold adjudication, then the records of the case can be expunged.  

Winning Dismissal or Acquittal on a DUI Charge 

Winning a DUI case for one of our clients is our highest priority. We analyze the manner in which every piece of evidence was gathered: 

  • Was there reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop? 
  • Was the client legally “operating or in physical control” of the vehicle? 
  • Did the client actually display behavior justifying a roadside standardized field sobriety test? 
  • Were the field sobriety tests performed properly and conforming to the test’s design? 
  • Does bodycam or dashcam video show our client performed better than the police officer claimed? 
  • Were our client’s Miranda rights observed? 
  • Were the warnings required by law to be given in a DUI case recited properly? 
  • Was the breathalyzer machine calibrated by proper authorities within required time limits? 
  • Was our client observed continually for the required time before the breath test? 
  • Did the officer administering the breathalyzer have a valid certification? 
  • Was the breath test administered properly? 

If after our thorough analysis of the evidence our best experienced, professional judgment indicates a high risk of conviction do we then press forward with a vigorous campaign to win a reduction of the charges. 

Expunging a Wet Reckless Driving Charge 

Successfully reducing a DUI charge to a “Wet Reckless Driving” charge means that our client can perform the conditions of probation imposed by the judge with the comfort of knowing that they can emerge from these unhappy events with an expunged criminal record. If another DUI charge is filed within 10 years of the original DUI, even the amendment of the charge to a Wet Reckless will count as a prior DUI and will result in an escalation in sentencing. Barring that obstacle, an accused DUI driver can obtain a clean, expunged criminal record if represented by the right, experienced DUI defense lawyers. 

Charged with a DUI?  

If you or a family member has been charged with a DUI, Contact Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law today for a case review; (813)280-1244. We are always on your side.  

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