No one intends to have one too many drinks or a misunderstanding with the police. But the police are not shy about pulling people over for a suspected DUI.
When it’s your first DUI, you probably feel stunned. Maybe you’re even a little angry because you know you were sober. What do you do now? Well – call Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A.
There are ways to fight DUI charges, whether your first offense is based on drugs or alcohol. It helps that you don’t have any previous DUIs on your record. As an experienced first DUI attorney, Brett Metcalf will scrutinize the facts and determine the most effective strategy that keeps your license valid and your record intact.
Why Hire Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A.
Brett Metcalf is a successful DUI defense attorney in Tampa, FL. He started his career as a prosecutor and handled over 5,000 cases in the State Attorney’s Office. Since Brett founded his private defense firm in July 2012, he has used his knowledge and experience under Florida DUI law to aggressively defend his clients. He routinely obtains dismissals and acquittals.
Brett’s success for his clients has led to recognition within the legal community. Brett has been selected by his peers as a Top Lawyer in Tampa for DUI Defense in 2018 and 2020. SuperLawyers named him a Rising Star in 2018, 2019 and 2020. He’s also received over 90 five-star client reviews and a perfect 10 rating on Avvo.com.
Defending Against a First Offense DUI in Florida
There are many ways you can defend against your first DUI. No case is hopeless. The best defense depends on your specific circumstances, but it’s best to have a lawyer review your case and the prosecutor’s evidence. An experienced attorney can give you a candid assessment of whether you can avoid charges, get the case dismissed, or win at trial.
Potential first DUI defenses include:
- The police lacked probable cause to conduct a traffic stop.
- The police performed an unlawful search and seizure.
- The police department’s sobriety/DUI checkpoint did not comply with legal standards.
- You were not driving or in physical control of a vehicle.
- The chemical test results are inaccurate.
- The field sobriety test results are unreliable.
- You suffered an adverse and unforeseeable reaction to a medication.
- The prosecutor has insufficient evidence that you were impaired.
When You Can Be Charged with Your First DUI?
You could be charged under Florida Statute 316.193 if you were driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, any chemical substance under 877.111, or any controlled substance under Chapter 893 impairs your abilities.
For an alcohol-related DUI, the legal blood alcohol content limit is 0.08. If you’re BAC is at or above 0.08, you’ll be charged, but you also can be charged with a lower BAC level if there’s other evidence of your impairment.
A prosecutor can also charge you with DUI if you test positive for drugs. Under Florida Statute 877.111, you’re prohibited from inhaling, ingesting, possessing, selling, buying, or transferring any chemical substances that can intoxicate you or disturb your sensory or mental processes. This includes many things, such as over-the-counter medications or products you can buy at the store.
Implied Consent in Florida & Sobriety Tests
When you drive in Florida, state law says you have already agreed to submit to an approved chemical or physical test to determine whether there’s alcohol in your system when you are lawfully arrested for a DUI. The implied consent law is found in Florida Statute 316.1932.
When you’re pulled over under suspicion of drunk driving for the first time, the officer will ask you some questions. They are listening to your answers and observing your behavior.
If there are initial signs that you have been drinking or taken drugs, the officer might ask you to blow into a roadside breath device or step out of the vehicle. The officer might ask you to perform one or more physical tasks, known as field sobriety tests.
It’s the officer’s responsibility to warn you about the implied consent law. You should be told that your driver’s license will be suspended if you refuse to submit to a lawful breath test.
For a first refusal, you face a one-year administrative license suspension. Refusing can also lead to harsher criminal penalties.
There’s also a difference between breath and blood tests. Refusing a breath test can lead to civil and criminal penalties. Refusing a warrantless blood test can only lead to civil consequences.
Fighting a DUI License Suspension
The administrative driver’s license suspension after refusing a chemical test is a civil penalty that you must fight outside of the criminal process. It is an entirely separate and distinct legal battle. You have to talk with a first DUI lawyer about fighting the suspension in a civil proceeding.
You should call an attorney right away because you only have 10 days from your DUI arrest to ask for an administrative hearing. After the 10 days pass without requesting a hearing, your license suspension is effective, and you aren’t allowed to drive. Your only option is to talk with a lawyer about asking for a hardship license in a few months.
To fight a civil license suspension after refusing a DUI test, call Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A. as soon as possible.
Understanding Field Sobriety Tests
Police officers can’t arrest you because they have a feeling you’re drunk. They need signs to support probable cause. To gather those signs, they need you to talk and move. That’s why they may ask you to perform one or more field sobriety tests.
Here are three standardized field sobriety tests:
One-Leg Stand Test: An officer will ask you to stand on one foot while you lift the other off the ground. At the same time, you’ll be instructed to count aloud, until the officer tells you to stop.
Walk-and-Turn Test: An officer will ask you to take nine steps, touching your heel to the other toe each step. They’ll tell you to turn on one foot and come back the same way.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: You can’t control your involuntary eye movements, which are what the officer will observe when they ask you to look at a small object and then track it as they move it to the right and left.
You can find out more about them through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Your Rights and Field Sobriety Tests
You are not required to submit to any field sobriety tests. You can say no without being afraid of civil or criminal penalties.
Performing one or more of these tests can only give the officer evidence against you. By refusing, you limit the evidence a prosecutor can use in court. But don’t assume you’ll be convicted if you took a field sobriety test during a traffic stop. These tests aren’t reliable, and many factors can work against you despite your sobriety.
Penalties for a First Offense DUI Charge in Florida
The big question is whether you face jail time for a first offense DUI? Possibly, yes.
First DUI with a BAC Under 0.15%:
- Fines up to $1,000
- Up to 6 months in jail
- 50 hours of community service
- Up to 1 year of probation
- Driver’s license revocation between 6 and 12 months
- Level 1 DUI School
- 10 days of vehicle impoundment
What about if your BAC was above 0.15%?
You face harsher penalties, making it even more important that you hire an attorney for your first DUI. If you have a high BAC, you’re more likely to spend time in jail and your finds can be up to $2,000. Additionally, you can be required to pay for and use an ignition interlock device once you get your license back.
Choosing A Lawyer For Your First DUI In Tampa
Facing DUI charges in Florida for the first time is scary. But you don’t have to deal with the court or administrative license process on your own. By working with Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A., you can find a way to beat the charges or easily move on with your life.
Contact us 24/7 at (813) 258-4800 to request a free consultation. It could be the difference between keeping your license, getting a dismissal, reducing the charges, or clearing your name.