DUI Process in Fernandina Beach
Perhaps your DUI story started when you caused a car crash or ran into a stationery object, or maybe it began with a siren and flashing lights behind your car. Regardless of what brought you to this point, you can expect to follow the same process as the other 54,000 people who get arrested for driving under the influence in Florida every year.
Traffic Stop and Arrest for DUI
When you’re stopped by a police officer for suspected drunk driving, what you do next is extremely important and can influence the outcome of your case. The officer will likely conduct a field sobriety test, which judges your motor skills and ability to react to stimuli. If they suspect that you’re under the influence at this point, they’ll ask you to take a Breathalyzer test. You do have the right to refuse this, but doing so does lead to the mandatory suspension of your license.
At this point, it’s important to avoid arguing with the police or trying to defend yourself. Whatever you say at this point can be used to prove your intoxication and strengthen the state’s case against you. Stay quiet, respectful, and compliant. Additionally, try to remember as many of the details of your arrest as possible. Illegally gathered evidence or traffic stops conducted without reasonable cause could work in your favor if you try to get your charges dismissed.
After you’re arrested, you’ll be held at the prison for some time before you are allowed to make a phone call and ask someone to post bail. They will also take your mug shot, get your fingerprints, and verify your personal information. At this time, you may undergo another blood alcohol test.
Your first appearance occurs within 24 hours of your arrest. The judge will tell you that you have the right to hire an attorney, tell you about your charges, and look at police evidence to determine whether or not they have cause to detain you.
By this point of the process, you should already have a Fernandina Beach DUI attorney. The arraignment is a formal court hearing in which the judge tells you what they plan on charging you with. You may plead guilty or not guilty. Your attorney should plea on your behalf and request a jury trial.
Pretrial Conference and Plea Bargains
The weeks following your arraignment are extremely important in your DUI case. During this time, your attorney will likely be working long hours to prove your innocence and attempt to reduce or dismiss your charges. They may gather evidence that strengthens your case or shows that the state has a weak case against you. Depending on which defense strategy your attorney chooses to employ, they may work to have illegally obtained evidence dismissed, exclude witnesses from your trial, or ask the court to dismiss your charges.
Several weeks after your arraignment, you’ll have your pretrial conference. This allows your attorney to update the judge on the progress of your case and present any new information.
Plea bargains are fairly common in Florida DUI cases, since they limit the amount of money the state spends on prosecuting DUI cases and allow defendants to possibly reduce their charges. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, your attorney may choose to negotiate a plea deal on your behalf or they may recommend that you fight the charges by going to trial. This is why it’s important to choose a DUI attorney who has your best interests in mind and is willing to take whichever path best suits your case. Choosing an overworked DUI lawyer could lead to a fast plea agreement that saves the attorney time but does not get your charges dismissed.
Note that throughout this process, you have the freedom to decide what is best for you. If your attorney is able to secure a plea bargain for you, they will discuss your options with you, providing a clear analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each choice available to you. They will make recommendations, but ultimately, the choice is up to you.
If you accept a plea agreement, your case won’t make it to this point. You’ll be saved the stress of a jury trial and start rebuilding your life. If you do go to trial, your case will be heard by seven jurors. The prosecutor for the state will present their case against you, highlighting their evidence and offering proof that you were driving under the influence. If you are found not guilty, the process is over. You can leave the courtroom without further consequences.
However, if the jury finds you guilty, you move onto the sentencing step of this process.
Sentencing varies quite a bit, since much depends on your BAC level at the time of the arrest, how many DUI convictions you have, whether or not you’re underage, and whether or not you caused bodily harm or property damage. Your sentence could include:
- Fines and penalties: There is a maximum fine set for each type of conviction, with each conviction beyond your first DUI allowing the court to charge higher fines
- Jail time: If the judge believes you are a danger to society, they may sentence you to jail time. A lot depends on how many DUIs you have and how much damage you caused while driving under the influence. If you are convicted of DUI manslaughter, the minimum mandatory sentence is four years in Florida.
- Installation of an interlock ignition device on your vehicle
- Community service
- Education or rehabilitation courses
Your ability to avoid or minimize these penalties rests largely on your legal defense.
Make the Right Choice After Getting a DUI in Fernandina Beach
If you don’t move quickly to hire a lawyer after your Fernandina Beach DUI, the consequences of your arrest could follow you for decades. Give yourself a fighting chance and call the Jacksonville Beach office of Lockett Law at (904) 858-9818 to schedule a consultation.