First-Offense DUI Attorney in Jacksonville
First DUI Offense
It is very common if you are being accused of a DUI for the first time for you to be in the midst of your first interaction with the criminal justice system. This is both scary and normal. The first step needs to be educating yourself, both of what can happen and the likely journey you will be facing. A qualified Jacksonville DUI Defense Attorney can guide you through the process and make this as painless as possible. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. A DUI charge does not need to be life altering, your driver’s license and future employment prospects can often be preserved with the correct defense.
The correct strategy can change things significantly for the better, but these are still serious allegations. While you are likely facing a misdemeanor, you still risk a range of serious penalties if you are convicted of DUI in Florida. At Lockett Law, P.A., we use cutting-edge strategies to vigorously defend our clients accused of driving under the influence.
Attorneys Protecting Your Driver’s License and Driving Privileges
If you were arrested for DUI anywhere in northeast Florida, we offer a free consultation to discuss your rights, the possible consequences and potential defenses. A first-offense DUI that did not involve an accident or blood alcohol content (BAC) level above .15 is typically a misdemeanor charge that can carry a wide range of penalties. This is nothing to be ashamed of, thousands of people in the greater Jacksonville area, and tens of thousands across the state are arrested every year.
First DUI Procedure
One of the most confusing aspects of a first DUI is that there are actually two pending cases to address after you are arrested. You have a right to an attorney in all of these proceedings, and it can be very beneficial to contact a Duval County DUI Defense Lawyer as soon as possible to defend you on all fronts.
First, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will initiate proceedings against your license. This will occur whether you have a BAC of over .08 or if you refuse to take a chemical test at the scene, at the jail or when blood is requested at the hospital following an accident.
Either of these circumstances trigger what’s called the Florida Implied Consent law. Everyone who drives in Florida agrees to consent to a chemical test (usually breath, sometimes blood and even urine) if the police have probable cause for that test. Probable cause stems from a reasonable belief that the contacted driver is under the influence. Refusing or blowing over the legal limit will result in the officer forwarding the necessary paperwork to the DMV to start proceedings against your license. When arrested for DUI, the suspect’s driver’s license will be suspended automatically. A person then has 10 days from the date of arrest(or from date issued notice of suspension in blood cases) to request a formal review hearing to challenge the administrative suspension of their driver’s license. This will result in a 10 day period where you must respond or a suspension will automatically result. If you or your Jacksonville DUI Lawyer are able to respond within the 10 days, a hearing must be scheduled within 30 days. If the DMV can’t set this within the 30-day period, this may lead to an automatic victory and you keeping your right to drive.
If the hearing is scheduled, you are entitled to representation from an attorney. Your Jacksonville DUI Defense Attorney will receive a packet of information regarding the stop so that all avenues can be attacked. The most common defenses are to attack the “probable cause” the officer claimed to have found or the actual physical control of the arrested individual over the car. There are multiple defenses that could be available based on the case, your DUI defense lawyer can help navigate the most effective ones.
Unfortunately, these hearings are often an uphill battle. If the DMV upholds the suspension after a formal review hearing, you will have a period known as “hard time” where you cannot drive for any reason. Once that hard time is up, the lawyer can assist you in getting back on the road with another restricted, or hardship, license for the remainder of the overall suspension period.. These licenses can allow the individual to drive to and from work, school and other qualified obligations. These are usually available for a first DUI allegation, but qualifications can be extremely difficult if there is a past conviction. The far more serious ramifications for a first DUI come from the criminal case though.
Criminal Case for a First-Time DUI Charge
Following a first DUI arrest the State of Florida will also bring a criminal case in the local County Court. This will mean multiple court appearances.
- First appearance – This is the time for the judge to: make a probable cause statement from reading the arrest and booking report, set bond, inform you of the charges, provide you a copy of the complaint, advise you of your rights (including right to an attorney if you cannot afford one), appoint that attorney if you cannot, and/or continue the appearance if you plan to hire an attorney.
- Arraignment – This is the time for the charges to be read to you. Most of the time discovery is not yet available and your attorney will need to continue your case for a few weeks to get an idea of how to move forward.
- Pretrial Hearing (Disposition, Status Conference, or Plea and Setting) – Setting dates in the trial division are present to address bond conditions, discuss the case with the prosecutor and/or enter a plea. Often times a beneficial plea agreement can be crafted by your defense attorney, with the State signing off on it. Other times it makes sense to plead not guilty at these settings and get a trial date. It’s crucial by this stage to have some representation from a Jacksonville DUI defense attorney to ensure that the State can’t steamroll you. We can file a waiver of appearance on your behalf so that you will not have to attend the vast majority of these court dates
- Motion Hearing – Many of the defenses listed below can be raised through written motion and litigated at a motion hearing. The prosecutor and/or your attorney will put on evidence and argue for and against the filed motion. Cases can sometimes be decided right here if your attorney is able to prevail.
- Trial – Sometimes it makes the most sense to apply defenses which can only be raised at trial. This is a huge step in a criminal case, and the best results can usually only be obtained with the best possible attorney you can find.
It’s important to have an attorney who can guide through each of these steps of the case, because a first DUI allegation is a serious criminal allegation. A first DUI (not involving an accident with serious injury) is normally charged as a misdemeanor in Florida and carries substantial penalties. If the DUI charge did involve an accident or BAC greater than .15, the penalties could be enhanced.
Penalties for First-Offense DUI in Florida
- Up to six months in jail
- Nine months if greater than a .15
- DUI school
- Up to one year of probation
- Six months driver’s license suspension
- $500 to $2,000 fine
- Victim impact panel class
- 50 hours community service
- Vehicle immobilization for 10 days
- Interlock Installation for cases involving a .15 or above
Some DUI’s can carry far more significant penalties. Prior convictions can lead to increased penalties, or even felony charges based on how many priors there are. If there is any property damage, the state can charge the case as a first degree misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail. Injury or death can result in the state filing third degree felony charges which carry up to five years in prison. The state of Florida also has a separate charge, DUI manslaughter, charged as a first or second degree felony and carrying up to 15 or 30 years behind bars. DUI manslaughter, even as a first DUI carries a mandatory minimum of four years in prison.
A qualified criminal defense attorney can help you through what is probably one of the scariest experiences you will go through. A first DUI allegation carries significant ramifications, but doesn’t have to be the end of the world, and the legal team at Lockett Law can fight for your rights and the best possible result.
Defenses to a First-Time DUI Offense
- Probable cause for stop – Most police interactions require probable cause a crime has been committed before the investigation can progress. Sometimes all evidence can be suppressed because the officer lacked probable cause to make the stop in the first place
- Probable cause for DUI – This rule also applies to the elements of driving intoxicated, police officers aren’t allowed to just breathalyze any driver, if the police lacked probable cause to move forward on an investigation into intoxication, all evidence from there on can be suppressed.
- Violation of Miranda – It is extremely common for drivers to get into hot water by simply being honest and admitting to drinking. Sometimes these statements can be completely removed from the case if the police didn’t follow the rules when asking questions. This type of challenge can absolutely gut the state’s case.
- Illegal Search – Police need probable cause to search a vehicle, sometimes they step outside the bounds of the law when looking in trunks and containers. Open bottles of alcohol or paraphernalia can sometimes be excluded on these grounds and seriously weaken the allegations against you.
Science of DUIs
- Field Sobriety Tests – The evaluations officers perform of on suspected drunk drivers are called Field Sobriety Tests. Police officers aren’t scientists or experts in intoxication, they perform the tests they are told to and try to adhere to their training. This means that often their interpretation of the results and observations can be substantially attacked. The legal team at Lockett Law keeps up to date with emerging science and stays abreast of every possible avenue to attack these results.
- Chemical Test – Breath, blood and urine tests are all employed in Florida to check if someone has alcohol or drugs in their system. Just because these tests are scientific in nature does not mean they are always perfect. Sometimes they are not administered correctly. Machines are not always checked and calibrated as they should be. The chain of custody prior to chemical testing is sometimes tainted. There are virtually unlimited ways doubt can be cast on these tests prior to trial.
- Actual Physical Control – Were you not actually driving the car or at least behind the wheel? Was someone else driving the car? Were you not able to turn the car on? Was the car not functioning? The state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the answer to all of these questions is no. Even the smallest amount of reasonable doubt on one of these means the jury must acquit under the law. A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to show that it’s not clear cut who was driving if anyone.
- Body Worn Camera – Often times the clearest evidence by the police in their report manifests itself as a body worn camera where the person simply does not seem drunk. If you’ve been arrested for a first DUI, your behavior on the scene could potentially be used to disprove and destroy the state’s case.
How likely is jail time for first DUI?
It really depends on the facts of your case and the fight your attorney is able to put up. A BAC of over .15 may put you at a slightly higher risk of jail. A lower BAC could result in a lower plea, or a stipulation to credit for time served, this means no additional jail following the arrest.
Can a first offense DUI be dismissed?
Of course! Any case can be dismissed and a DUI is no different. There are two ways a case can result in dismissal. First, the prosecutor can realize, or be convinced by your attorney, that there’s no realistic chance of a conviction. This is called a nolle prosequi. Second, the judge can dismiss your case on procedural grounds if your attorney is able to successfully argue that your rights have been violated.
Should I get a lawyer for my first DUI?
It is always beneficial to have an attorney when facing criminal charges. A qualified Jacksonville DUI Defense Attorney from the Lockett legal team can meet with you during a free consultation and outline the process and how representation can help you.
What happens on your first DUI?
If you are reading this after being accused then you have already unfortunately experienced the first step, arrest. A person is first arrested and then seen by a judge within 24 hours to address bond and move the case forward. The accused is then arraigned and sent to the trial court to move the case forward. It is beneficial to have a qualified DUI defense lawyer at each of these stages, but especially in the trial court where your case can be effectively attacked. The result is going to change a lot based on the facts and the investigation, but a member of our team can give you a rough guess based on your circumstances.
How long will my license be suspended for first DUI?
If you are convicted of a first DUI, it is likely that your license will be suspended for six months and you will still have to pay $175 in fees as well as obtain FR-44 insurance. This is in addition to the potential suspension during the pendency of the case if implied consent is triggered and the DMV goes after your license. This is why it’s crucial to contact an attorney right away within 10 days to fight for you to keep your license in the mean time.
Providing Free DUI Defense Consultations
Contact our law firm in Jacksonville to speak with the experienced DUI attorneys at Lockett Law, P.A.. Call us at 904-858-9818 or send us an email. We have Spanish speakers on staff. Se habla Español. We have two convenient office locations.