The DUI arrest typically occurs after a police officer has stopped a vehicle and has found probable cause to believe the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The police officer may have initially stopped the car due to a violation of a traffic ordinance, such as running a red light, or because the driver was showing signs of intoxication, such as swerving through lanes. If the officer suspects the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he will usually request that the driver participate in a field sobriety exercise and may also administer a breathalyzer test.
Drivers have many constitutional rights that police officers must strictly adhere to when arresting a driver for DUI. If the police officer does not follow proper procedures during the arrest, evidence that would have otherwise been used to prove your guilt may be thrown out of court as inadmissible. Our Tampa DUI attorneys carefully review all of the details of an arrest to find any grounds we can use to get evidence against our clients thrown out of court. Florida DUI law allows a Tampa DUI attorney to challenge an aspect of the arrest during any stage of the DUI process.
After being arrested, the driver will be taken into custody and booked at the police department. During the booking process, a police officer will usually take photographs and fingerprints, search the criminal record of the driver, and record personal information. In addition, any personal property such as a wallet, phone, or watch will be confiscated and held by the officer until the driver is released. Usually, you will be held at the police station for at least 8 hours before being released or appearing before a judge.
The first appearance is a hearing before a court officer that must be held within 24 hours after an arrest. During the first appearance, the judge will inform the driver of the charges against them and address the Constitutional right to have an attorney appointed to all defendants in a criminal trial. The judge will also determine whether the driver should be held in custody, released on their own recognizance, or released on bail. If bail is granted, the amount of money required to post bail will vary based on your criminal history, including prior DUI convictions. If bail is not permitted at the first appearance, a judge may still grant release or bail at a later stage in the DUI process.
At the arraignment the judge will read the charges aloud and ask how the driver pleads to the charges. The driver has the option of pleading either guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Depending on the plea entered, the judge will either set the case for trial or issue the sentence.
Once you hire an attorney, the attorney will file a notice of appearance. A notice of appearance informs all parties involved on both sides of the case that any future communication must be conducted through the attorney that you hired. Once you have an attorney, you may not have to appear at the arraignment because the DUI lawyer may be able to appear on your behalf.
At the preliminary hearing the judge determines whether or not the prosecution has enough evidence to put forth a case that could lead to a conviction. Both the prosecution and defense attorney will be allowed to present evidence and witnesses favoring their position. The case will not be allowed to proceed to trial if the judge determines that there is not enough evidence against the driver at that time.
At trial the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in order to convict the defendant of DUI. In most DUI arrests the case will never go to trial because either the defendant pleads guilty or has reached a settlement with the prosecutor, or there is not enough evidence presented at the preliminary hearing to warrant a trial.
If you have been placed under arrest for DUI or refused to take a breathalyzer test, the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) will automatically suspend your driver’s license. You must petition the DHSMV for a hearing within 10 days of the suspension of your license or else you will lose the right to challenge the suspension. The DHSMV hearing is independent of any criminal charges that may be pending or filed against you. Thus, the DHSMV license suspension will not be dependent on you being found guilty in a criminal court and can become effective before your criminal trial even begins.
At Florida Law Advisers, P.A., our Tampa DUI Attorneys are experienced and skilled at all stages of a criminal DUI arrest and DHSMV hearing. We carefully scrutinize every detail of a case to identify any potential errors by police, violations of constitutional rights, mishandling of evidence, or sloppy police work that we can use to help our clients. If you have been arrested for DUI or your license has been suspended for failure to submit to a breathalyzer test, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a Tampa DUI lawyer.