For the office holiday party your company rented out MOSH -- the Museum of Science and History. It was great to see all the exhibits up close without the crowds, and as the music and mojitos flowed, you wandered from the planetarium to the naturalist center to the aquariums. Your pre-party jitters about talking to your boss were long gone and you were starting to realize you might have been a little too chatty. It was probably time to go. You were more than a little tipsy and certainly didn't want to be the talk of the office on Monday.
You said your goodbyes in as dignified a manner as you could muster and stumbled out to your car. You got a little mixed up trying to get out of Friendship Park and the next thing you knew you were being pulled over and charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). What happens now? What do you do? Here is some basic information to help you with your DUI in Jacksonville.
Who Will I Be Dealing With?
Your first encounter in your DUI case will likely be with an officer from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office or the Florida Highway Patrol. Your case will probably be heard at the Duval County Courts, prosecuted by the State Attorney's Office, and, depending on your financial circumstances, may be defended by the Public Defender.
What Are the Penalties Associated With A DUI?
There are criminal and administrative penalties associated with driving under the influence, which vary depending on whether this is your first DUI, how much alcohol was in your system, whether anyone was injured, and other factors. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has a good summary of Florida DUI and Administrative Suspension Laws. As you can see, penalties can include fines, community service, imprisonment, impoundment of your vehicle, driver's license revocation, and more.
What Can I Expect in the Criminal Court Process?
After you have been pulled over and asked to submit to field sobriety tests, if the officer has a reasonable belief that you were driving under the influence, he will likely arrest you. You will then usually be asked to take a chemical breath, blood, or urine test. Under Florida law you are deemed to have already consented to this test in exchange for the privilege of operating your vehicle within the state. You may refuse to submit to the test, but such refusal may result in a suspension of your driver's license.
The next step will generally be booking and bail, which is when your information (name, contact information, charges, photograph, fingerprints, criminal history, etc.) is put into the system and you are released after you promise (either with money aka bail, or your word) to return to court.
One of your first court appearances will probably be the arraignment. This is when the charges are read against you and you are asked to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, no contest).
If you plead "not guilty" your case will proceed towards trial. The trial will consist of the following major phases: jury selection; opening statements by the prosecution and defense; witness testimony and cross examination; closing statements by the prosecution and defense; jury instructions given by the judge; jury deliberation and verdict.
If the trial results in a conviction, you may consider appealing your case.
What Can I Expect In The Administrative Process?
Usually when you are arrested for driving under the influence in Jacksonville, and either fail or refuse to take the chemical breath, blood, or urine test, the officer will take your driver's license and issue you a temporary permit good for 10 days.
Within those 10 days you have the opportunity to request an administrative hearing with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles on the suspension or to waive your right to a hearing and apply immediately for a restricted (business purposes only) driver's license.
If you request a formal hearing, it will be set within 30 days and will be limited to the following issues:
- Whether the officer had probable cause to believe that you were driving or were in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or chemical or controlled substances;
- Whether you had a blood alcohol level of 0.8 or higher (or whether you refused to take such a test);
- If you refused to take the test, whether you were told that such refusal would lead to a suspension of driving privileges of between 1 year and 18 months.
You will be notified within 7 business days of the hearing as to whether the suspension is sustained, modified, or invalidated.
Do I Need An Attorney?
Although you can represent yourself, it is often recommended that you retain a defense attorney to help you in your DUI case. DUI cases can be complicated and the consequences of a conviction can be severe. A skilled DUI lawyer can make sense of the legal terminology, help negotiate the best resolution, find expert witnesses and investigators, and more. Check out FindLaw's Using a DUI Lawyer for more information.