Being arrested and charged for any criminal offense can cause great disruption in your life. When that charge is for driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol, there are a number of consequences and penalties that can accompany the fines and possible terms of imprisonment accused individuals face. As such, it becomes important for anyone charged for DUI in Florida to take the right steps as soon as they can.
At Boswell & Dunlap, LLP, our Polk County criminal defense lawyers have extensive experience representing clients charged with a range of DUI offenses. When arrests take place, we always advise that local residents seek legal counsel and assistance as soon as possible. Not only can this ensure the right steps are being taken and any timelines met, but it can also provide the experience and insight needed to create an effective defense that seeks to mitigate or eliminate the charges and penalties defendants face.
While our legal team is readily available to help after you or someone you love has been charged for driving under the influence, we still want to provide some important information that can help you navigate the aftermath of an arrest and protect your rights and future. Here are a few important steps to take.
- Write everything down – Following an arrest, it is in your best interests to record as much as you can remember regarding the details leading up to your arrest as soon as you can. This is because memories can become hazy over time. By writing down all details you can remember, including the location for your stop, the officer’s reason for stopping you, any administered tests, and other elements of the investigation, you can provide yourself and your attorney with information that may be important to your defense, and which can be used in your favor.
- Know the charges you face – Understanding the charges you face, as well as the penalties they pose, is essential to knowing what’s at stake. In some cases, drivers may not feel that DUI allegations are serious enough to warrant much attention or the help of a lawyer, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, DUI offenders in Florida face some of the harshest penalties in the nation, as well as related expenses and consequences that can impact them in the long-term. This is true even in cases where drivers are charged with a first-time DUI. In cases involving prior offenses or aggravating circumstances such as high BAC levels, accidents, or injuries, the charges and penalties can be elevated exponentially. In a previous blog, we discussed some of the facts that can lead to felony DUI
charges, as well as the severe penalties they entail. Serious charges, and especially felony charges, demand the attention of proven lawyers.
- Know your rights – It is important to understand your rights when you are under suspicion of a crime and once you have been charged with a crime. Most important to remember is your right to remain silent. You do not have to speak with law enforcement, and you should generally always refuse to do so. Talking to police or investigators won’t help your case, and can only give prosecutors more ammunition to convict you. Another important right is your right to challenge the government’s case against you, and your right to legal representation when doing so. Just because you have been charged with a crime does not mean you are guilty. The government is tasked with proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. There may be evidence that casts doubt on their narrative about what happened during your arrest, and there may have been errors made by law enforcement that could result in outcomes favorable to you, such as police not having probable cause to pull you over. A defense attorney can evaluate your situation and the circumstances surrounding your arrest to ensure your rights are protected and that a solid defense is made on your behalf.
- Know the time limits in place – In addition to knowing when you have to appear in court, you should also be aware of other time limits involved in your case. Most significantly in DUI cases, this involves administrative hearings with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), which is tasked with making determinations regarding your driving privileges. When you are arrested for DUI in Florida, you receive a temporary driver’s license that is valid for 10 days, after which it will automatically be suspended. To protect your driving privileges, you can request a hearing, but you must do so within 10 days of your arrest.
- Consider the benefits of a lawyer – The single most important thing you can do to protect yourself as you navigate the criminal justice system and administrative license hearings is to work with a seasoned criminal defense attorney. Give yourself some time to consider the benefits of working with a lawyer, but remember that because time is of the essence, reaching out to an attorney as soon as possible is important. This means a private lawyer who has the time, experience, and resources public defenders simply do not have. Remember what’s at stake in your case, including the fines, terms of imprisonment, and other short- and long-term consequences, and remember that defense attorneys work zealously to avoid or mitigate these penalties as much as possible. Working with a lawyer can make the difference in your case.
Charged with DUI in Polk County or any of the surrounding areas of Florida? Call Boswell & Dunlap, LLP for a FREE and confidential consultation.