Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Information and Legal Grounds

DUI: The Law and Attorney

In 2018, According to the National Traffic Safety Administration: Alcohol (NHTSA) – related motor vehicle crashes kill someone every 50 minutes and non – fatal injury, someone every two minutes. Also, Drivers involved in fatal crashes had blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.8 percent or higher, nine times more likely to have a prior conviction for driving while impaired (DWI). The highest risk of drivers, related to fatal alcohol vehicle deaths is male drivers, which are almost twice as likely, as female drivers to be intoxicated, with blood alcohol concentration of 0.8 percent or higher. A BAC of 0.8 percent is equal to or greater than the Legal limit in most states. In 2018, twenty-five percent of drivers ages 15 – 20, died in motor vehicle crashes, related to drinking alcohol. Almost, three-quarters of those convicted of driving while impaired are either frequent heavy drinkers (alcohol abusers) or alcoholics (alcohol dependent).

During the past 20 years, fatal alcohol-related crash rates have decreased by 60 percent for drivers: Ages 16 to 17 years, and 55 percent of drivers ages 18 to 20 years. In 2016, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 10,497 motorists died related to illegal blood – alcohol level of 0.08. Annual campaign: “You Drink & Drive, You Lose” recently conducted by 11, 500 law enforcement officials. The crackdown ran through September 5, 2005, with a $13.9 million in advertising. Attributed to the decrease fatality numbers, related to effective minimum legal drinking age laws, and ‘zero tolerance’ laws for drivers: under 21 years of age.

Also, increase the number of sobriety checkpoints, where law enforcement systematically selects drivers to determine, their level of alcohol impairment. Studies have shown the reduction of DUI incidents related to increasing legislation enforcement, and education. Many legislatures have created appropriate penalties, under state child abuse laws for persons who transport children, while driving drunk. Blood alcohol laws for drivers established a standard level: 0.8 percent (Starting in 2001: Signed into law by the President of the United States) from 0.10 percent, which reduced – related fatalities, by an average of seven percent, equal to 500 lives saved annually. States that did not comply with the new standard Blood Alcohol Concentration by October 2003 risk losing federal highway construction funds. Also, through the efforts of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, have contributed to fewer alcoholic drivers on the road.

When a driver is arrested, and charged for driving under the influence, representation of an experienced, ethical and competent DUI attorney is significant to retain. The defendant should ask the following questions, to obtain the best-qualified attorney: Does the lawyer handle drinking and driving cases only, does the lawyer have access to technical expert witnesses in police procedures and blood/breath analysis, does the attorney make unrealistic promises which is unethical practice, does the lawyer provide a written contract explaining all fees, did the lawyer attend a reputable law school, lawyer a member of National College of DUI Defense (“The National College of DUI Defense, Incorporated (NCDD) is a professional, non – profit corporation dedicated to the improvement of the criminal defense bar, and to the dissemination of information to the public about DUI Defense Law as specialty area of law practice”.), and or a member National Drunk Driving Defense Task Force (Membership qualifications require skill and fortitude to prevail in defending DUI / drunk driving cases and good standing member of the State Bar).

Despite a defendant, believing guilty of a DUI offense, legally the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in Court Room. Experience lawyer will evaluate the arrest circumstance to determine if the police overstepped their bounds, unlawfully stopped, arrested, and legally charged the defendant. A good lawyer will direct the defendant to get counseling for the alcoholic substance abuse and will try to minimize any penalties.

During the DUI trial, the prosecution has to prove the defendant is guilty, usually focusing on four things: Any irregular driving pattern, physical appearance of the driver which may indicate being intoxicated, field sobriety test performance, and chemical test results. These items scrutinized by a defense attorney, and attempt to remove from evidence, during the pretrial motion and trial. The defense lawyer will cross – exam the arresting officer, and any witnesses, to try to weaken or dispute any testimony. During their pretrial, the defense attorney maybe fortune to have all charges dismissed or prosecution may dismiss those charges, before the actual trial begins, in front of a judge and or jury.

Finally, a defense attorney will conclude, the prosecution failed to prove the burden of proof for a conviction. In some cases, a lawyer may recommend plea-bargain to receive a lesser sentence, possibly no jail or prison time, and save legal fees for the defendant. Also, plea-bargain may help the defendant in future DUI case. For example: If the defendant plea bargains down to reckless driving, there would be no jail time for a second offense, which would be mandatory in some states, for DUI guilty verdict in a later case. If the defendant is found guilty or nolo contendere, the conviction is recorded on the driver’s license for a period of five years and gets reported to the National Driver’s License Registry which is accessible to all driving licensing agencies nationwide. Regardless of a guilty or non – guilty verdict in a DUI case, the defendant may have to fight a civil suit. Defendant caused any pain, suffering or death (manslaughter) by the influence of alcohol: A Civil suit pursued by the victim or victim’s family for a monetary amount.

Some states are trying to reduce the number of repeat-offender drunk drivers by issuing colored coding licenses, that would be recognized by law enforcement and store clerks when purchasing an alcoholic beverage. Law enforcement officers will acknowledge driver’s license codes if they have to probable cause to stop a driver for questioning.

Crack Down on Drunken Driving: Be Proactive and Save a Life

If you see someone who is drunk – or under the influence of some controlled substance – get into a vehicle, would you ignore it and go on about your business, or would you call the police and report it? There are instances when people seem to think a situation like that is none of their business, so they do nothing. However, imagine if that drunk driver caused an accident that resulted in you, or someone you know is seriously injured or killed. It takes less than a minute to report a driver who is intoxicated. All you have to do is get the license plate and call the police and tell them where you saw the drunk driver.
Doing so may save a life.

In the United States, there are two common offenses for such drivers. Those are DUI or driving under the influence, and DWI, driving while intoxicated or impaired. The blood alcohol concentration should be less than 0.08 percent. Some states even have laws where a person can be arrested or have their license suspended with a blood alcohol content as little as 0.01 percent. This may sound extreme to some who may frequently drive after consuming one or two drinks and say that they are beautiful. However, some officials believe that any amount of alcohol or drugs in the system can impair a person’s ability to drive. That is why it is common for people to have designated drivers if they know they are going somewhere where they will be consuming alcohol.

According to 2003 statistics obtained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 17,000 people were killed in drunk driving related incidents that year. That accounted for roughly 40 percent of all traffic deaths of that year. The sad part about such statistics is the known fact that most of the people who were killed were not the actual impaired driver. Drunk driving is responsible for claiming thousands of innocent lives each year. Innocent children are playing outside, people walking down the street, driving their cars, or in some cases sitting inside of their homes can be seriously hurt or killed as the result of drunk drivers. As long as people are driving impaired, the streets will be much more dangerous. It’s a shame when a child gets struck by a drunk driver while getting off of the school bus in front of his home or when an entire family is killed from being hit head-on by a drunk driver.

Despite having licenses suspended and revoked, serving jail time for charges ranging from DWI, DUI, or even vehicular manslaughter, many offenders will be charged more than once for driving under the influence. There is no excuse for this sort of behavior and makes you think that harsher punishments should be handed down to those who do drive while under the influence. In many cases, drunk drivers are under the age of 21, which is the legal drinking age in the United States. Moreover, to think, some people would like the drinking age lowered to 18. As recently as 2006, drunk driving fatalities increased by 22 percent according to Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

In a recent nationwide drunk driving crackdown going on in various cities throughout the United States, anyone caught driving drunk will be arrested and prosecuted. No more suspended or revoked licenses without any further consequences. It’s simple-you drink; you make, you lose. This current crackdown is known as Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest. Sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, and more than $11 million in national television and radio ads are part of this current crackdown. According to Nicole Nason, administrator for the NHTSA, “If we catch you driving drunk, we will arrest and prosecute you. No exceptions. No excuses.”

Efforts and crackdowns such as these are much needed today. MADD’s National President Glynn Birch whose 21-month-old son was killed by a repeat offending drunk driver lays down the sad but true reality, “The grim reality is that the tragedy of drunk driving will likely impact you, your family, or someone you know at some point in your life.” Hopefully, with the crackdowns and increased law enforcement and penalties for working together, drunk driving can be brought to an end.

DUI or DWI or OMVI

A DUI refers to a person who has been “driving under the influence” of alcohol or drugs. DUI normally is called “drunk driving” and occurs when you are found driving a vehicle with blood alcohol content above a state statute. The statute in all 50 states has now been set at .08% blood alcohol level as being considered driving while under the influence. Should you be making a commercial vehicle, your blood alcohol level cannot be over .04% nationwide. Anyone under the age of 21 with even the smallest amount of alcohol in their system will be arrested on the grounds of DUI. If you are arrested for this offense; you can either face felony or misdemeanor charges.

* Misdemeanor is a criminal offense which is considered less severe than a felony. Every state and the federal government have their criminal code to classify crimes either as a misdemeanor or felony. They also assign the punishment for each. Some people think there are felony misdemeanors; however, this is not true. They are two distinct classifications.

* Felony charges are decided on several different factors. Each case is handled separately, and all circumstances are figured into the individual’s record. Some of the elements that could raise your charge from a misdemeanor to a felony are:

* Have you had any previous offenses?

* What was your blood alcohol level at the time of arrest?

* Did you injure anyone, including yourself when you were operating the vehicle?

There are much harsher punishments when you are charged with a felony DUI. You will need to seek legal advice immediately if this happens to you. Attorneys who handle DUI cases are highly trained in the laws of their state and can often reduce fines and penalties.

Basics of a DUI offense

It is a crime in every state to operate a vehicle if you have consumed alcohol or taken drugs. If you are arrested and found to have consumed either of these you will be charged with; DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) or OMVI (operating a motor vehicle intoxicated). Whichever charge you face; it is against the law to produce any form of a motor vehicle if you’re:

* Ability to operate the vehicle safely has become impaired by the effects of illegal drugs, alcohol, and prescription medication such as painkillers. Even over-the-counter medicines like antihistamines may reduce your ability to handle a motor vehicle safely.

* You are intoxicated above the defined DUI statues.

How will they know your blood level?

When the officer stops your car with the suspicion that you are driving under the influence; he can request that you take a field sobriety test. They may also ask you for consent to perform a chemical test to check for intoxication.

The sobriety test involves an officer asking you to perform some tasks that will enable him or her to assess your impairment. These could include; having you walk a straight line, reciting the alphabet backward or performing the eye and penlight test.

A chemical test may also be done by having you blow into a Breathalyzer where they have stopped, and they may ask that you report to a hospital for urine and blood testing as well. Many states allow you to choose the test of your choice.

Do you have to consent to any test?

State laws include “implied consent” which means that since you are driving a vehicle on state roads, you have already given your consent for the tests to be performed when an officer has sufficient reason to believe you are operating under the influence. If you refuse to be tested, this law carries penalties; which mean you could lose your driver’s license. Refusing to take a test can carry harsher sanctions than failing the DUI test.

Impact of a DUI

If you are arrested and convicted of a DUI your future is impacted in many ways. You could face the loss of your employment, be prevented from obtaining employment, there are severe financial costs involved and embarrassment among your family and friends. Often this conviction will remain on your driving record for years if not forever. The severities of criminal penalties vary depending on your circumstances:

– Whether or not you have had a previous DUI.

– Whether or not it was a commercial vehicle, you were driving.

– Whether you’re driving at the time was reckless or dangerous.

– Whether the DUI violation involved an accident where someone was hurt or killed.

– Whether the DUI violation resulted in property damages.

– Whether or not you were under the legal age to drink at the time.

How Do I Know Which DUI Lawyer to Hire

You need a DUI lawyer to represent you, but you have no idea which one is going to be the most appropriate match for your specific circumstantial, emotional, and financial situation. Indeed, the DUI lawyer pool in Daytona Beach is extensive, making this task seem like finding a needle in a haystack. This is the conundrum many faces when arrested for driving under the influence.

Thus, knowing which DUI lawyer in Daytona Beach to hire is pretty much a crapshoot until and unless you do your homework. This article outlines a series of steps, a process for you to go through, that will enable you to make a much more informed decision. We want to help you make the best choice for your situation because DWI arrest and conviction is a very serious matter that can have devastating consequences.

So let’s get started.

What Is Your Situation and What Are Your Options?

The first step is to organize your thoughts and to become as realistic as you can about your situation. In the wake of an arrest, this can sometimes be a daunting task, but it is crucial to gain control over your emotions so that you can deal with your DUI problems as rationally as possible. We’re going to be covering much ground, so you might want to print this article out if you have access to a printer.

When you get ready to contact a DUI attorney, you will need to know precisely all of the details surrounding your case. It will simplify life for the lawyer (and help keep your costs down) if you have some grasp of what a lawyer does and are ready with all the information he or she requires. We recommend your writing down the answers to the following questions, getting assistance from law enforcement administrators if necessary.

What is the specific DUI charge (or charges) filed against you? Do you have any prior DUI convictions, and if so, how long ago? Are there any additional or collateral offenses charged, such as manslaughter, property damage, serious bodily injury, being under the age of 21, driving a commercial vehicle, or violating DUI probation?

Did you submit to a chemical test? If so, what kind of analysis (breath, blood, or urine)? If not, did you refuse to be tested? Can you think of any extenuating or unusual circumstances about your arrest that could help your cases, such as procedural errors or anomalies committed by law enforcement, failure to read you the Miranda rights, a medical condition, or any conflicting laws forcing you to commit the DUI offense?

Now consider some questions regarding the consequences of a DUI conviction. Can you afford fines and expenses mounting into the thousands of dollars? Can you afford the loss of your vehicle or the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license? Can you afford the negative impact a DUI conviction will have on your career, education, or employment opportunities?

What Do You Need a Lawyer For?

Once you’ve answered all the questions we posed in the last section, you are better equipped to think more objectively about your situation and how to proceed. If you are inclined to plead guilty and accept the penalties, perhaps you don’t need a lawyer. Likewise, if you feel confident about defending yourself, essentially acting as your attorney. However, such conclusions are rarely in your best interest and should not be arrived at lightly.

On the other hand, you should not assume that you require legal representation without first determining the specific purpose for entering into such a contractual relationship. In other words, the DUI lawyer will want to know in what capacity you require his or her services. Is the only acceptable outcome dismissal of charges or can you manage if they are merely reduced? Will you need the lawyer’s help in avoiding some of the adverse effects on your life associated with a DUI conviction? Try to be specific in your mind about what you expect from the lawyer.

The Lawyer Selection Process

Now compile a list of potential attorneys to hire who practice in your locality. Ideally, the names should exhibit diversity regarding prestige, size of the firm, and specializations. It may take some effort to form such a list. The Internet is a great resource, but obtaining referrals is perhaps the optimum way, if possible. Call friends and family members. Ask, for example, “Do you know any good Daytona Beach DUI attorneys?”

Narrowing Down the Number of Potential Candidates

It pays to do a bit of research into each lawyer on your list. Examine their websites if they have one. Look for testimonials from former clients. See if you can find press releases or independent reviews about their services. If you contact them, try to gauge how good a match they are to your needs and situation without making any commitments yet.

Try to get a feel for how much care will go into your case. Also, try to estimate cost if their rates aren’t already spelled out. Attorneys are expensive, and you are looking for value. You should ask yourself, “Is this DWI attorney worth the money?” You will find yourself weighing strengths and fitness against the expense, but this broader perspective will help you narrow the number of candidates considerably.

Are DUI Lawyers Worth the Money

To answer whether DUI lawyers earn their fees, seen by many to be steep, you have to come down to specific circumstances. The value a DUI lawyer renders to his client depends on the degree to which he or she can reduce or eliminate the many other costs that the client would otherwise incur. These costs associated with a DUI conviction are not just monetary but also emotional, societal, personal, and career-related.

Only you can ultimately decide whether hiring an attorney is worth it. However, here we present some background information about how the law operates and what you can expect at various phases of the process. We also pose some questions you should ask yourself. You should then be in a better-informed position to decide whether or not legal counseling is worth the expense.

How a DUI Conviction Adversely Affects Your Life

Another way of phrasing the question of whether DUI lawyers are worth the money is, “Do I need a lawyer?” In other words, if you know that you need a lawyer, then the cost is a secondary consideration. Now, to answer this re-phrased question, you need to fully understand what a DUI conviction is going to mean for you.

First of all, there is a whole range of possible penalties you might face, depending on the seriousness of the offense and whether there are associated offenses such as bodily injury or property damage. You may be looking at jail time, suspension of your driver’s license, impoundment of your vehicle, or lengthy probation. You could be assessed hefty fines, court costs, or community service hours. You might be required to go to DUI School or attend substance abuse evaluations and counseling.

In the first few years following a DUI conviction, your fines and expenses could amount to as much as $8,000. Therefore, you should weigh this against estimated legal defense fees, in that you are probably going to be paying money either to the state or a lawyer regardless of the outcome.

So you should be asking yourself whether the litigious fight to avoid all these costs and penalties is worth it to you.

The Course of Events After You Are Arrested for DUI

Another aspect in determining a DUI lawyer’s worth is the understanding of what a DUI lawyer does. Let’s expand on this in the context of what happens after you are arrested on a DUI charge.

First off, your driver’s license is confiscated. Then there are two cases filed against you. One example is the criminal hearing of your DUI charges. The other fact is an administrative hearing that will determine whether or not you can be issued a temporary license while awaiting the criminal trial.

This is where the lawyer comes in. He will help you request (within the ten-day limit) a formal review hearing to contest the administrative suspension of your driver’s license and will represent you at the conference. He has the right to cross-examine the arresting officer, prosecution witnesses, and technicians who administered and calibrated the chemical test used to measure alcohol concentration in your blood.

To prepare for your criminal trial, the attorney may subpoena the legal documents that the prosecution plans to use. This will help him mount the most effective defense. His goal is to persuade the prosecutor to dismiss the DUI charges against you or at least to reduce them to reckless driving. Lacking that, the lawyer might negotiate for what is called withheld adjudication, which means that the criminal charges on your record will be sealed from public view.

Besides acting as your advocate in the capacities indicated above, the DUI attorney can also appear on your behalf at the many pretrial court hearings that take place. This will relieve you of much stress and inconvenience associated with having to perform personally.

Examples of Remarkable Turnarounds

We cannot urge strongly enough the need to recognize the consequences if you plead guilty, perhaps assuming that law enforcement has a solid case.

Don’t expect them to show any leniency just because you place yourself at their mercy.

Instead, you should never assume that the prosecution’s case against you is airtight. Not all DWI charges are beatable, but many are, and your defense attorney has a whole host of possible defenses at his disposal. Often a pure technicality is sufficient to overturn a case, such as the failure to document the time of arrest, the inability to justify pulling the driver over, or the lab indicating the wrong blood type.

Moral Considerations vs. Legal Rights

Most people consider driving under the influence to be a moral offense, and many who commit this infraction condemn themselves. However, the law does grant certain judicial rights to each person regardless of the seeming flagrancy of his or her offense. In this respect, it pays to distinguish between what is moral and what is legal.

The legal profession doesn’t (morally) condone DUI, but its purpose is to see that clients don’t waive their rights inadvertently and that law enforcement doesn’t abuse its power. Keep this in mind as you look for a good lawyer. Seek someone who cares about your being treated reasonably rather than trying to “help you get away with a crime.”

KNOW YOUR DUI LEGAL RIGHTS

 

DUI attorneys fight for the rights of their clients, making sure they aren’t violated or waived, accidentally or deliberately. Without DUI attorney representation, the individual charged must fight for his rights and therefore must have a firm grasp of what they are. However, even when a lawyer has been hired, it is in one’s best interest to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the rights granted by DUI code.

Selecting a DUI attorney should be approached with care, as the stakes are relatively high.

However, in straightforward cases, the arrestee might wonder whether it is essential to obtain legal representation. Well, protecting your rights is the lawyer’s primary task, so if you plan to defend yourself or to plead guilty to all charges, you had better know how to protect yourself. This article is intended to brief the reader on DUI rights granted by Florida law.

Implied Consent Law

The concept of “implied consent.” This means that when you are arrested for DUI, you give your consent to authorities to take a chemical test for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or drugs. The law requires the arrest to be lawful and for the arresting officer to have probable cause for believing that you were driving under the influence.

Furthermore, law enforcement is entitled to have you submit to more than one type (breath, blood, or urine) of the test. Should you refuse to comply, you face automatic suspension of your license, and your refusal can be used against you in court.

Your first refusal to take a chemical test results in a one-year suspension of your license. The second and subsequent refusals result in both an 18-month suspension and a misdemeanor charge.

The misdemeanor implies serving time in jail. If you find yourself in this situation, you need a good DUI attorney.

Due Process Rights

Note the constraints labeled “probable cause” and “lawful arrest” in the previous section. These constraints are designed to ensure due process. In other words, for your DUI charges to stick, prosecutors must prove that the arrest followed proper procedure (including the reading of Miranda rights, e.g.) and must provide a valid reason for having stopped your vehicle.

Besides the primary DUI charge (in control of a vehicle with BAC > 0.08), you may face extended or collateral charges. Examples are causing severe bodily injury, death, or property damage; being underage; violating probation, and having prior convictions of driving while intoxicated.

Extended charges make your defense more challenging, but you are still entitled to due process. In such circumstances, however, the retention of a DUI lawyer becomes all the more critical. You need an advocate ensuring that legal authorities do not deny your rights and that you do not inadvertently waive them.

DUI Defense Strategies

DUI attorneys review prosecution documents to find the weakest parts of the case. They devise their strategies accordingly. The defense constructed typically argues either that due process was denied or that the evidence based on DUI tests is invalid. Sometimes lawyers plead for leniency by presenting unusual circumstances surrounding the case and appealing to reason.

A good attorney will leave no stone unturned in building his defense.

For instance, if you are female, the lawyer might be able to demonstrate that a sobriety test was administered unfairly or that breath test results for women are notably unreliable. If you have a certain medical condition, he or she could successfully argue that the state interfered with and hence invalidated blood test samples. These kinds of situations prove attorney mettle.

Defense strategies can also be tailored to the particular jurisdiction in which the arrest was made. The DUI law is statewide, but the prosecution of it is handled at the local (county) level and subject to individual variation.