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Your Miami DUI Case: The Basics

You had been looking forward to Sunday brunch at The Federal with your girlfriends all week. The chicken and waffles weren't on your diet, but they looked too good to resist. The bottomless mimosas weren't exactly planned either, and you might have overindulged just a little. Fantasizing about an afternoon nap, you left the restaurant and started driving North on Biscayne Boulevard. Suddenly there was a police car behind you. The next thing you know, the officer is asking you whether you've had anything to drink. Now you've been charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). What do you do? What's going to happen? Here is some information to help you with your Miami DUI.

The Law in Florida

Florida law states that if you are driving or in "actual physical control of a vehicle" and you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs to an extent that your "normal faculties" are impaired or you have a blood or breath alcohol level of 0.08 or more, you are guilty of the offense of driving under the influence.

There are administrative and criminal consequences for Driving Under the Influence in Miami. How severe the penalties are depends on many factors, including the number of previous convictions, whether you were involved in an accident causing damage or injury, how much alcohol was in your system, and whether a minor was in the car with you. For more specific information, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has prepared this summary of DUI penalties and laws. As outlined, even a simple first offense can lead to a fine between $500 and $1000, up to 6 months imprisonment, probation, completion of a substance abuse course, community service, impoundment of the vehicle, and suspension or revocation of your driver's license.

Dealing With the Authorities

The first people you likely encounter in your DUI case in Miami are the officers who pull you over -- usually from the Miami Police Department or the Florida Highway Patrol. If there is probable cause you will likely be arrested and then asked to take a chemical test measuring the alcohol in your breath, urine or blood. Florida is an "informed consent" state, which means that by driving you are deemed to have consented to such testing. Depending on the circumstances, refusal to take the test can be considered a misdemeanor, is admissible into evidence in any criminal proceeding and can result in suspension of your driver's license.

After you are arrested, you will generally not be let go until you "sober up." Specifically, Florida law provides that you may not be released from custody until one of the following events has occurred:

  • You are no longer under the influence and affected to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired,
  • Your blood alcohol or breath alcohol is less than 0.05%, or
  • 8 hours have elapsed from the time you were arrested

The officer may release you on your "own recognizance" or you may be required to post "bail."

Criminal Proceedings

Your first court appearance will likely be the arraignment, when the criminal charges against you are read and you enter your plea (guilty, not guilty, no contest). If you proceed to trial with your case, you or your attorney may present pre-trial motions in an attempt to limit or restrict evidence or witness testimony.

Administrative Proceedings/Restricted License

Generally, when you are arrested for a DUI in Miami the officer will take your driver's license, provide you with a notice of suspension and a 10 day temporary permit. Within those 10 days you can request an administrative hearing on the suspension.

Under a law effective July 1, 2013, you may elect to waive your administrative hearing and apply right away for a restricted driver's license. If you are eligible you can be granted a license for business purposes only. A business purpose license allows driving "necessary to maintain livelihood, including driving to and from work, necessary on-the-job driving, driving for educational purposes, and driving for church and for medical purposes."

Should You Get A Lawyer?

A DUI conviction can impact your job, your family and your social life. A skilled lawyer can help present your best case and minimize or avoid the associated penalties. It is recommended that you hire a DUI attorney to help guide you through the process. If you cannot afford one, you may be able to secure representation through the Miami Dade Public Defender's office.

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