Your West Palm Beach DUI Case: The Basics
Who doesn't like a good time? When you're in West Palm Beach, good times happen, but the trick is to not get too carried away. Many locals and visitors have found themselves down on Clematis Street enjoying the music, lively crowds, and specialty drinks. And many have later made the unfortunate mistake of getting behind the wheel. If you're arrested in Orchid City for driving under the influence (DUI), it's important to know that you could be facing a serious offense, but you can still have peace of mind. FindLaw offers this guide to DUI law in West Palm so that you can get the information and help that you need. Before too long, hopefully, you can get back to having those good times.
A DUI Defined
Driving Under the Influence, or DUI, includes any situation in which a driver operates a vehicle and while under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. The state can prove its case by describing or showing a driver's impairment or with a chemical test showing a blood alcohol level ("BAL") above 0.08%. Prosecutors can even use your refusal to take a test as evidence against you.
Booking, Bond, and Release
Upon arrest, offices usually take suspected drunk drivers to the Main Detention Center. Most DUI offenders, particularly upon the first offense, will be eligible for release on bond. In any event, a person will not be released until he/she is no longer under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This means that either an arrested person's blood alcohol level must be below 0.05%, or that eight hours have passed from the time of arrest.
If you fail a sobriety/drug test, a law enforcement officer will confiscate your driver license and give you a 10-day driving permit. At that point, it is up to you whether you'd like either an informal review, a formal review, or no review at all concerning your Administrative Suspension. With an informal review, both you and the police officer will submit materials/evidence for a hearing officer's consideration. You will not be required to appear at a hearing. With a formal review, you must appear. The hearing officer can require testimony under oath about the circumstances of the traffic stop and the failed or refused test.
Visit the Lantana Service Center or call (561) 540-1191 to request a review. You must make your request within ten days of receiving notice of your suspension, which is usually the date of the traffic stop.
A DUI offense is a misdemeanor for first and second convictions. If you're convicted, you'll face a range of possible criminal penalties. You can expect to pay a fine of between $500 and $1,000 for a first conviction. As you'd expect, the minimum and maximum fines increase for repeat offenders. You can also expect a maximum of six months in jail for a first conviction. Unlike other states, the law doesn't provide for a minimum sentence, so you may end up with an alternative to incarceration. The alternatives include probation and a residential rehab assignment. A third or subsequent DUI offense is a felony. See the state's Highway and Motor Vehicles website for an easy-to-understand rundown of the possible consequences.
If you are convicted of a DUI offense, you will also have to serve a term of probation. First time offenders will serve a maximum of one year, but they must also perform a minimum of 50 hours of community service. The probation terms become more demanding with later convictions.
Substance Abuse Education and Treatment
Before the Sunshine State will re-license you to drive, you will have to complete a DUI educational program as a part of your probation. The programs come in two levels -- Level I (12+ hours) for first-time offenders and Level II (21+ hours) for everyone else. WPB has two organizations that offer DUI educational programs: (1) Metro Traffic School Palm Beach; and (2) Pride Integrated Services.
The program may also refer drivers to a separate substance abuse treatment program, in which case, that program must also be completed as a condition of probation. All fees, whether for the educational program or the treatment program, are to be paid by the offending driver.
The State of Florida allows an individual to reinstate his/her license by way of a "Hardship License" that allows him/her to drive to work, school, church, and medical treatments. The process for getting a hardship license varies slightly depending on whether your license is currently suspended due to a DUI conviction or for refusing a sobriety test. After your license is suspended for DUI, you must serve the first 30 days of your suspension before you may apply for a hardship license. If your license was suspended for refusing a test, you must serve the first 90 days of your suspension. In either case, you will have to pay multiple fees and pass the driver license examination.
Some drivers will also be required to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program ("IIP"). Generally, the court has discretion in whether to order the use of such a device. A first-time offender may not be required participate. If, however, the driver's blood alcohol level was significantly higher than the legal limit, or there was a minor in the car, IIP will be required for at least six months. For subsequent convictions, the minimum IIP time will increase to 1 year, 2 years, and 5 years. The state answers many common questions about the IIP on its Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles page.