Your old college buddy was having his paintings shown at The Falcon Bar, so you and the gang headed down to take a look. They had a great DJ and the pints of cider were going down very smoothly. A little too smoothly you realized after the 4th one. You did feel a little tipsy, but had told your wife it would be an early night, so you stumbled out to your car and started heading down East Washington. You were trying to drive very carefully, but this apparently caught the attention of the local law enforcement because the next thing you knew you were being pulled over and charged with Driving Under the Influence ("DUI"). What do you do now? What happens next? Here is some basic information to help you with your DUI in The City Beautiful.
The Legal Limit
In Orlando and the rest of Florida, if you are driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle and you are either under the influence of alcohol or other substances to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired or you have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more, you are guilty of the offense of driving under the influence.
The precise penalties depend on a variety of factors, but even for a basic first time offense in which no one is injured, and your blood alcohol content was under 0.15, you could be looking at criminal and administrative penalties including a fine of between $500-$1000, 50 hours of community service, imprisonment up to 6 months, probation up to one year, impoundment of your vehicle up to 10 days, and driver license revocation from 180 days to 1 year. See this summary by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for more information.
The Traffic Stop and Arrest
You will likely be dealing with either the Orlando Police Department or the Florida Highway Patrol. After you are pulled over, the officer will probably ask you to participate in Field Sobriety Tests. These are often 3 part tests in which you are asked to do things like stand on one leg, walk a straight line, and follow an object with your eyes. The officer will be observing you during these tests to determine whether you are impaired. You can refuse to take these tests, but if the officer can still arrest you if he has probable cause to do so.
If you are arrested, you will likely be asked to submit to a chemical or physical test to measure the alcohol in your breath, blood or urine. You can refuse this test as well, but there are consequences for doing so. By driving in Florida you have already given your implied consent to submit to such a test if you are lawfully arrested. The officer should tell you before any such testing that if you refuse your driving privileges will be suspended for between 1 year and 18 months and that you are committing a misdemeanor. The fact that you refused is admissible into evidence in any criminal proceeding.
When Can I Go Home?
After arrest, you will generally be taken to the police station or jail for "booking." This is the process by which you are officially entered into the system, fingerprinted, and photographed. You may also have to post bail (provide money that serves as a guarantee that you will return to court) or you may be released simply by signing a paper that promises you will so return (own recognizance release).
In Orlando and the rest of Florida, there is one more step before you can go home. You will not be released until either: 1) you are no longer under the influence to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired, 2) you have a blood or breath alcohol content of less than 0.05%, or 3) 8 hours have passed since you were arrested.
What Happens Next?
With respect to the criminal proceedings, your first court appearance will likely be the arraignment. Usually at this hearing, the charges against you are read, you are asked to enter your plea and whether you need the assistance of an attorney, and you are advised of future court dates. If you plead guilty, you will proceed to sentencing. If you plead not guilty, you might resolve the matter by plea bargain or may proceed all the way to trial.
With respect to the administrative proceedings, if, after arrest, you fail (register 0.08 or higher) or refuse the chemical test, the officer will confiscate your driver's license and issue a notice of suspension and a 10 day temporary permit. You may request a review of this suspension with the within 10 days or you may waive your right to such review and instead immediately apply for a restricted driver's privilege.
Need An Attorney?
DUI cases can be very confusing and a conviction can have far reaching implications. For this, among a variety of reasons, you may wish to consult with a DUI lawyer. If you cannot afford an attorney, check with the public defender's office to see whether they may be able to assist.
Contact a qualified attorney.