Palm Beach County DUI First Time Offenders

DUIFIRSTARRESTA common scenario in the criminal defense world is the case of the first time offender, who has never been arrested before, and who is facing DUI charges. This person is understandably scared of the process. The first question they ask is almost always: “This is my first arrest . . . isn’t there some kind of program I can sign up for?”

In the past, in Palm Beach County the answer to that question was unfortunately “No” for someone who was arrested for DUI. Palm Beach County first arrest DUIs would have to be fought in the normal way: taking depositions, filing motions to suppress evidence, going to trial, or accepting a plea offer.

Now, however, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office has created a Palm Beach County DUI First Time Offender Program.

The Palm Beach County DUI First Time Offender Program began on June 1, 2013. While the requirements of the program are mostly tougher than the penalties for a first-time DUI conviction, signing up for and completing the program is worth the tough requirements for most people.

A DUI conviction for a first-time DUI offender who does not participate in the Palm Beach County DUI First Time Offender Program can include: fines ranging from $500.00 up to $2,000.00 (the exact fine depends on the levels of impairment and other circumstances), a minimum of six months driver’s license suspension, possible jail time, 10-day vehicle immobilization, at least 50 hours of community service, up to one year of probation, attendance at DUI school, and attendance at a Victim Impact Panel, in addition to higher insurance rates and a criminal conviction on your record.

A person who is arrested for a DUI for the first time who does participate in the Palm Beach County DUI First Time Offender Program, which is a diversion program, can expect the following: the DUI charged will be dropped, you will instead plead guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving, and then you will be placed on probation for 12 months, during which time you agree not to have alcohol or drugs, to immobilize your car for 10 days, to pay for an alcohol monitoring device (ignition interlock that is installed in your car, SCRAM – Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor – ankle bracelet monitor, or Visual alcohol monitoring device) for three to six months (the time period depends on the level of impairment), to pay a fine from $250.00 to $500.00 (depending on the level of impairment), to perform 50 or 75 community service hours (depending on the level of impairment), DUI school, substance abuse evaluation, and Victim Impact Panel class.

A lot of the requirements may sound the same. The biggest difference, aside from getting the DUI charge dropped, is that with the Palm Beach County DUI First Time Offender Program, you will be responsible to pay for your own alcohol monitoring device, which can get expensive. The ignition interlock costs nearly $100 to install and then over $70 a month to monitor; a SCRAM Monitor costs $100 to install and then a daily payment of over $10.00; the Visual Alcohol breath test monitor costs $50 to start then a daily payment of about $6.00. Each device has its own pros and cons, which a Palm Beach County DUI lawyer can help you weigh. But, with the chance at having a DUI charged dropped, the cost may be worth it to a lot of first offenders.

Not everyone is eligible for the program: if you were in a DUI crash, or you were arrested for DUI with a minor child or animal in your car, the Palm Beach County prosecutors will not let you enroll in the Palm Beach County DUI First Time Offender Program.

Also, anyone who is not dedicated to completing the program faces severe consequences for failing, which can include a reinstatement of your DUI charge and conviction, and 90 days in Palm Beach County Jail. The program is not for everyone – you need to be extremely disciplined to pass the program.

If you have been arrested for DUI in Palm Beach County, Florida, and are considering the DUI program, you need to act fast – if you want to enter the program, you have to do so at Arraignment. A knowledgeable DUI defense attorney in Palm Beach County will help you review your case and decide whether you should enter the  Palm Beach County DUI First Time Offender Program.

Anyone who is facing DUI charges in in Palm Beach County, Florida, whether it is the first time DUI charge or a second DUI charge or more, should contact a criminal defense attorney experienced in Driving Under the Influence charges to review the case for any possible defenses.

Casey Reiter is an attorney at Greenspoon Marder Law in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense, Family Law, and Appellate Law.

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Florida Death Penalty – House Bill 139

An important piece of Death Penalty legislation is being considered in Florida: House Bill 139.

This proposed legislation would require a unanimous jury vote to recommend a death sentence. Currently, a jury can recommend the death penalty in Florida by a vote of 7-5 (it is important to note that the Judge is the ultimate decision-maker who can choose to override the jury’s recommendation). The proposal would also require the judge to instruct jury that, in order for jury to recommend to court that death penalty be imposed, the jury must find that sufficient aggravating circumstances exist which outweigh any mitigating circumstances; that each aggravating circumstance must be proven beyond reasonable doubt by unanimous vote; and that the judge shall provide a special verdict form for each aggravating circumstance.

It would seem that this legislation is a long time coming. Of the 32 States that impose death penalty sentences, Florida is only 1 of 2 states in the union that does not require a unanimous decision (Alabama requires a 10-2 supermajority). Compare that to the fact that a unanimous jury verdict is required to convict a defendant of a misdemeanor offense, which carries with it a max punishment of only up to one year in jail. An interesting contradiction, to say the least.

For ease of reference, the specific language of the bill proposes:

Effective for an offense committed on or after July 1, 2015, an advisory sentence of death may be made only by a unanimous recommendation of the jury. The court shall instruct the jury that, in order for the jury to recommend to the court that the death penalty be imposed, the jury must find that sufficient aggravating circumstances exist which outweigh any mitigating circumstances found to exist. The court shall further instruct the jury that each aggravating circumstance used to support the jury’s recommendation of death must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and be made by a unanimous vote. The court shall provide a special verdict form for each aggravating circumstance found.

The full text of the proposed bill can be found here: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2015/0139/BillText/Filed/PDF

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Family law.

Miranda Warnings – Infographic

We see police officers give Miranda Warnings to people they are arresting on television all the time, but what are they really?

Miranda Rights were developed after the landmark Supreme Court Case of Miranda v. Arizona in 1966. In that case, the defendant, Miranda, was arrested for kidnapping and rape. After being interrogated for two hours by police officers without being advised of his rights, Miranda signed a confession. Miranda’s lawyer argued that the confession was not voluntary as a result, and should have been excluded as evidence from the trial. The US Supreme Court ultimately agreed, and found that the defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer had been violated. Interestingly, Miranda was later retried and convicted.

In its ruling, the US Supreme Court stated that prior to interrogation, a person who is in custody must be clearly informed that he/she has (1) the right to remain silent, (2) that anything he/she says can and will be used against him/her in a court of law, (3) that he/she has the right to consult with an attorney prior to and during any questioning, and (4) that if he/she cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for him/her at no cost. 

Subsequent to the Miranda decision, it became necessary for police officers to “Mirandize,” or read a person’s Miranda Rights to them, prior to an interrogation. Although we commonly see police officers reading Miranda Rights on tv, it is not always necessary for them to do so. There are only certain, limited scenarios in which an officer has to warn a person of his/her rights, specifically: when that person is in custody and being interrogated. Many people believe that their criminal charges can be “thrown out” because an officer didn’t read Miranda. However, if a person voluntarily answered questions during a consensual encounter with police officers (for example, an officer walked up to the person on the street and asked them what they were doing), those answers can be used against them later. A person who is arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail does not have to have their rights read to them unless the officer begins asking that person questions. If the arrested person starts talking on his/her own in the back of the police car, without being asked questions, all of those statements can be used against the arrestee. Further, suspects who are informed they are free to leave and not under arrest do not have to be Mirandized, and any confession that person gives can usually be used in court. Finally, even if a person has been read Miranda Rights, that person can still waive those rights and have any subsequent confession used against them.

A person who IS placed under arrest and interrogated without being read Miranda Rights may be able to have his/her statements suppressed (or thrown out). However, that does not mean the case has to be or will be dismissed. Anyone who has questions regarding their particular case, or Miranda rights in general, should contact a criminal defense attorney.

The infographic below provides a colorful layout of Miranda Rights as they are typically read.

Miranda Warnings

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Florida – 1st DUI Offense Penalties

Many people are curious about the potential penalties for a First DUI Arrest in Palm Beach County, Florida. The following infographic lists the possible punishment in the case of a 1st DUI conviction, including enhanced 1st DUIs.

Florida DUI Penalties

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Criminal Process in Florida – Infographic

Anyone wondering the basics of the criminal process in Florida might find this infographic helpful!

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While the graphic above explains the basics of the Florida Criminal Process, anyone who is arrested and facing charges should contact a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney  who can review the particular case and provide a detailed explanation of the specific process relating to that case.

 

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.