DUI Top 10 FAQ in Palm Beach County, Florida

This guide provides general answers to frequently asked questions regarding Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Palm Beach County, Florida.
1 What is DUI or Driving Under the Influence?
Driving Under the Influence, or DUI, is a criminal charge in Florida when a person is in actual, physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the extent their normal faculties (ability to walk, talk, see, hear, etc.) are impaired, or with a blood or breath alcohol content of more than .08.

2 What are Field Sobriety Exercises?
Field Sobriety Exercises, or FSEs, are tasks designed to measure a person’s coordination, balance, and mental awareness. The roadside tasks are administered by law enforcement officers, in many cases an officer who is a member of a DUI Task Force, after a traffic stop (or at a DUI checkpoint) when the officers have reasonable suspicion that the driver of the vehicle is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They usually consist of HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – where an officer will ask you to follow a pen with your eyes), Walk and Turn (walk nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line, turn around, and walk back), One Leg Stand (stand on one leg, lift the other leg approximately six inches off of the ground while keeping arms down at the side, and count to thirty), and Finger to Nose (extend the arms one at a time to touch the tip of the nose with the tip of the finger).

3 Do I have to perform Field Sobriety Exercises?
Field sobriety exercises are voluntary. An officer’s request for a person to perform these exercises is his attempt to either dispel his belief that the suspect is under the influence, or to gain additional evidence in support of his belief that the driver should be placed under arrest. Typically, officers are recording these exercises with the dash camera in their police vehicles, and the resulting video evidence can be used in court. This is why it is important for people to know that a person who is requested to perform field sobriety tasks does not have to perform them. There are many reasons that a person could perform poorly on the exercises, even if that person is not under the influence.

4 Do I have to take a Breath Test?
Florida’s implied consent laws provide that refusal to submit to a breath test can result in a 1 year drivers license suspension, or more, and the refusal to provide a breath sample can be used in a DUI trial as evidence of guilt. So while you can refuse to take a breath test, such a refusal will not be without consequences.

5 The police officer didn’t read me my rights – does my case get dropped?
Unfortunately, it is not that easy. In Florida, an officer usually does not have to read your Miranda rights unless he is interrogating you, or unless you were involved in a car accident and his traffic investigation turns into a DUI investigation. This is why it is important for you to know your rights – including your right to remain silent.

6 What is the 10 Day Rule?
When you are arrested for Driving Under the Influence in Florida, your DUI citation will act as a 10 day temporary driving permit. During that time, you have the option to request a Formal Review Hearing and challenge the administrative suspension of your license in front of a DMV hearing officer, or you can waive that right and immediately receive a hardship permit (also called a Business Purposes Only permit) which will let you drive for limited purposes (such as going to school or work). You have to make this decision within 10 days.
7 What is a Formal Review Hearing?
A Formal Review Hearing is separate and distinct from the criminal DUI case. The purpose of a Formal Review Hearing is for a hearing officer, who works for the DMV, to make a determination as to whether the person’s civil license suspension should be sustained, amended or invalidated based upon the evidence presented. During the Formal Review Hearing, the hearing officer will determine 1) Whether the police officer had probable cause to believe that the driver was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle in this state while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or chemical or controlled substances and 2) Whether the driver had an unlawful blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level of .08 or higher. The hearing officer will determine this by a “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that if the hearing officer finds it is more likely than not that the driver was under the influence or had a BAC of .08 or higher, the driver’s license suspension will stay in effect. The police officer will typically testify during the hearing, and the police report will usually be introduced into evidence. All of which the driver is entitled to see. Formal Review Hearings give the driver an opportunity to not only fight the civil license suspension, but also to obtain testimony from the police officers involved in the arrest.
8 What are the Penalties for a 1st time DUI
The penalties for a first time DUI arrest depend on the specific circumstances of the incident. In general, for a run of the mill DUI where there were no enhancing factors (no accident, no children in the car, blood or breath alcohol content under 1.5, etc.), a person will be facing fines ranging from $500.00 up to $2,000.00, 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 .

9 Is there a Diversion Program for 1st Time DUI arrests in Palm Beach County, Florida?
Yes; in 2013 the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office established a diversion program for people who are facing their first DUI arrests. 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. 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. It is important to know that there are 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.

10 Why Hire a DUI Lawyer in Palm Beach County?
A DUI Lawyer in can review your Palm Beach County DUI case and look for mistakes that were made by the officers, challenge breath test results, file motions to suppress if needed, contest your DUI charges, and negotiate with the State on your behalf or go to trial. 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 and help you find the best possible resolution to your specific case.

 

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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DUI Defense

DUI charges that involve a breathalyzer result over the legal limit often seem difficult, if not impossible, to beat. However, an experienced DUI defense attorney will know that there are certain things to look for that could possible lead to the suppression of the test. If the breathalyzer is suppressed, it is often much more difficult for the State to go forward with their charges.

One possible defense is that the “20 minute observation period” was not properly followed. What is the 20 Minute Observation Period? In a Florida DUI case, when a person is requested to provide a breath sample using the breath machine called the Intoxilyzer 8000, there are certain rules that the police officers must follow in order for the breath sample to be valid. One of the requirements is what is known as a 20 Minute Observation Period. For a period of 20 minutes, the breath test operator must continuously observe the person giving the breath sample. This observation period is mandated by Rule 11B-8.007(3) of the Florida Administrative Code in order to ensure that person giving the breath sample has not taken anything by mouth, has not regurgitated for at least 20 minutes before administering a breath test, and to allow for any alcohol remaining in the mouth to disappear. Without waiting for 20 minutes, the breath test may be invalid due to alcohol in the mouth, instead of the breath, showing up on the test.

There was recently a case in Florida where the breath test operator only observed the defendant for 17 minutes instead of the full 20 minutes. The defense filed a motion to suppress the results, arguing that 17 minutes was not sufficient to be in strict compliance with the requirements – and the trial court agreed.

There have been many cases similar to that – including one where the Defendant was observed for 18 minutes and 23 seconds – where the court threw out the results.

A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will know how to read the breath results and what to look for to see whether the test was in compliance or not. A test that was not administered in accordance with the rules may be deemed inadmissible.

Anyone who is facing DUI charges in Florida, including Palm Beach County, 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 associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Anxiety and DUI Arrests in Florida

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One of the most common observations made by officers during a DUI stop is that the driver was weaving in his or her lane.

However, when officers make this observation, they are often following behind a driver. The “normal” response for a driver who is being followed by a police officer is to become nervous and anxious. Even people who have done nothing wrong find themselves double checking their mirrors and slowing down when they become aware that a marked police vehicle is behind them. The longer the officer follows, the more nervous a person typically becomes; the more nervous a person grows, the more that person checks his mirror, taking his eyes of the road, and drifting in his lane.

Undoubtedly, the result is weaving, drifting, and attempts at correction, which can create the appearance that the driver is under the influence of alcohol. Meanwhile, the police officer has most likely been recording the entire incident on his in-car camera, capturing what he believes to be evidence of a drunk driver to present in court later.

A police officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop a driver for a DUI investigation. Interestingly, in the scenario above, the police officer’s own act of driving behind the vehicle has caused driver’s actions, which then give the police officer reasonable suspicion to believe that a DUI is being committed. After all, erratic actions, weaving within a lane, and varying speeds are actual indicators that someone is under the influence.

If a driver has been pulled over, now it is typical for the driver to become even more nervous. A person who has just been followed by a police officer, who has been exposed to the flashing lights and sirens, and who has been approached by an officer in full uniform may start sweating, stuttering, and appear flushed due to an increased heart rate. The person may fumble with his or her wallet when asked to present a driver’s license and proof of insurance. On top of this, the investigating officer likely already believes that driver is under the influence based on his or her driving pattern. So now, the officer notes bloodshot eyes as an indicator of impairment, when they could have simply been dry from the air conditioner, or tired from driving. If the person has had a drink, the “evidence” keeps piling on. Now there is an “odor of alcoholic beverage” on the driver’s breath, and an admission that the person was drinking if he responds to the police officer’s question of “have you been drinking tonight” with “I only had two drinks a couple of hours ago!”

At this point, the officer will typically ask a person to exit the vehicle and perform field sobriety exercises. A driver who does not know the exercises are voluntary may perform the exercises, perform poorly (maybe the driver naturally has poor balance, or an injury, combined with being anxious), and ultimately be placed under arrest for driving under the influence without even the results of a breathalyzer. If the person refuses to submit to a breath test, that refusal will be used as additional evidence against the person, and in a trial, the prosecutor will be able to argue that the driver refused the breath test because he “knew” the results would be above the limit (even if that wasn’t the reason for refusal).

Obviously, not all DUI arrests are a result of an encounter between a nervous person and an overzealous police officer. However, many of the standard “indicators of impairment” can be created in the scenario described above and cause the arrest of a person who was not actually under the influence to the extent his or her normal faculties were impaired.

There are many defenses to a DUI charge, and anyone who is facing a DUI in Palm Beach County should contact a Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss his or her potential defenses.

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.

DUI Permanent License Revocation

A Broward DUI case (Calabrese v. State) was published this week wherein a permanent license revocation was affirmed by the Broward Circuit Court.

In the case, the defendant was arrested for DUI after she drove through an area that had been roped off by police for an unrelated criminal investigation. The defendant declined to perform field sobriety exercises, but agreed to submit to a breath test and blew a .089. The defendant was found guilty by a jury at trial. The court found that this was the defendant’s third DUI within 10 years. As a result, she was ultimately sentenced to 364 days in Broward County Jail, which was to be lowered to 180 days upon completion of the SAP program (the Substance Abuse and Life Skills Program which provides treatment services to inmates in Broward County’s Jail), along with other standard DUI penalties (such as community service, fines, etc.) and a lifetime driver’s license revocation. 

The defendant appealed the lifetime driver’s license revocation, arguing that it was improper for the court to order because Florida Statute 322.28(2)(a) only requires a 10 year minimum license suspension for a third DUI conviction within 10 years. However, the circuit court disagreed and found that because there was no maximum sentence limit within the statute, the trial judge was within his discretion to issue a lifetime driver’s license revocation.

DUIs in Florida have serious consequences, as seen in this case. Anyone who is facing DUI charges in Florida should contact a criminal defense lawyer to discuss the possible penalties of a DUI conviction and determine the best defense route to attempt to mitigate those 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.

Breathalyzers

When a person is arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Palm Beach County, Florida, a police officer will request that person submit to a breath alcohol test in most scenarios. While a person may refuse to take a breath test, Florida’s implied consent laws provide that refusal to submit to a breath test can result in a 1 year drivers license suspension, or more, and the refusal to provide a breath sample can be used in a DUI trial as evidence of guilt.

A person who is arrested for DUI in Palm Beach County will typically take a breath test at the BAT (or Breath Alcohol Testing Facility) located at the “Gun Club” Main Detention Center. Prior to administering the test, an officer will wait 20 minutes and observe the arrestee to ensure that the person does not put anything into his or her mouth, regurgitate, vomit, or belch, as these actions can influence the test result. Once the 20 minute “observation period” is over, the officer will ask the arrestee to blow into the machine (Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office currently uses the Intoxilyzer 8000) for a certain length of time and then tell the person to stop. If the test-taker does not blow hard enough into the machine, or does not provide enough air, the machine could read an error, requiring an additional attempt. If an officer believes that the person is purposefully not providing enough air in an attempt to trick the Breath Test, the officer could count that as a refusal and end the test.

A breathalyzer measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath, and converts that into a Breath Alcohol Level, or BAL, also referred to as a Breath Alcohol Content (BAC). A .08% BAL/BAC is equal to .08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

Pursuant to Florida Statute 316.1934, there is a presumption in the State of Florida that a person who has a breath or blood alcohol content of .08 or above is under the influence of alcohol to the extent his or her normal faculties were impaired. There is no presumption one way or the other for a person whose BAC is between .05 and .08. When a person has a BAC of .05 or less, it is presumed that the person was not under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired. 

DUI cases with breath test results are commonly prosecuted in Palm Beach because they provide scientific evidence to present to a jury of the driver’s level of impairment. However, breathalyzers can be inaccurate and have been challenged by Criminal Defense Attorneys throughout the State of Florida, including Palm Beach County. There are several things that could affect the reliability of the test results, including but not limited to: improper machine calibration, irregular temperature outside of the machine, irregular temperature of the test-taker’s body, if the test-taker is diabetic, if the test-taker holds his or her breath, chewing gum, vomiting, regurgitation, burping, acid reflux, use of mouth wash, inhalers, alcohol held in a persons mouth by dentures, or even cold sores.

A Palm Beach Criminal Defense attorney can also review data regarding a specific breathalyzer machine from FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) to examine the history of the machine’s diagnostic reports and look for past problems with the machine and the history of maintenance. FDLE has strict protocol for the testing and maintenance of Florida’s breath testing machines and provides the information to the public.

Anyone who is facing DUI charges where breathalyzers are involved in Palm Beach County should consult with a Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss their options. There may be defenses to the charges, methods of challenging the reliability of the breath results, or available diversionary programs.

Florida DUI BAC Presumptions

 

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.