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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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.

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.

What Happens After A Person Is Arrested in Florida?

This educational guide provides a general summary of the basic legal process in a Florida criminal matter, and follows closely along with the infographic below.

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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.

What to Expect During Jury Selection

Many people are curious as to what they should expect when participating in jury selection – either as a potential juror or as a party in a trial. The following is a brief explanation of the Jury Selection process in Palm Beach County, Florida:

Jury Selection (2) - Copy

When jury selection begins, the presiding judge will typically begin with a lengthy explanation of the legal process. Then, the judge will usually have the jury pool (or, the potential jurors) read aloud and answer pre-printed questionnaires created by the judge. These questionnaires have generic questions, such as marital status, employment, prior jury service, prior involvement in law suits, and other similar types of questions to allow the State and Defense to learn the background of the jurors. Once the jury has finished answering these questions, then the State and Defense will begin asking their own questions, with the State presenting first.

As a criminal defense attorney, the way I choose which questions I am going to ask a jury really depends on the facts of the case and the charge my client is facing. My jury questioning (or “voir dire”) usually begins with an “ice breaker” and an introduction of the jury to the criminal process in general, which will vary depending upon the thoroughness of the Judge’s and the State’s explanations. I want to make sure the jury understands its job, and I want to make sure they understand I am looking for jurors who will be fair. I have a few standard questions that I like to ask, such as “what are your thoughts about police officers” or “have you ever been a victim of a crime” to get an idea of how these jurors view the criminal justice system. I want to know if there are jurors who love police officers and will believe them no matter what the facts are, just as the State wants to know if there are jurors who hate police officers. Then, I will ask specific questions based on what I think are the important issues in the particular case that is there for trial. For example, if my case involves a witness who has been convicted of a crime before, I want to find out if there are jurors who are going to discredit his testimony based solely on that fact. Or, if I have a case that involves a scientific process, such as a breath testing machine in a DUI case, I want to ask questions about who will blindly trust the science, and who will question it and make his or her own determination based upon the evidence presented.

Jury selection is sometimes jokingly referred to as “jury deselection,” because the goal truly is, not to eliminate jurors, but to eliminate bias against issues in your particular case. If there are jurors that have given answers that appear biased one way or another, criminal law attorneys will follow up with those jurors specifically to ferret out the impartiality. If a juror is wavering on an important issue, criminal law attorneys will ask follow up questions to determine that particular juror’s true feelings, and ultimately determine whether that person can be fair and impartial at the end of the day, or if that person should be dismissed from the jury. Judges often inform jurors that there is “no wrong answer,” and that is entirely correct – everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, and are encouraged to express them during jury selection. Not being selected as a juror is not an insult; it simply means that the particular potential juror did not fit the issues on the case. Everyone involved in a trial, State and Defense alike, is entitled to a fair trial with impartial jurors who will be able to follow the law.

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.