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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Marijuana Muffin Arrest

In recent news, two roommates were arrested in Florida after an anonymous tip from Crime Stoppers led police to their apartment. When detectives arrived, they could allegedly smell a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the apartment. Based upon that, the detectives were able to detain the roommates and obtain a search warrant for the apartment. While searching the apartment, the police allegedly found pot muffins, batter, a marijuana plant, and loose marijuana,  in addition to a grinder and marijuana smoking devices (presumably bongs or pipes). The roommates were arrested and charged, among other things, with possession of marijuana under 20 grams violation of Florida Statute 893.13, and possession of drug paraphernalia in violation of Florida Statute 893.145.

As rehashed (no pun intended) in my prior blogs on the issue of marijuana laws in Florida (found HERE and HERE), Florida has NOT legalized recreational marijuana use. Possession of Marijuana and Drug Paraphernalia charges are actively being prosecuted in Palm Beach County and throughout Florida. Even the new Florida Marijuana law called the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act,” or “Charlotte’s Web,” (which legalizes medical prescribed cannabis oil for very limited and severe medical issues), does NOT legalize edible cannabis products, such as pot cookies, weed brownies, marijuana muffins, or cannabis candy. Possession of marijuana, regardless of the form, in an amount of 20 grams or less can be charged as misdemeanor, with penalties of up to one year in county jail, fines, and a driver’s license suspension. Possession of drug paraphernalia (including, but not limited to: grinders, scales, and pipes) is also still a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

One last note of importance: the odor of marijuana coming from someone’s doorway is enough evidence for police to obtain a search warrant, as seen in this case. Further, the police are lawfully allowed to detain a person until the search warrant is executed in order to prevent that person from destroying the potential evidence inside the home.

Marijuana charges are serious in Florida, regardless of whether the marijuana was baked in a muffin or was still a plant. Anyone who finds themselves facing marijuana charges should contact a knowledgeable Criminal Defense attorney.

 

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 Marijuana Laws

There has been a lot of confusion in the general public regarding Florida’s marijuana laws in light of the new “Charlotte’s Web” legislation. The State of Florida has recently legalized the very limited use of medical marijuana, which must be prescribed by a doctor and must only be in the form of cannabis oil. Additionally, there is an amendment pending on Florida’s November ballot, Amendment 2, would allow for much broader medical use of marijuana. However, recreational possession and use of marijuana is still illegal in the State of Florida.

As discussed in my prior article, Marijuana in Florida, the new Florida Medical Marijuana law does not authorize the private use or growing of marijuana.  The State of Florida, including the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, is still heavily prosecuting marijuana crimes. Smoking marijuana and possession of marijuana are still considered  first degree misdemeanors in the State of Florida under Florida Statute 893.13 and are punishable by up to 1 year in county jail if the possession was under 20 grams. Further, a conviction for marijuana possession will result in a 1-year driver’s license suspension. Possession of drug paraphernalia is also a first degree misdemeanor in the State of Florida, punishable by up to one year in county jail. That means that possession of water pipes, bongs, roach clips, and other objects used for ingesting or inhaling cannabis, hashish, and hashish oil is illegal. Florida Statute 893.145 provides the full list of unlawful drug paraphernalia.

Marijuana charges are serious, and can have severe consequences in the State of Florida. If you are facing marijuana charges, contact a knowledgeable attorney who can review your case and help guide you through the system.

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.