DUI Defense Lawyer
Serving St. Petersburg & the Surrounding Areas
DUI cases are often times much more complex than you may think. In most, there are two proceedings that a person needs to be aware of: an administrative proceeding, and a criminal proceeding. The administrative case proceeds through the Department of Motor Vehicles (not the court system) and involves the suspension of a person's driver's license (potentially) for a set period of time. For most people, the loss of their privilege to drive is of paramount concern, as the implications can be profound: the inability to drive can mean the inability to work, to grocery shop, to transport children to and from school or day care, or to attend doctor's appointments. The loss of your privilege to drive, for any period of time can be crippling.
You should know that the Department of Motor Vehicles (in the administrative proceeding), unlike the presiding judge (in the criminal proceeding), does not have the authority to do anything except suspend your privilege to drive (potentially): the DMV cannot adjudicate you guilty of a crime, cannot impose a fine, cannot place you on probation, and cannot sentence you to jail. As a St. Petersburg DUI attorney, I frequently receive calls from people who have just been arrested for a DUI somewhere in the Tampa Bay area. Most are vaguely aware of the "10-day rule" and are completely in the dark about what, if anything, can be done to avoid the administrative suspension or, in the alternative, obtain some sort of "hardship" or "restricted" driver's license. The "administrative suspension" subsection herein provides you with a comprehensive overview of what the "10 day rule" really means, what a formal review hearing is (and the process for obtaining one), what can be done to avoid an administrative hard suspension, potential defenses in the administrative proceeding, and the period of suspension applicable in the event of an unsuccessful attempt to have the administrative suspension rescinded or "set aside" (which will depend on (1) how many prior DUI offenses you have (if any); (2) whether you submitted to a lawful test of your breath or blood in the prior case(s), or refused such test; and (3) whether you submitted to a lawful test of your breath or blood in your pending case, or refused to submit to such test).
Unlike the "administrative" proceeding, the criminal case proceeds through the court system. When arrested for a DUI, the person will receive a citation from the officer with a court date printed along the bottom. If you were arrested for a misdemeanor DUI in St. Petersburg, or a surrounding area (typically anywhere south of Ulmerton Road), your arraignment will be set in South County Traffic court, located at 1800 66th Street N., St. Petersburg, FL 33710. If you were arrested for a misdemeanor DUI in Clearwater, or a surrounding area (typically anywhere north of Ulmerton Road), your arraignment will be set in North County Traffic court located at 29582 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater, FL 33761. If you were arrested for a felony DUI offense anywhere in Pinellas County (because you have the requisite number of DUI convictions within a statutorily prescribed period of time, or another person was seriously injured or killed), you will still receive a citation, which will likely have a court date printed along the bottom, requiring your appearance in either North or South County Traffic. In a felony situation, however, the matter will be investigated by a felony prosecutor who will file a charging document, called an "Information". Once that occurs, your arraignment will be scheduled in a felony division at the Criminal Justice Center, located at 14250 49th Street North, in Clearwater. If you are arrested for a DUI in the Tampa area, whether a felony or misdemeanor, your arraignment will be set at the Tampa Judicial Center, located at 800 East Twiggs Street, Tampa, FL, 33602.
The criminal portion of a DUI case is more comprehensive than the administrative proceeding. The criminal proceeding will also result in the suspension of your driver's license for a statutorily prescribed period of time. Depending on the number of prior DUI convictions, you may be immediately eligible for a hardship license on the criminal suspension (remember: there are almost always two potential license suspensions to contend with in a DUI case). Where both suspensions are imposed, they may run concurrent or "overlap" for a certain period of time, depending on when the criminal case is resolved, relative to the imposition of the administrative suspension. Also, unlike the DMV in the administrative proceeding, the judge in the criminal proceeding does have the authority to adjudicate you guilty of a crime, can impose some hefty fines and court costs, can place you on a period of probation to complete the statutorily mandated conditions of a DUI charge (which vary depending on (1) your breath or blood alcohol level in the pending case; (2) your number of prior convictions (if any); and (3) when your prior convictions occurred relative to the date of your pending offense (where applicable)). Unlike the DMV, the judge also has the authority to sentence you to jail time and in some instances, must do so in accordance with Florida law. For most first time DUI offenders, however, a jail sentence will not be imposed as part of a negotiated plea with the state. Jail time is not required unless this is your second DUI offense within a period five years, or your third DUI offense within a period of 10 years. Even where jail time is not required, the state may still seek it if there is something particularly aggravating about the case.
The "criminal proceeding" subsection herein provides a detailed overview of the entire process, from arrest to sentencing including your initial appearance hearing (and bond information), the purpose of an arraignment hearing (and whether you need to attend), the purpose of pre-trial conference hearings (and whether you need to attend), potential defenses to your DUI charge (including the viability of certain pre-trial motions) the circumstances under which a case may be reduced from DUI to reckless driving (or, in some circumstances to a careless driving or outright dropped), the pros and cons of taking your case to trial (before either a judge or jury), and sentence mitigation, including the circumstances under which jail time can be avoided.
For more information on DUI offenses in the Tampa Bay area, see our article on HG.Org: St. Petersburg DUI Lawyer.
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