ARRESTED FOR DUI IN ORLANDO?Immediate Attention: Things You Must Know Right Now!
Have you been arrested for a DUI in the metro Orlando Area? There is some important information that you need to know to help protect YOUR rights! First, exercise your right to REMAIN SILENT by politely declining to answer any questions. This is perhaps the most unheeded piece of advice by people charged with Orlando area DUI infractions.
Next, prepare a journal. When you get home from jail, immediately write down everything you can remember about the events leading up to your arrest. Include events that occurred the day before your arrest, through the time you were released from jail. Every detail is important including what time you ate, what you ate, what time you went to sleep, what time you woke up, and all of your normal and usual activity that occurred during that time period. Make sure you also take detailed notes about your interaction with the police, from the moment you noticed them, until you were released from jail. Be as specific as possible and try to remember the exact words used by the police during your interactions at the roadside, at the breath test center, during any questioning, and while at the jail or police station.
If you had a valid Driver’s License at the time you were arrested, you need to know that your DUI citation serves as your temporary Driver’s License for 10 (ten) days. If you did not receive your DUI citation, immediately call the arresting officer’s agency and tell them that you need a copy of your citation. You only have these 10 (ten) days to protect your driving privileges. Do not delay, you MUST act now. By hiring a qualified DUI attorney, you can, in most cases, receive a temporary driving permit. Your DUI citation lets you drive for any reason for the first ten days after arrest, until you get the temporary driving permit. Once you receive your temporary driving permit, you will only be permitted to drive for work, school, religious services, and medical appointments. Remember to always keep on hand any sort of documentation that is available to show that you are driving for a permitted reason, such as your school or work schedule. It is extremely important that you do not drive if you are not allowed to, as you could face additional penalties, fines, and driving suspensions. You could even face more jail time.
Do NOT give up! No matter how bad your case may appear to be, you may have viable defenses. A competent attorney who focuses on DUI defense can help pinpoint these defenses. Even if you took a “breath test”, all hope is not lost. There are many ways a competent DUI attorney can fight the results on your behalf.
An Introduction to the Florida DUI Process
In Florida, and the Metro Orlando area, a DUI is actually two separate cases, an administrative case, and a criminal court case. You not only have to deal with the possibility of facing criminal penalties, you are also subjected to an administrative process dealing with your driver’s license. With the administrative process, your immediate attention is required. When you were arrested, the officer should have taken your driver’s license resulting in an immediate suspension of your driving privileges. If you took a breath test, your license is suspended for 6 months. If you refused the chemical test (breath, blood, or urine) for the first time, then your license is suspended for an entire 12 months. If you have previously refused a chemical test, then the suspension lasts 18 months.The Administrative Process
When you were released from jail, you should have received a traffic citation for DUI and any other charges related to the alleged DUI incident. If you did not receive this citation, it is extremely important to call the agency that arrested you and obtain a copy of the citation. Without the citation, you cannot request your formal review hearing which allows you to fight back and potentially have your license suspension invalidated. Another critical reason that you must ensure that you receive your citation is that the citation serves as your only Driver’s License for the first ten days following your arrest. During these ten days, you are permitted to drive without any driving restrictions.
Since your unrestricted driving privileges only last for 10 days, it is critical that you begin preparing for the journey ahead. The first step you should take is to find an experienced attorney whom you trust, one that is experienced in DUI defense, and who will fight to protect you and your rights. If your vehicle was towed, the next step is to quickly retrieve your car from impound. Then, request your Formal Review Hearing. You should also begin to figure out how you will get to places that are prohibited by a restricted driving permit.
Remember that you only have 10 days to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles Bureau of Administrative Reviews and request your Formal Review Hearing. If you hire an attorney, they can request a hearing on your behalf. If you have not hired an attorney, you may request a hearing on your own. To request your own Formal Review Hearing without an attorney, you must travel to the DMV Bureau of Administrative Reviews that serves the county in which you were arrested. Unfortunately, this office is not always in the county where the arrest occurred. For instance, the office that services Lake County is in Winter Springs, Seminole County, Florida. This is the ONLY place that you can request your hearing without the help of an attorney. To obtain this hearing, you must tell the DMV that you are requesting your Formal Review Hearing, give them a copy of your DUI citation, and pay a $25.00 fee. During this time, you will receive your temporary driving permit. If you hire an attorney, your attorney can complete all of these things on your behalf and save you another hassle in an already difficult situation.
You may have heard, either from friends, relatives, or even the officer who arrested you, that if you refuse to take the requested chemical test (usually the breath test), that you are automatically ineligible for a temporary driving permit. They are WRONG! The general public, and even some police officers are often misinformed about the law with regards to mandatory breath testing, and they pass this misinformation on to the people that they arrest. If you refused, it is important to contact a qualified attorney who specializes in DUI defense to determine your eligibility status.
Once you receive your temporary Driving Permit, you will only be permitted to operate a motor vehicle for work-related driving, driving for educational purposes, attendance at religious services, and for any medical appointments that you may have. If you have any questions as to whether an event qualifies as a permitted driving exception, you should ask your qualified and competent DUI attorney, or call the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Your temporary Driving Permit will only be valid for 42 days. During this time, the DMV will hold your Formal Review Hearing. If you win at this hearing, your license suspension will be invalidated, and you will regain your normal driving privileges. Should you be unsuccessful at your Formal Review Hearing, your driving privileges will remain suspended upon the expiration of your temporary Driving Permit. This suspension will last for either 30 days, or 90 days, and you will not be able to drive or operate a motor vehicle under any circumstance. Once this “hard” suspension is over, you may qualify for a hardship license which will let you drive for any or all of the reasons that your temporary permit allowed. Keep in mind that regardless of the outcome of your Formal Review Hearing, your DUI case will continue in the court system.The Court ProcessFirst Appearance
The process in the court system is vastly different from that of the Administrative Review system. If you are released from jail on bond before seeing a Judge, then you will not have a First Appearance Hearing. If you are not released from jail on bond before seeing a Judge, then you will have your First Appearance Hearing. The purpose of a First Appearance Hearing is to allow a Judge to review the arresting officers arrest affidavits, and to decide if they had probable cause to arrest you. If the Judge determines that there was no probable cause for your arrest, you will be released, but your case may continue. If the Judge decides that there was probable cause to arrest you (which they usually do), they will then set a reasonable bond, and potentially may even allow you to be released on your own recognizance. Often times, Judges will add conditions to a bond, such as weekly reporting to pre-trial services, or drug and alcohol testing. If you do not abide by any conditions set by the Judge, your bond may be revoked, and you could be returned to jail until the final disposition of your case.Arraignment
Upon your release from jail, you were either given a date in which you must return to court, or you were told that one would be set and that you would be notified. This date is called your Arraignment. At your Arraignment, you will enter your plea. You will either say, “Guilty” which means you admit to the charges as alleged in the citation, “Not Guilty” which means that you deny the charges as alleged in your citation, or “No Contest” in which you do not admit guilt to the charges as alleged, but you do not deny the evidence against you. If you enter either a plea of Guilty or No Contest, then you will be sentenced at this hearing, and your court case will be closed. Only a plea of Not Guilty will allow you to fight the charges against you, or to negotiate a favorable outcome such as a non-DUI plea. If you hire a competent attorney who focuses in DUI defense, they will likely waive your arraignment and enter a plea of Not Guilty on your behalf. If you represent yourself, or if your attorney tells you that must appear, then you MUST appear. If you do not, a warrant for your arrested will typically be issued.Plea Negotiation Conference (Lake County)
In some counties, such as Lake County, you may have a Plea Negotiation Conference after your arraignment. This is usually only available to you if you are represented by a competent DUI attorney. At the Plea Negotiation Conference, your competent DUI attorney will meet with the prosecutor and the Judge to discuss the facts of your case, the circumstances of your arrest, the prosecution’s case against you, and your potential defenses. This allows both sides to attempt to negotiate a resolution before you go to trial.Sentencing (Lake County)
While not required under Florida law, some counties will set another court date called Sentencing. Your sentencing date is usually held within 2 weeks of your Plea Negotiation Conference, if applicable in the county in which your case is pending. The purpose of the sentencing hearing is for you to enter a plea (much like at your arraignment) if a satisfactory resolution has been negotiated by your attorney and the prosecutor. Most Judges do not require the appearance of either you or your attorney at Sentencing unless you are actually entering a plea. Some Judges do not require you or your attorney’s presence if you are not entering a plea. A competent attorney who Focuses on DUI defense will be able to advise you as to whether or not you will be required to appear at Sentencing.Pre-Trial Conference
Regardless of whether the county where your charges are pending utilizes the Plea Negotiation Conference and Sentencing dates, you will be given a court date for a Pre-Trial Conference. Under Florida law, all counties are required to calendar this date at this stage of the process. The purpose of the pre-trial conference is to discuss what the next steps in your case will be. At the Pre-Trial Conference, your case may possibly be set for trial. Sometimes, the Court may grant a continuance in your case, which will postpone your trial date. A continuance may be requested by either side, and will only be granted for good cause.Pre-Trial Hearings
If your case has not yet been resolved, you may also have one or more pre-trial hearings. Pre-trial hearings are held to determine the admissibility of the evidence against you. A skilled DUI defense attorney will file many motions on your behalf. Motions should be aimed at suppressing each and every piece of evidence the State intends to use against you. Pre-trial Motion work is one of the many things that separates a skilled DUI defense attorney. On average, your Orlando DUI Team attorney will file more than 25 motions if you refused the breath test and more than 30 motions if you took the breath test.Trial
The final stage of your DUI case will be the trial. The case will be set for trial once all pre-trial work has been completed, and all motions have been heard. In Florida, you will have a Jury trial in your DUI case. A Jury trial is decided by six citizens who are present during the entire trial and decide whether the State has proved all charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. At trial, both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses. Both sides will be allowed to question their own witnesses, and to cross-examine the other side’s witnesses. You also have the right to testify in your own defense at your trial. Your Orlando DUI Team can help you determine whether or not you should testify. After both sides finish presenting their cases and making their arguments, the Jury will deliberate and determine your guilt or innocence.