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Sarasota DUI Defense Attorney

A DUI is a big deal. It hits your pocketbook heavily, costs you your license for at least six months, and can impact many other areas of your life negatively as well. Sarasota DUI defense attorney Patrick Hale is a former DUI prosecutor who is intimately familiar with police procedure regarding stops and arrests for driving under the influence, as well as how district attorneys approach drunk driving prosecutions. If you’ve been arrested for DUI in Sarasota or Bradenton, call Hale Law, P.A. for a free consultation on your case. We’ll let you know your options and how we can help.

What are the penalties for DUI in Sarasota?

If convicted of DUI and it’s your first offense, you could face a fine from $500 to $1,000, and you’ll have your driver’s license suspended for six months or up to one year. You could also be sentenced to up to six months in jail. Other penalties include being required to perform 50 hours of community service or pay a fine of $10 per hour in lieu of service, and your vehicle will be impounded for ten days unless it’s your only means of transportation for your family.

You can face an enhanced fine and license suspension if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .15% or more or if you had a minor in the car when you were arrested. Penalties also increase for each subsequent offense. DUI can even be charged as a felony in a number of instances, including being charged with a third DUI within a ten-year period.

Can I refuse to take a breath test?

Under the terms of Florida’s implied consent law, you are required to take a breath test when lawfully ordered to do so by the police. Refusing to take the test results in an automatic one-year suspension of your driver’s license (or longer if you have refused a test in the past). Refusal to test is also a misdemeanor offense that you can be charged with separate from a DUI charge, and the fact that you refused to test can be used against you in court as evidence of intoxication.

The police are required to inform you of the above penalties for refusing to test. Also, these rules apply to a chemical test of your blood alcohol content and not to so-called field sobriety tests (FSTs). FSTs are used when police don’t have probable cause to arrest you and make you take a chemical test. After conducting these tests, the police decide your performance indicates you’re under the influence and they now have cause to make you take a chemical test (breathalyzer) or face the consequences. You can lawfully refuse to take FSTs without having your driver’s license suspended or violating the law. The standard FSTs are:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
  • Walk and Turn
  • One-Leg Stand

Can I fight a driver’s license suspension?

The suspension of your driver’s license is an administrative proceeding that takes place separate from any criminal trial or prosecution for DUI. The law is clear that your driver’s license shall be suspended for blowing .08 or more on a breathalyzer or refusing the test. You’ll be issued a notice of suspension and given a ten-day temporary permit. Within that ten-day period, you can ask the court for a restricted driving privilege or request a formal or informal review from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. In an informal review, the Department appoints a Hearing Officer to review materials submitted by the police officer and the driver and decide whether to sustain, amend or invalidate the suspension. In a formal review, the Hearing Officer holds a hearing at which the parties can have witnesses testify under oath and submit other evidence. After the hearing, the Hearing Officer can choose to sustain, amend or invalidate the suspension. This hearing is supposed to be held within 30 days of the original license suspension.

The issues decided by the hearing officer in a review are very limited, and the hearing officer makes a decision based on the preponderance of the evidence, as opposed to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required in a criminal matter. Either party can appeal the hearing officer’s decision to the Sarasota County Circuit Court, which may or may not choose to hear the appeal. The decision of the hearing officer can’t be considered in your DUI trial, and any statements you make in a review hearing can’t be used against you in your DUI case. However, you can be cleared of criminal DUI charges and still have your license suspended in this administrative process, so it’s important to request a review if you want to try and avoid a six-month (or more) suspension of your driver’s license.

When It’s in Your Interest to Fight a DUI in Sarasota, call Hale Law, P.A.

You have a lot at stake when facing a DUI, so don’t think pleading guilty to “get it out of the way” is always your best bet. Call Hale Law, P.A., at 941-735-4529 for a no-cost consultation on your Sarasota DUI arrest. We’ll let you know what we think your best options are, and we’ll provide strong, aggressive and effective criminal defense to help you keep your license, your job and reputation, and everything else that’s on the line with a drunk driving arrest.

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