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DUI / Drunk Driving

South Florida Drunk Driving Attorney

One of the most common offenses faced by both tourists and locals alike is drunk driving. Most Floridians do not realize that it is not illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance in the state of Florida.  However, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired or while having a breath or blood alcohol level above a .08.  If convicted, you could lose your license, pay steep fines, be required to have an ignition interlock device on your car, and more. You could even go to jail for months.

If you are accused of drunk driving, you may think the odds are stacked against you — especially if you took and failed a breath or urine test or a roadside DUI test (commonly referred to as roadside tasks or roadside sobriety exercises).  However, a skilled attorney can fight the charges, challenge the evidence, and seek the best possible result for you, including the charges being dropped entirely.

Palm Beach DUI Lawyer

When you hire a dedicated DUI lawyer from Meltzer & Bell, P.A., "The Traffic Stop," you are hiring someone who knows how to fight for your freedom and will zealously pursue every possible defense for you. From challenging the DUI test to showing the flaws in the arrest, to negotiating entry into your County's extremely hard-to-get-into first-time offender DUI program, we will always do everything we can for the best outcome possible.

For your DUI charges, our partners are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week for you. We are a  full-service DUI defense firm whose attorneys can represent you at all stages and in all criminal and administrative matters stemming from a drunk driving arrest, including hearings on license suspensions before the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles.

We represent people charged with driving under the influence in Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade County, and Broward County, including those arrested in West Palm Beach,  Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Jupiter, Delray Beach, Wellington, Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, Hollywood, and Miramar.

Overview on Drunk Driving in Florida

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Intoxicated Driving Under Florida Law

Under Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.193, the offense of Driving Under the Influence is defined as driving or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, including a boat, while under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance to the extent that normal faculties are impaired.

Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath is called "per se intoxicated." That means that if prosecutors can prove that your BAC was at that level, they do not have to provide any more proof or evidence that your faculties were impaired. 

Under Florida law, a jury may presume that a person was under the influence to the extent their normal faculties were impaired if they find the evidence establishes that the breath or blood was above a .08.  However, this is a “rebuttable presumption.”  The jury must be instructed that the breath or blood evidence may be rebutted by other evidence tending to show that the person was not under the influence.  The lawyers at Meltzer & Bell, P.A., “The Traffic Stop,” are experienced and knowledgeable about breath cases and have taken countless cases to jury trial through verdict through arguing that the evidence raises a reasonable doubt as to the breath or blood numbers which exceed a .08.

There is no standard for drugs for per se intoxication. In Sabree v. State (978 So.2d 840 (Fla. 2008)), the Florida Supreme Court found that merely showing that there were drugs in the system via a blood test was not sufficient to prove that a driver is intoxicated.

However, if prosecutors can prove the influence sufficiently impaired faculties, you will face the same penalties as a person who blew a .08. This includes prescription drugs.

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Penalties for a DUI Conviction

The penalties a person faces for being convicted of drunk or drugged driving in Fort Lauderdale and other Florida cities depend on whether the defendant has any prior DUI convictions. It may also depend on whether the driver's BAC is higher or lower than .15, and whether a person younger than 18 was in the vehicle at the time of arrest.

For a first offense, the driver faces up to six months in jail, a fine of $500 to $1,000, and a minimum license suspension of 180 days. If the driver's BAC was .15 or higher, or there was a child in the car, the possible jail time goes up to nine months and the fine doubles.  Even on a first offense, if a crash is involved, the person faces up to 1 year in the county jail as a maximum sentence.

If convicted a second time, the jail term maximum goes up to nine months, the fine doubles, and the person's license is suspended for 180 days to one year.  However, if the person is convicted a second time within 5 years, the person faces a mandatory 5-year driver’s license revocation with no eligibility for a hardship for 1 year and a mandatory 10 days in the county jail up to 9 months. In addition, he or she must have an ignition interlock device installed on every vehicle he or she owns, leases, or routinely drives for a year. If there was a person younger than 18 in the vehicle or the driver had a BAC of .15 or higher, the jail time goes up to a year and the fine doubles.

A third conviction within 10 years is a felony offense. It is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $5,000. Your license will be suspended for at least 10 years, and you will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed for two years once you can drive. If not within 10 years, a third conviction is a misdemeanor punishable like a second DUI, with a fine from $2,000 and $5,000 and at least two years with an ignition interlock device.

A fourth conviction is a felony regardless of when it occurs, punishable like a third conviction within 10 years, and carries a permanent license revocation.

In addition to jail time and fees, your insurance premiums are likely to skyrocket. Being convicted of DUI means you are required to obtain an FR-44 form, which requires increased liability coverage. Premiums have been known to double or triple, and you may have significantly higher premiums for life.

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DUI Testing and Challenging Results

If a police officer pulls a person over in Fort Lauderdale,  for example, and suspects that person is intoxicated, he or she will ask the person to submit to a test (more commonly called roadside exercises or field sobriety tasks) to determine whether that person is drunk or drugged. These tests can include either field sobriety tests that monitor a person's motions or chemical tests, including breath, blood and urine tests that test for alcohol and/or drug content.

Driving is not a right in the State of Florida; it is a privilege. This is the crux behind Florida’s implied consent statute.  Operation of a motor vehicle constitutes consent to any sobriety test required by law.  This consent is stated on all Florida driver's license, and a signature to accept a license carries an agreement to this clause.  Thus, the privilege can be taken away if a person refuses to submit a breath, blood, or urine sample for testing, or gives a sample which yields results that are over a .08. 

However, you still can refuse to submit to these tests. You may suffer consequences from it in the long run, but you are allowed to refuse them. Contact the lawyers at Meltzer & Bell, P.A., “The Traffic Stop,” to talk about the decisions you made to take or not take the breath, blood, or urine test in your case and how it may affect your outcome.

In some cases, police are able to obtain a warrant for the blood test. You may have been forced to give a sample, or you may have taken a test and failed it. That does not mean your case is over. There are flaws to every test that create reasonable doubt over their veracity. In addition to flaws, there are legal 4th amendment challenges that can be lodged, including whether the warrant was obtained legally, whether an officer even had a right to request the blood in the first place, or whether gathering a breath or urine sample was impractical or impossible.

Field sobriety tests can be clouded by a number of medical conditions, including arthritis, gout, diabetes, vertigo, or issues stemming from a prior concussion, head injury, or surgery. A completely sober person suffering from any of these conditions may be unable to pass a field sobriety test simply because they lack the balance and steadiness needed.  It is the driver's right to refuse roadside tasks, and there are many reasons why he or she should. The most important reason that you should not perform the roadside tasks is that they are voluntary.  You do not have to perform them.  Many of the tasks can result in performance that mimics impairment even if you are not impaired. Do not give them that evidence, regardless of whether or not you think you will pass.

Another frequent issue is the time at which the test was taken. To convict a person of DUI, Palm Beach County or Broward County prosecutors must prove he or she was intoxicated at the time of driving. Alcohol, after being consumed, takes time to absorb into the body and show the effects of intoxication. In many cases, the test does not come until long after the driver is pulled over, meaning that once the test is taken, the alcohol has had a chance to absorb into the body. A person may drink and be fine to drive, only to be intoxicated an hour later when they are no longer behind the wheel. This is called the absorption defense, the on the rising defense of the time of driving defense.

Regardless of your circumstances, do not give up simply because you failed a DUI test in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere. Our lawyers will carefully review your situation and determine the best ways to challenge a bad DUI test result.

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License Suspension After a Palm Beach Area DUI Arrest

When you refuse or fail a test, your license is administratively suspended, meaning you will no longer be able to legally drive. If you refused a test, your license is suspended for 12 months. If you failed one, it is suspended for six months. If you have previously refused a breath, blood or urine test, and that refusal remained on your driving record, your license is suspended for 18 months.

This is considered a civil consequence and not a criminal one, meaning the suspension proceeds regardless of what occurs in your criminal case. Under Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.1932, a person gives consent to these test when he or she drives in Florida. This is called "implied consent."

When you are arrested, you are given a citation that contains a "Notice of Suspension." That notice starts the clock on the 10 days you have to request a formal hearing with the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to challenge the suspension.

In a hearing, your attorney can argue that the arrest was invalid, that the test was improperly given, or use another applicable defense to keep your license. We, at Meltzer & Bell, P.A., can both make that request and represent you in the hearing, but only if you call us in time.

After 10 days, you lose your chance to make the request, and you must suffer the consequences of license suspension. You could lose your job, and daily tasks like going to the grocery store and picking your kids up from school can become impossible. Act now by calling us, and we will immediately seek to preserve your rights.

You may also be eligible for a hardship license or temporary permit. Our attorneys can assist you in obtaining these.

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Palm Beach County Program for First DUI Arrests

If facing accusations of DUI in South Florida, you are not eligible for deferred adjudication, specialty courts or other programs that offer leniency for first-time offenders for other crimes. The county does have a program for people charged with DUI for the first time, but your admission is far from automatic. In fact, law enforcement here has largely sought to exclude people.

Under the program, the person pleads guilty to reckless driving with alcohol as a significant factor. They must:

  • Go through probation for a year;
  • Attend DUI school
  • Complete community service
  • Attend a victim impact panel
  • Submit to a 10-day vehicle immobilization and three or six months of ignition interlock device, Scram ankle monitor or Visual Alcohol Monitoring Device;
  • Pay fines and court costs; and
  • Not possess or consume alcohol, with random tests to confirm.

There are several factors that can exclude even a person with no DUI convictions on their record. They include a BAC test of more than .20, if there was a crash involved (even a very minor fender bender), a poor driving record, or just because prosecutors don't think it is a good idea for you.

At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., we are experienced in helping our clients who qualify into this difficult-to-obtain program. Do not think you can walk into the prosecutor's office and sign up, even if this is your first DUI. Let us help you.

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Drunk Driving-Related Property Damage, Injury or Death Under Florida Law

If the prosecutor is able to prove the elements of DUI and there was an accident involving property damage or injury, the charges may increase:

  • For any property damage or injury, the charges go up to a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
  • If another person suffered serious bodily injury, the charges go up to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
  • If another person died, called DUI-manslaughter, it is a second-degree felony.
  • If a person died and prosecutors can prove that the defendant knew about the crash and failed to stop and give information, the charges become a first-degree misdemeanor.

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Resources for DUI Offenses in Florida

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office – the Sheriff's Department in Palm Beach County is dedicated to prosecuting a range of offenses, including DUI charges across the region.

3228 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach, FL 33406
Phone: (561) 688-3000

Palm Beach County DMV– the DMV's website provides information on the penalties of various DUI offenses, and the necessary steps to reinstate your license after an arrest.

Broward County DMV – Broward County's DMV section lists information on how to perform certain processes including your vehicle, such as changing registration, as well as forms for various tasks.

Broward County Sheriff's Office – Broward County's sheriff's department pursues arrests and warrants from across the County. On their website, you can view information about the area and request arrest records, as well as the various office locations.

Meltzer & Bell, P.A. | A DUI Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

From protecting your driving privileges to ensuring the best possible defense, it is critical that you act immediately if you have been charged with drunk driving in Palm Beach County or Broward County. At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., our lawyers will work diligently for you. Call us today at (561) 557-8686 so that we can aggressively take on your charges.

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Client Testimonials for Meltzer & Bell, P.A.
Client Testimonials
  • ...A long weekend vacation in Palm Beach resulted in the potential for serious consequences that could have set me back in unimaginative ways. M+B was a truly incredible legal advocate and was always accessible within minutes to answer questions and discuss the progress of the case within the system - truly remarkable. I could not have retained better legal representation in my case in Palm Beach County.

  • I just had to commend you on the outstanding job you did on behalf of your client in court yesterday. If my clients were ever to ask me if I know of a good DUI defense attorney, I know to whom I can refer them!

  • I was facing hard prison time and punishment. [Larry] did everything to pull strings and get me into rehab. After meeting with many therapists I finally got one to diagnose me successfully with Bipolar. Thanks to Larry I have been sober since 6/19/09. My health is great and my family life is amazing. It's because he saw something in me and my family that I wasn't just an alcoholic there was something that told me it was something else.

  • I was charged with a felony and facing the scary thought of losing my job, but thank you Attorney Steven Bell for helping me. Now I’m able to keep my job and take care of my family. I am truly amazed by your service, and you for understanding what I have to deal with. To me I’m very impressed by way you handled my case and was here to listen and make things OK!

  • Mr. Steven Bell, Words cant explain how thankful I am for you and your firm. I was facing felony charges and even looking at doing 5 years in jail! Not only did you fight for me, you got my case dismissed and dropped. For that, I don't have words to say “thank you” you were always kind and believed in me. You looked for every opportunity and you won! Thank you for being my guardian angel in disguise and steering me in the right direction. You are forever my “too go guy” thank you soooo much!

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