After you are arrested for driving under the influence, exercising the right to have a powerful DUI attorney on your side is vital. The West Palm Beach DUI lawyers at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. have decades of combined experience representing clients charged with DUI.
Even with strict laws and continued preventative efforts, driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol remains a common offense in Florida. Those arrested for drunk driving don’t always realize that there are several circumstances in which they can be considered guilty of this crime.
If you have been charged with DUI, understanding your rights is paramount to the outcome of your case. With the assistance of a dedicated West Palm Beach DUI Lawyer, you can be provided with the legal knowledge necessary to make informed decisions throughout the legal process and develop a defense strategy that will give you the best chance of avoiding a conviction for drunk driving.
Hire the Best West Palm Beach DUI Attorney
Meltzer & Bell, P.A. is a Palm Beach County criminal defense firm founded by a former felony special unit prosecutor and a former major crimes Public Defender. We handle ALL State and Federal criminal matters in Palm Beach County and throughout the State of Florida. Our law firm has decades of combined experience in DUI and criminal trial work and, collectively, has taken over 500 cases to jury trial through verdict.
Palm Beach DUI charges can have a devastating impact on your ability to live a normal life. The consequences of this offense can prevent you from being able to drive, force you to pay thousands of dollars in fines, or even spend time behind bars.
If you have been charged with drunk driving (a.k.a. Driving Under the Influence) in Palm Beach County, including the cities in and around Wellington, Lake Worth, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Greenacres, Royal Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Juno Beach or Belle Glade, contact Meltzer & Bell, P.A.
For a first DUI, call our law firm to find out more about the policies and procedures in the DUI diversion program in Palm Beach County. If you complete the diversion program, you might become eligible to seal your criminal history record. After the record is sealed, the mugshot from the arrest and the booking information will come off the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office website.
As dedicated West Palm Beach DUI defense attorneys, Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell are available to assist you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us today at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. to schedule your consultation.
We defend DUI charges across Palm Beach County, whether you were arrested on Interstate 95, Florida’s Turnpike, US Highway 98, US Highway 1, A1A, or anywhere between. We also assist clients facing DUI charges in Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and the Treasure Coast.
Our law office only hires the very best criminal defense lawyers in Florida. Our stellar reviews speak to our dedication to our clients and the results we get for you. Each of us has years of experience in Florida’s criminal justice system. We know how to win for you. Call us today for a free case evaluation.
Overview of Driving under the Influence in Florida
- Definition of Drunk Driving in Florida
- Implied Consent Laws
- Can I Be Charged With DUI If I Wasn’t Actually Driving?
- Penalties for Drunk Driving in Palm Beach County
- Defenses in Drunk Driving Cases
- South Florida DUI Resources
- Working With a Qualified DUI Defense Lawyer in West Palm Beach
Definition of Drunk Driving in Florida
Driving under the influence is defined by Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.193 as being in actual physical control of a vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the point where your normal faculties are impaired. Normal faculties include the ability to see, hear, walk, balance, talk, and perform daily life’s mental and physical acts.
Individuals can also be considered under the influence if their breath or blood alcohol content (BAC) is above .08. Law enforcement can use several sobriety tests to determine your BAC, such as a blood, breath, or urine test. Due to its convenience, the Breathalyzer is the most commonly used BAC test.
Implied Consent Laws
Due to the laws outlined in Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.1932, anytime an individual accepts the privilege of operating a motor vehicle in Florida, they are deemed to have given their implied consent to submit to a chemical test to determine their sobriety.
If a driver refuses to submit to a blood, breath, urine, or any other BAC test, he or she can face an automatic license suspension for up to a year. If it is their second or subsequent offense for refusing a BAC, their license can be suspended for 18 months.
The Florida Uniform DUI citation you received upon being arrested is also known as a “Notice of Suspension.” This specific citation places you on notice that the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles intends to suspend your driver’s license for six months if you provided a breath or blood sample of .08 or greater at the time of your arrest for DUI or 12 months if you refused to submit or failed to submit to a breath, blood or urine sample upon your arrest for DUI as required by Florida Law.
These suspensions are imposed administratively by DHSMV; they are not criminal; and are unrelated to criminal charges for DUI and the court system, except that they originate from the same arrest. Failure to act within ten days of your arrest will prevent you from fighting the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and automatically suspend your driving privileges. Call Meltzer & Bell, P.A. immediately to preserve your due process rights.
The State of Florida is unlike New York City. Without a driver’s license, you lose your ability to do the most simple tasks, such as going to the grocery store, picking up your kids from school, or going to the bank. You may even lose your job.
If you retain Meltzer & Bell, P.A. within ten (10) days of your arrest for DUI, our firm will immediately preserve your rights to challenge the driver’s license suspension imposed by the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Upon doing so, the West Palm Beach DUI lawyers of Meltzer & Bell, P.A. will immediately contact the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and will assist you in obtaining a temporary driving permit or a hardship license.
You may be eligible for a temporary driving permit, even if you have been convicted of DUI in your past.
Can I Be Charged With DUI If I Wasn’t Driving?
The most common source of frustration and confusion regarding DUI charges is that you do not have to be driving when you are arrested for drunk driving. By law, if an individual is in actual physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated, he or she can be arrested.
There are several factors that Palm Beach County law enforcement can use to determine whether or not an individual is in actual physical control, such as:
- Whether or not the car was on
- Where the vehicle was parked
- Whether or not the engine was on
- The location of the keys
- Had the vehicle been recently driven
- Was the car drivable?
- The defendant’s position in the vehicle
If you are charged with drunk driving even when you were not driving the vehicle, hire the best West Palm Beach DUI Lawyer to use the evidence in your case to successfully prove that you were not in actual physical control of the vehicle, helping you avoid the consequences and jail time for your alleged offense.
Penalties for Drunk Driving in Palm Beach County
The penalties for drunk driving usually depend on the number of previous DUI convictions you have on your record. For a first DUI offense, you are subject to up to six months in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, a minimum license suspension for 180 days, 10-day vehicle immobilization, and DUI school required to follow up treatment. If you were arrested for a first-time DUI, you might be eligible to enter the DUI diversion program in Palm Beach County.
Not all first-time DUI offenses are eligible for the diversion program. For instance, you are not eligible for the DUI diversion program if you were arrested for DUI with property damage.
A second conviction for drunk driving is considered a first-degree misdemeanor and is punishable by nine months of imprisonment.
For a third or subsequent offense (within 10 years), can face third-degree felony charges, and be punished by up to five years in Florida State Prison, a fine of up to $5,000, and a minimum license suspension of 10 years.
For a fourth offense, the charges can be automatically filed as a felony no matter how old the previous DUI convictions are and can result in a permanent/lifetime revocation of your driving privileges amongst the possibility of a maximum sentence of 5 years in Florida State Prison.
Aside from the penalties mentioned above, anytime an individual is convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Florida, he or she can also be ordered to serve probation, community control, attend DUI School, have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle, and other appropriate penalties.
Defenses in Drunk Driving Cases
Florida law requires that police officers have probable cause to believe you have committed a traffic infraction, reasonable suspicion that you were committing a crime or evidence that your well-being was in danger to stop your vehicle.
If the driving pattern for which you were stopped failed to affect other traffic on the road or did not create a “safety hazard,” the officer in your case may have acted unlawfully, and courts may require that all evidence gathered by the officer, such as physical observations, roadside exercises, breath test results be thrown out of your case. The lawyers of Meltzer & Bell, P.A. have successfully litigated and argued hundreds of these motions.
Signs of Impairment
Did you suffer from diabetes, arthritis, vertigo, concussion issues, gout, issues from head injuries, or surgeries when you were arrested for DUI? Officers will claim that you were DUI based on the allegations that you were unsteady, incapable of maintaining balance and performed poorly during roadside sobriety exercises.
These “signs of impairment” can easily be explained by demonstrating that you suffered from injuries or illnesses that mimicked impairment by alcohol or drugs that the officers either knew about or never bothered to look into. This is especially true if you were involved in a traffic crash during your DUI arrest.
Under Florida Law, the State must prove that your breath test was over the limit “while driving” or “in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.” If you were arrested for DUI in Florida, you know that your breath test occurred at the police station well after the officer placed you under arrest and not “while” you were driving.
As you know, levels of alcohol change in the body over time, and it absorbs into your system as time passes. Our West Palm Beach DUI attorneys successfully argued to juries that our clients were not impaired while driving using the State’s video evidence but became impaired as the alcohol absorbed fully into their bodies, and by the time our clients arrived at the station and blew into the breathalyzer. This is called an “absorption” defense, “on the rise,” or “time of driving” defense.
Additionally, the lawyers of Meltzer & Bell, P.A. have won trials involving breath results greater than a .08 by proving that the breathalyzer was not calibrated properly under Florida law and by demonstrating the State failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt by showing our client’s performance during roadside sobriety exercises were in direct conflict with the breathalyzer results.
Did your urine sample reflect that you took prescription medications or even ingested illegal drugs or narcotics? If so, those results do not mean you are guilty of DUI or that you were impaired while driving, as required by Florida law. All drugs, legal or illegal, have half-lives. That means that a drug will only remain in your body for a given amount of time and may have did not affect you at the time of your arrest.
The toxicologist for the State will readily admit that all drugs have half-lives. He or she may only be able to testify that a given drug was present in your body and that there is no way of telling if that drug was impairing your ability to drive.
For example, marijuana can remain in the body for up to 30 days. If the only evidence of impairment is the presence of marijuana in your urine, the State would have a difficult time proving that you were impaired by it while you were driving.
Accident Privilege Report
If you were involved in a traffic crash, even the most damaging and incriminating statements made to officers at the scene could be excluded under Florida’s accident report privilege.
If you were not read your Miranda rights at a crash scene (presuming you haven’t waived the privilege by leaving the scene) and an officer questions you as to circumstances surrounding the accident, all statements made by you are excluded, no matter if you admitted to consuming “20 beers” and admitting you are “hammered” or “wasted” or that you were the driver at the time of the accident.
The accident report privilege is absolute and prohibits the state from using all pre-Miranda statements at a crash scene against you at certain stages of the criminal case. Additionally, statements may be excluded even if you are read Miranda after your arrest. Meltzer& Bell, P.A. will file all legal motions to preserve your constitutional rights under the 5th Amendment. We will do all we can to try and move the courts to exclude any statements illegally and unlawfully obtained.
South Florida DUI Resources
Florida Highway Patrol: This state agency is responsible for patrolling highways in Florida, including throughout the Palm Beach area.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff’s deputies, including DUI and Traffic Enforcement Units members, patrol the streets throughout Palm Beach County.Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office 3228 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach, FL 33406
FDLE Alcohol Testing Program: The Florida Department of Law Enforcement regulates the devices used to test people for intoxication.
Working With a Qualified DUI Defense Attorney in West Palm Beach
Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell are highly qualified DUI defense lawyers. An attorney in the office is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call Meltzer & Bell, P.A. today at (561) 557-8686 to set up a consultation. We serve clients in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Wellington, Lake Worth, and the surrounding areas of Palm Beach County.
This article was last updated on Sunday, April 17, 2022.