Florida has the second strictest DUI laws in the country, behind only Arizona. A person who is convicted of a DUI in Florida may be required to install an interlock ignition device even after a first offense, and may have their license suspended for up to six months, be required to pay up to a $2,000 fine, and face of up to nine months in jail. Driving drunk is a dangerous decision, and the consequences can be devastating. But a DUI charge does not necessarily have to mean a DUI conviction.
A Criminal Record Is Forever
A criminal record has the potential to:
- Destroy a hard-earned career
- Put an end to higher educational pursuits
- Take away certain civil rights
- Increase premiums for both life and auto insurance
- Restrict housing options
- Destroy personal and social relationships
A criminal conviction stays on a person’s record for a lifetime and is there for all to see. Criminal records are public, and anyone can perform a background check and discover another person’s conviction once it exists.
Avoiding conviction is possible, but highly improbable without legal representation. Anyone who has been accused of a crime has a constitutional right to legal representation. But not all lawyers are equal when it comes to DUI defense. Those facing DUI charges often find themselves questioning whether to hire a private defense lawyer or ask for the free services of a public defender. However, a private defense lawyer has the best chance of keeping a criminal conviction off of a person’s record.
There are three compelling reasons to hire an experienced, private DUI defense attorney: time, resources and preparation. Read on to learn why.
Time, Resources, and Preparation
In most cases, a lawyer can establish viable, legal arguments against a DUI charge. And every person, regardless of what they may or may not have done, is entitled to present a defense against any criminal charges brought against them. For that defense to be successful, however, the defendant’s attorney must engage in extensive preparation, have financial and administrative resources, and dedicate sufficient time to adequately prepare for the case.
Consider the Implications of Using the Services of a Public Defender
Although perfectly qualified, most public defenders are severely overworked. A September 2018 article published in The Fordham Political Review calls this situation a “crisis” in our legal system. The article goes on to state:
- Only 27 percent of county-based public defender offices have enough attorneys to manage their caseloads.
- National standards recommend that public defenders handle no more than 150 felonies and 400 misdemeanors a year. Yet the average felony caseload for public defenders in Florida was 500 cases per year.
- The American Bar Association found that felony cases require about 47 hours of work to prepare for effectively.
- Some public defenders in the country are spending a mere hour, or even mere minutes, preparing for each case.
Using the numbers above, if Florida public defenders were to spend the recommended 47 hours to prepare each felony case, they would have to dedicate 455 hours a week to prepare for felonies alone! This doesn’t even account for the time they would need to spend on the many more misdemeanors they are responsible for each year.
The bottom line is that, given their tremendous caseloads, it would be almost impossible for a public defender to dedicate adequate time to any one of their many cases.
Consider the Benefits of Hiring a Private Defense Attorney
Not all attorneys are equal, but an experienced private DUI defense attorney is generally able to thoroughly prepare for each case. An attorney with adequate time can obtain and carefully and thoroughly review all pertinent reports for each case. They can dedicate the time to uncover all the available evidence about mitigating circumstances in each case. They have the support staff and financial resources to utilize medical experts and investigators or other expert witnesses. And they have the time to get to know each client on a personal level.
When a person who has been accused of a DUI engages the help of a defense attorney, and there is relevant evidence, their lawyer might challenge the legality of the arresting officer’s initial traffic stop due to possible:
- Racial profiling;
- Faulty field sobriety tests; or
- Constitutional rights violations.
An experienced defense attorney will review all aspects of the police report and other evidence to be certain their client was not stopped:
- Out of turn at a sobriety checkpoint;
- Simply because they were leaving a bar; or
- Only because they were driving at night.
A qualified lawyer will aggressively defend a client if:
- The arresting officer engaged in any misconduct;
- The police coerced their client into complying with voluntary tests;
- Any breath or blood alcohol test appears to be invalid;
- Their client was arrested without a warrant; or
- Their client was detained for more than a reasonable period.
An experienced private attorney will leave no stone unturned in being certain that:
- The person administering breath testing was certified to do so;
- Testing equipment was properly maintained, inspected, and calibrated;
- The client’s request to speak to an attorney was not ignored or delayed;
- Any police questioning was halted once the client requested a lawyer;
- The client was read their Miranda rights if they were arrested;
- The client fully understood their Miranda rights; and
- The client was allowed to arrange for a private, independent blood test (at their own expense).
A criminal defense litigator understands and leverages the value of mitigating circumstances, such as:
- A clean driving record;
- A client’s blood alcohol content is only slightly more than 0.08 on a Breathalyzer test;
- The client voluntarily completed an alcohol abuse course before trial; or
- The client was under the influence of legally prescribed medication.
When All Is Said and Done
Getting life back to normal after a DUI arrest or conviction entails more than just the criminal case itself. A public defender only represents their clients during the criminal process. A private defense lawyer can help their clients with other related administrative processes after a DUI trial is over, such as:
- Restoring driving privileges;
- Getting back confiscated property; or
- Negotiating fines or fees.
Protect Your Future — It Is Your Right
Whatever the circumstances of your DUI arrest, when it comes to dealing with DUI charges, you have everything to gain by retaining the services of an experienced Florida defense attorney who will stand with you throughout the entire legal process, and one who understands the value of even the smallest details in a criminal case. Don’t forfeit your constitutional right to a defense.
Khonsari Law Group
150 2nd Avenue North Suite 970
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Phone: (727) 269-5300