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Next Steps for First-Time DUI Offenders

Next Steps for First-Time DUI Offenders

If you’re a first-time DUI offender in the State of Florida, you’re likely feeling scared, confused, and anxious about what’s to come. As Americans, we spend a great deal of time in our vehicles getting to and from work, visiting friends and family, and running errands. With your driver’s license suddenly suspended, you’re left wondering how you’ll pursue any of the activities you previously depended on a vehicle for.

Fortunately, there is a way to fight the suspension of your license, limit your penalties, and potentially reduce your DUI charge to reckless driving. The first and most important step is to contact a DUI defense lawyer in Clearwater as soon as possible following your arrest. During this consultation, you can discuss the specific details of your arrest, address any concerns you may have, and receive the legal guidance you need to make the best decisions moving forward in your case.

Request a DMV Administrative Review Hearing

Time is of the essence in a DUI case as you only have 10 calendar days from the date of your arrest to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license and have your DUI defense attorney in Clearwater request a formal administrative hearing. The term “calendar days” is important here, as the clock continues to run even though the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is closed on Saturday and Sunday. Prior to this hearing, your attorney will sit down with you to discuss the DHSMV administrative process in more detail, review all of the documents associated with your case, determine the legal sufficiency of the forms and reports law enforcement relied upon to justify taking your license, and prepare a defense. If necessary, your attorney may also call witnesses to testify or present evidence on your behalf. He or she may issue subpoenas to ensure witness attendance at the hearing as well.

Obtain a Hardship License

As a first-time DUI offender, Florida Statute 322.2615(1)(b)3. and 322.271(7) allow for you to immediately apply for a hardship driving privilege. This allows you to suffer no interruption in your ability to lawfully drive. However, advanced preparation is the key to success in this process. When you partner with one of the best DUI defense lawyers in Clearwater, he or she can help you navigate the hardship license application process with ease, including:

  • Advising you on your eligibility for a hardship license
  • Informing you of the proper time to apply for a hardship license
  • Providing you with written instructions on what to do to satisfy the requirements of Florida and Federal Law
  • Providing you with the necessary application forms and information packets to expedite the process
  • Counseling you about the type and nature of the questions the hearing officer may ask you regarding whether to grant your reinstatement of driving privileges

Reduce Your DUI to Reckless Driving

There are a number of ways to mitigate the potential repercussions of a DUI charge with the help of one of the top DUI defense attorneys in Clearwater, including taking a plea bargain, completing a rehabilitation program, or working to have your DUI charge reduced to reckless driving. By requesting to amend the charge from DUI to reckless driving, you’ll significantly lower the maximum penalty of jail time, the stigma associated with the charge, the minimum mandatory fine, and possibility for job termination and increase in insurance rates. Additionally, if you are convicted of reckless driving and then later arrested and convicted of a DUI, you would be deemed a first-time offender. If you have any questions about having your charges reduced to reckless driving, obtaining a hardship license, or requesting a formal administrative hearing, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

For a free consultation with one of the best DUI defense lawyers in Clearwater, please contact Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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Blowing Over Legal Limit – What Happens Next?

Blowing Over Legal Limit – What Happens Next?

In the State of Florida, you can be arrested for a DUI if you are driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle and you are under the influence of alcohol to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired or you have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. If you’ve been arrested for a DUI offense, you’re likely fearful of what’s to come as even a first offense could end up with you facing serious legal repercussions. That’s why it’s critical that you speak with the top DWI lawyer in Clearwater as soon as possible to request a hearing to prevent your driver’s license from becoming suspended, review your eligibility for a hardship license, and create an effective defense that can protect both your driving privileges and your reputation. With the assistance of a DUI defense attorney, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to challenge any evidence brought against you, effectively defend your freedom and driving privileges, and successfully avoid the social stigma associated with a DUI-related offense.

First Offense DUI

The possible legal penalties associated with a first-time DUI offense in Florida include up to $1,500 in fines, the suspension of your driver’s license for up to one year, 50 hours of community service, mandatory vehicle impoundment for 10 days, and up to one year in jail. For first-time offenders, the top DWI lawyers in Clearwater may recommend waiving the formal administrative review process in favor of triggering the DHSMV to allow for your immediate application for a hardship license. Although this waiver does result in the automatic administrative suspension of your privilege to drive, it circumvents the 30 or 90 day “hard suspension” and is the approach most likely to result in keeping you driving on an uninterrupted basis. Consult with an attorney within the first 10 days to discuss the DHSMV administrative process in greater detail and decide whether it’s in your best interest to request or waive the formal review hearing in your particular case as every DUI case is unique.

Second Offense DUI

DUI repeat offenders face serious penalties in the State of Florida. The penalties associated with your second DUI offense will vary greatly depending on whether or not the offense is within 5 years of your first DUI conviction. Generally speaking, the maximum criminal penalties for second offenders include a jail sentence up to one year, fines ranging from $1,500 to $2,500, a license suspension of up to five years, mandatory ignition interlock devices for up to two years, and vehicle impoundment for up to 30 days. In addition to all of these penalties, you also cannot apply for the early reinstatement of your license due to hardship when serving the penalties for your second DUI. You must serve the full revocation period before requesting the reinstatement of your driver’s license.

Third Offense DUI

The conviction penalties for a third-offense DUI are even stricter, particularly if your third offense is within ten years of a prior DUI conviction. You’ll serve a minimum 30-day jail sentence and a maximum of 5 years jail sentence along with having to deal with fines ranging from $2,500 to $4,500, a mandatory suspension of your license for at least ten years, the installation of ignition interlock devices on your vehicles for at least two years, and the impoundment of your vehicle for 90 days. Similar to the second DUI offense, you must serve at least two years of your license revocation before you can file for a hardship license that provides limited driving privileges.

No matter whether you are currently facing your first, second, or third DUI charge, you need to do everything in your power to have these charges reduced or dismissed and avoid conviction. You never want to be standing up in court against a prosecutor with years of legal training and experience with no legal ally by your side. It’s easy to make common mistakes during the process of defending your license, such as failing to comply with the 10-day rule, confusing the administrative suspension with the court suspension, and more. You only have one chance to get the right results, and failing to properly prepare and defend your case could mean standing before a judge and learning right there and then that the prosecutor is seeking jail time, a lengthy driver’s license suspension, the imposition of an ignition interlock device, and more. The top DWI attorneys in Clearwater at The Law Offices of Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan routinely handle DUI and criminal defense matters and have a complete set of procedures in place to efficiently and cost-effectively handle your case. We have helped countless clients have their charges reduced to a lesser offense or even totally tossed out of court. For a free consultation, give us a call today.

For a free consultation with the top DWI attorney in Clearwater, please contact Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Call our office for a free consultation at (727) 578-0303

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How to Get Your Car Back After Being Arrested for a DUI

How to Get Your Car Back After Being Arrested for a DUI

Among the many other immediate and serious legal consequences of being arrested for a DUI in the State of Florida, such as the administrative suspension of your driver’s license, you’ll also have to contend with recovering the vehicle that was involved in the arrest. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer as to what will happen to a vehicle following a DUI arrest, as it ultimately depends on the circumstances of your arrest, the attitude of the responding officers, and your driving record. Generally speaking, there are three different scenarios that the responding officers may employ to deal with your vehicle following the arrest.

It’s important to understand what these scenarios are as well as your options to recover your vehicle following your arrest so that you may maintain your composure, secure your vehicle, and act quickly to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license. Knowing that your driving privileges, insurance policy rates, and reputation is at stake following a DUI arrest, your best option is always to contact the best DWI lawyer in Clearwater with years of experience handling DUI cases arising out of Pinellas County. Failing to do so could mean losing your eligibility to drive for a period of 30 days, 90 days, 6 months, 12 months, or 18 months, depending on the circumstances of your case and prior record of arrests for DUI.

Scenario 1: Your Vehicle May Be Driven Home By a Friend or Relative

The first scenario the police officer has the discretion to choose from following your arrest is allowing you to ask a sober friend or relative to come pick up your vehicle. It’s important to remember that not only is this option a courtesy, but it’s also generally only possible if the friend or family member is able to arrive within 20 minutes to pick up your car.

Scenario 2: Your Vehicle May Be Parked in the Location Where You Were Arrested

In some cases, when you know someone will be available to pick up your vehicle shortly and there is a legal parking space nearby, the arresting officer may elect to leave your car parked in a secure location. Typically, the arresting officer will only choose to leave your vehicle in this location on the understanding that you, a relative, or a friend will be back to pick it up at a later time. If this method is employed, your car will be locked, and the keys will be returned to you along with the rest of your personal property upon your release from the Pinellas County Jail. Should the arresting officer employ this method without you knowing the exact location of your vehicle, you can always refer to the document charging you with DUI that states the location in which you were arrested.

Scenario 3: Your Vehicle May Be Towed and Impounded

Finally, the most common of these scenarios is when the arresting officer has your vehicle towed to a tow yard by a wrecker, where it will remain until you’re able to pick it up following your release from the Pinellas County Jail. It’s important to act quickly should your vehicle be towed from the scene of your arrest as you will be charged a fee for the towing service as well as storage fees for each day your car remains in the lot.

Releasing your car from the towing company is a bit of a different ballpark than simply picking it up from the scene of the arrest or even the local police station. For starters, you may or may not be given information on which Pinellas towing company is in possession of your vehicle. In that case, you’ll have to contact the police agency that arrested you following your release from jail and ask which towing company is responsible for recovering your vehicle. Once you’ve located the correct towing company, you must then secure an “Impound Release” form from the police agency, demonstrate proof of ownership of the vehicle, and obtain the total amount due for the services associated with the towing and storage of your vehicle.

Typically, in order to demonstrate proof of ownership, you’ll have to supply relevant documents, such as the bill of sale, title, vehicle registration, or lease agreement, along with your identification. This can be difficult when items like your insurance card or registration happen to be locked within your vehicle; however, your next step should be to revisit the arresting law enforcement agency where they can retrieve your information from DAVID (Driver and Vehicle Information Database) and the jail records. In other cases, they may request you return to the impound lot for the purpose of securing your registration from the vehicle itself. It all depends on the arresting law enforcement agency and the attitude of the arresting officers you’re dealing with.

Lastly, if you were arrested by the St. Petersburg Police Department, City Ordinance 20-122 allows the agency to impound your vehicle and not release unless a $500 fine is paid, in addition to towing and storage fees.

Avoid Any Interruptions in Your Driving Privileges

To ensure you face little to no interruption in your driving privilege, you’ll want to partner with the best DWI attorneys in Clearwater. Dealing with a DUI arrest can be a stressful, frustrating, and even humiliating experience; however, with the assistance of the best DWI attorney in Clearwater, you can protect your reputation and your right to drive with ease. Simply give us a call for a free consultation, and we will get to work challenging the suspension of your driver’s license via a Formal Administrative Review Hearing.

For a free consultation with the best DWI attorneys in Clearwater, please contact Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Call our office for a free consultation at (727) 578-0303

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How To Get DUI Reduced to Reckless Driving

How To Get DUI Reduced to Reckless Driving

Even a first-offense DUI carries significant legal repercussions in the State of Florida, including up to six months of jail time, fines, and court costs ranging from $1,000 to $1,500, the suspension of your driver’s license for up to one year, and 50 hours of community service. Additionally, a DUI conviction remains on your driving record for 75 years. Such a criminal record can affect more than just your driving privileges; it can also impact your professional status, ability to maintain your current employment, ability to obtain employment in the future, and your insurance premiums.

As such, individuals facing their first DUI charge may wonder whether or not it is possible to have their pending DUI charge reduced to the less serious offense of reckless driving. This is accomplished in the Pinellas County court system by having an attorney from a DWI defense law firm in Clearwater request to have the prosecutor amend your charge from DUI to reflect the new and less serious offense of reckless driving.

Why You Need an Experienced Attorney Skilled in DWI Defense in Clearwater to Get Your DUI Reduced

If you’re looking to have your DUI charge reduced to Reckless Driving, it’s absolutely critical to partner with an attorney who is highly-experienced in DWI defense in Clearwater. First and foremost, he or she will help you to recognize whether or not your case is a good candidate for reduction to reckless driving. No two DUI cases are alike, and not every DUI case will prove to be suited for reduction to reckless driving. At a free consultation with an attorney from The Law Offices at Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan, we’ll examine various aspects of your case, such as lawfulness of the traffic stop, whether injury is involved, and the legality of the request for a breath test, prior to outlining a plan of action that is designed to thoroughly investigate your case and uncover evidence that may prove beneficial to your defense.

If, after a thorough examination of the evidence, our office determines that your case is a suitable candidate for reduction, then we will prepare detailed correspondence to the case assigned prosecutor in the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office. You can rest assured that we will do everything in our power to reveal every possible weakness in the prosecutor’s case, outline the facts associated with your driving and appearance on video, leverage any applicable case law and legal arguments, and highlight any personal background information that supports the prosecutor’s decision to possibly amend your charge to reckless driving. It’s crucial to note that our correspondence or reduction letter will also serve as a permanent record in support of the case assigned prosecutor to reduce the charge.

Factors in Determining Whether Your DUI Can Be Reduced to Reckless Driving

The prosecutor in your case may examine several factors in determining whether or not to reduce your DUI charge to a charge of reckless driving, including:

  • Criminal History: It’s significantly easier to have your DUI charge reduced to reckless driving if this is your first offense and you have an otherwise clean record.
  • Constitutional Rights: If the police officer stopped you or requested a breath test without probable cause, arguments that some or all evidence may be subject to suppression can, at times, cause the state to be persuaded to amend the DUI offense to reckless driving.
  • Field Sobriety Exercises: If you performed well on field sobriety exercises, this weakens the prosecutor’s case to convict you of a DUI charge.
  • Breath Test: Likewise, if you refused a breath test, it will prove more difficult for the state to determine that your normal faculties were, in fact, impaired.

Other factors include how much time elapsed between the time of driving to the time of testing, whether you behaved in a polite and cooperative manner, and whether any alcoholic beverage containers were discovered in your vehicle.

Benefits of Having Your DUI Charge Reduced to Reckless Driving

There are a number of benefits to partnering with an attorney from a DWI defense law firm in Clearwater to have your DUI charge reduced to reckless driving. Not only does a reckless driving conviction not carry the same weight or stigma or a DUI conviction, but your insurance company is less likely to treat your reckless driving charge in the same manner in which they would treat a DUI. You’ll have less to worry about increased insurance premiums, being fired from your place of employment, or jeopardizing your future applications for employment. Last but certainly not least, if your charge is reduced and you are later re-arrested for another DUI offense, you would still be considered a first-time DUI offender. If you’re looking to have your DUI charge reduced to reckless driving and avoid the stigma and severe legal repercussions associated with a DUI charge, contact one of the attorneys at The Law Offices of Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan.

For a free consultation with a DWI defense law firm in Clearwater, please contact Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Call our office for a free consultation at (727) 578-0303

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Breath Test Refusal – What You Need to Know

Breath Test Refusal – What You Need to Know

You’re driving down the road when, out of nowhere, red and blue lights start flashing in your rearview mirror, and you hear sirens signaling for you to pull over. You find a safe space to pull over, the officer requests that you exit your vehicle, and before you know it, you’re being asked to submit to a breathalyzer test.

Fear of doing or saying the wrong thing during a traffic stop like the one described above leaves the average American with a number of questions. What are your rights in a situation like this? What are the consequences of refusing a breath test? If you refuse to blow into the breath test machine, can your refusal be defended in a court of law? Will this ultimately hurt or help your DUI case? The answer is that, although every DUI case is unique, there are unique laws governing your ability to refuse to submit to a breath test in the State of Florida. If you were arrested shortly after refusing to consent to a breathalyzer test, a DWI defense lawyer in Clearwater with The Law Offices of Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan is here to help.

Implied Consent

As one of our DWI defense lawyers in Clearwater will explain, the answer to whether or not you can legally refuse to submit to breath testing is actually fairly straightforward. Under Florida’s Implied Consent Law, which is defined in Section 316.1932 of the Florida Statutes, any individual who operates a motor vehicle within the state is deemed to have given his or her consent to submit to an improved chemical or physical test for the purpose of determining the alcohol content of his or her breath of blood if lawfully arrested for a DUI. In other words, by driving in Florida, you have legally accepted the responsibility of consenting law enforcement to test for the presence of alcohol in the event of a lawful arrest for DUI. If you take a look at your Florida driver’s license, you will notice this warning: “Operation of a motor vehicle constitutes consent to any sobriety test required by law.”

As a result of this law, if you refuse to submit a breath sample, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend your driver’s license for at least one year. If this is your second refusal, your driver’s license will be suspended for at least 18 months with the refusal classified as a first-degree misdemeanor. Along with the suspension of your license, a second refusal will also be accompanied by up to one year in jail or twelve months probation and a $1,000 fine.

What Qualifies as a Refusal?

One important fact to take into consideration is that a “refusal” isn’t as simple as saying “no” when the officer asks you to take a breath test. Other circumstances can be classified as a refusal as well, including:

Agreeing to the test and then being subsequently unable to provide two breath samples of sufficient quality within the required time period
Being unable to provide two breath tests within 0.02 of one another and then refusing a third test

Simply put, generally anything other than providing two valid breath samples will be interpreted by law enforcement as a refusal.

Defenses to a Breath Test Refusal

Fortunately, a DWI defense attorney in Clearwater can use a number of defenses available to challenge a criminal charge brought forth on the basis of refusal of a breath test. Common defenses to a refusal of a breath test include:

  • Lack of probable cause for the initial traffic stop
  • Lack of probable cause to request that you submit to testing
  • No actual refusal
  • Improper statement of implied consent warning or lack of implied consent warning
  • Improper threats or inducements
  • Inaccurate statements of law

If you’re being prosecuted for refusing to submit to a breath test in the State of Florida or if evidence of your refusal is being used against you in a DUI prosecution, don’t hesitate to contact one of the DWI defense attorneys in Clearwater with The Law Offices of Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan.

For a free consultation with DWI defense attorneys in Clearwater, please contact Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Call our office for a free consultation at (727) 578-0303

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Understanding DUI with Serious Bodily Injury

Understanding DUI with Serious Bodily Injury

If you’ve been arrested for a DUI with serious bodily injury in the State of Florida, you run the risk of facing incredibly severe criminal penalties. Even if there is never a conviction, a felony DUI charge can have a drastic impact on your life. To explore the defenses available to contest your charge or minimize potential penalties, it’s absolutely crucial that you contact a DWI lawyer in Clearwater with The Law Offices of Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan for a free consultation. You only have one opportunity to get the right result, and you’ll need a legal ally by your side who is familiar with the unique nature of DUI with serious injury charges and the Pinellas County Criminal Court System. During the consultation, we can discuss which options and approaches are best for you and coordinate a strategy to achieve the best possible outcome.

Elements of DUI With Serious Bodily Injury

The crime of DUI Causing Serious Bodily Injury is defined in section 316.193(3) of The Florida Statutes. In order for you to be convicted of a DUI with serious bodily injury, the prosecutor in your case must prove three factual elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • You drove or were in actual physical control of the vehicle
  • While driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle, you were under the influence of alcohol to the extent that your normal faculties were impaired OR you had a breath/blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher
  • As a result of operating the vehicle, you caused or contributed to the serious bodily injury of another individual

Under Section 316.1933(1)(b) of the Florida Statutes, “serious bodily injury” refers to an injury to any person, including the driver, that consists of a physical condition that creates one of the following conditions:

  • Substantial risk of death
  • Serious personal disfigurement
  • Protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ

Possible Penalties for DUI With Serious Bodily Injury

In Florida, DUI with serious bodily injury is classified as a third-degree felony charge and a level 7 offense, which is given a primary offense point value of 56. If the prosecution succeeds in having the victim’s injuries classified as severe, you could end with up to 40 more points. 30 more points can also be added to your total for a prior serious felony conviction. This “points” system is complicated. As a result, it is critical that you partner with the best DUI Lawyer in Clearwater to determine your “score” and evaluate what defenses may exist in the unique circumstances of your case.

Overall, the minimum penalties for DUI with serious bodily injury include:

  • Up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation
  • A $5,000 fine
  • A potential restitution award to compensate the victim for his or her losses
  • The suspension of your driver’s license for at least 3 years
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • Mandatory psychological evaluation
  • Mandatory DUI education classes
  • Mandatory substance abuse evaluation

How an Attorney Can Help

If you’ve been arrested for a DUI that allegedly resulted in serious bodily injury, there’s no time to waste in contacting an experienced DWI attorney in Clearwater who has a successful track record of defending those accused of serious DUI offenses in the State of Florida and is dedicated to preserving your rights. Facing a DUI charge can be incredibly intimidating; however, there are several options to having your charge reduced or dropped altogether. Possible defenses include no serious injuries, constitutional violations of your rights, a faulty blood test issued at the scene of your arrest, and more. Simply get in contact with one of our DWI attorneys in Clearwater today, and we’ll get to work immediately at informing you of the defenses available to contest your charge or minimize the potential penalties.

For a free consultation with DWI lawyers in Clearwater, please contact Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Call our office for a free consultation at (727) 578-0303

Defense services for DUI and DWI offenses

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24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week