Orlando Florida DUI and Minors Present

Orlando, Kissimmee, and Longwood Florida may be popular destination spots for families, but if you are convicted of a DUI while visiting, be prepared to face tough fines. A Florida DUI conviction is a criminal offense. This is no different when someone underage is guilty of the offense or there are children in the car.

If you have been drinking or are using drugs or certain medications, it is illegal to operate a vehicle. For those under 21, the legal limit of BAC is .02%. For adults, that limit is raised to  .08%. If there is a minor in the car, the penalties for a first time offense are increased. It is never a good idea to drink and drive, but it is an even worse idea to do it in the presence of a minor.

The Florida DUI charge is a multiple step process that begins with an arrest. An arrest can be prompted by three different things. The most popular reason for a DUI arrest is unusual driving behavior that is witnessed by a police officer. A DUI arrest can also occur from a sobriety checkpoint, or a report to the police from a witness.

Once a driver has been stopped by an officer under the suspicion of DUI, the officer will make further observations, and possibly ask for a field sobriety test. The driver can refuse the sobriety test, but doing so typically gives the impression of guilt. Also, under Florida law, the officer is able to detain a driver that refuses a sobriety test if he feels he has enough proof without it. On the other hand, if the driver fails the field sobriety test, he will also be detained.

Once taken to a local jail, the driver will be asked to take either a urine, breath or blood test. Similar to the field sobriety test, the driver is allowed to refuse the tests. However, if the driver refuses the test they will have their license suspended by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The fact that they refused the test will also be admittable in court as evidence.  Depending on the specifics of the DUI arrest, and whether or not it is a first offense, the driver could remain in jail for a few hours to a few months. Drivers arrested for DUI also face a mandatory vehicle impound.

The initial license suspension in Florida is called an administrative suspension. This is separate from the criminal case, and immediate. This type of suspension is done regardless of the final ruling by the court. When issued an administrative suspension, drivers are given 10 days to request an administrative hearing. A hearing can restore driving privileges, or permit a hardship license that will allow driving to work or school. Driving privileges restored through an administrative hearing can be later lost in court.

The Florida DUI process in court is similar to other criminal misdemeanor cases. The proceedings will begin with an arraignment. The arraignment will notify the defendant of the charges and give him or her a chance to plea. Defendants are given the opportunity to have a public defender or private representation. Following the arraignment, lawyers can participate in a process called discovery prior to the pre-trial. Discovery is the time when evidence is discussed, while pre-trial is the first opportunity to have the case dismissed or plea bargained.

If the case continues past the pre-trial, a motion hearing, done by a lawyer, will further discuss the evidence. A criminal defense lawyer will attempt to suppress information that is damaging to their client’s case. Following the motion hearing, the evidence will be heard by a jury in a trial.

When a Florida DUI case involves a minor or driver under the age of 21, the following increased penalties can be expected:

  • Lowered acceptable BAC of .02% for under 21 drivers
  • Increased Fines of  $1000- $4000 for first or second offense for having minors in the vehicle
  • Extra possible jail time of up to 3 months for having minors in the vehicle

If your Orlando, Longwood or Kissimmee DUI case involves underage drivers or children in any way, the stakes are higher. The help of a knowledgeable lawyer is what you will need to not only prevent a criminal charge, but also limit license suspension and possible jail time.

Author: Amir Ladan
A former assistant state attorney for Orange/Osceola Counties, Amir has handled thousands of cases and dozens of trials, ranging from DUI and traffic offenses to murder, in both adult and juvenile court.

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