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DUI Legal Process in Florida

The first step in all DUI cases is the traffic stop in which the driver is arrested for driving under the influence. The Police officer will either give a field sobriety test to the individual or chemical test of the driver’s blood, urine or breath. After the arrest is made, the driver will then be booked in the jail of the jurisdiction of the police officer. The driver, while at the jail, will be searched, fingerprinted, questioned, photographed and placed into a jail-cell. Bail will be set and the driver will accorded one phone call. A person that is arrested for a DUI in Florida will be held for at least eight hours unless they no longer are impaired, intoxicated and have a BAC under .05. After being arrested, a person can be released either through posting of a bond or being released on a person’s own recognizance. If a person refuses to submit to a breath test, that person’s license shall be suspended. That person’s DUI citation shall act as a temporary driver’s license. Following the citation, the person will have a period of ten days to file the mandated paperwork to request a hearing from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in order to challenge his or her license. If a driver fails to do so, his or her license will be automatically suspended. Charges must be filed within one year of the arrest. For the most part charges will be filed immediately following the arrest with the exception of waiting for a blood test.

Within 24 hours of a DUI charge a hearing is held in the jail in which a judge will inform the person arrested of his or her charges and will go over the police report of arrest with the driver to determine the proper conditions of the driver’s release.

Most of the time there will be a court date on a person’s DUI citation. This court date is the date of a person’s arraignment. Sometimes, a court date is not listed on the citation and will be provided to the driver later. It is at the arraignment where the charges a person faces will be read to him or her and the accused will have to enter a plea of either guilty, not guilty or no contest. An attorney representing an arrestee may appear instead of the accused. If the accused has not hired an attorney, the accused must appear at the arraignment.

Following the arraignment there is a pre-trial meeting with the prosecutor called the Pretrial Hearing. Here, the judge is updated with the progression of the case and negotiations with the prosecutor can be done. The case may be resolved at this time depending on whether negotiations of that nature are made and accepted by both sides. If no plea agreement is reached at this time, then the judge will set the case for trial.

Pretrial Motions or Evidentiary Hearings may or may not take place before an actual trial, but it is in the best interest of the arrestee to schedule them. The arrestee’s attorney may go before the judge to decide important key issues of the case. Here is when the issues of admissibility of evidence and probably cause are considered.

It is rare that a DUI case will go to trial. If a trail does occur, the jury will be composed of six jurors with one alternate trial. It is the right of the accused to waive his or her right to a jury trial and instead have a judge decide the fate of the driver’s case.

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