In Sarasota, if you are a charged with a DUI, it is typically a misdemeanor offense. The DUI becomes a felony when the driver has had more than three convictions in the past ten years, bodily injury has occurred, and other factors your DUI defense attorney will outline with you in detail.
Why is a Typical DUI Treated as a Misdemeanor?
The circumstances detailing whether or not a crime is a misdemeanor or a felony is confusing to someone who is not experienced with law and legal issues. In the state of Florida, misdemeanors are considered a lesser offense than a felony. This determination is based upon how severe the charges are against the driver. In the state of Florida, a felony offense is met with a prison term of at least one year. Other felony penalties include:
- High fines
- House arrest
- Supervised probation
Even when the DUI is treated as a misdemeanor, it would behoove the offender to hire a criminal defense attorney to ensure all the charges are understood and the best possible defense can be created. While misdemeanor offenses are less severe than a felony offense, the DUI case is still a challenge to handle without proper legal representation. Misdemeanor cases and felony cases are both held at the Sarasota Circuit Court.
What Factors Lead to a Felony DUI Arrest?
Whether or not your DUI is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor is determined based upon several different factors. Because each situation is handled on a case by case basis, there is no specific blueprint that will guarantee the charges will sway one way or another. Here are some examples of what factors could lead to a felony DUI arrest:
- How many previous offenses have occurred?
- What are the results of the blood alcohol content (BAC) test?
- Were any people injured, including the driver, when the driver was operating the vehicle while under the influence?
Drivers must keep in mind that a felony DUI carries harsher penalties than a misdemeanor. Having a discussion with a defense attorney as soon as possible will not only help relieve stress surrounding the situation, but it will enable the two of you to work together as a team to build a strong case.
What Evidence is Needed to Defend the DUI Case?
When building your defense case, your attorney will scrutinize all the evidence involved in your arrest. They will look at the same key factors the law enforcement officer examined at the time of your traffic stop:
- Driving pattern prior to the traffic stop
- Chemical test (breath, blood, or urine) results
- Field sobriety test performance and results
- Physical symptoms of the driver
How Can the DUI Defense Attorney Work To Reduce These Charges?
This evidence is gathered in the form of reports, video tapes from dashboard cameras, video tapes from the testing facility, and data analysis from the test results. When this evidence is studied by your attorney, they will be able to determine if:
- There was probable cause for the traffic stop.
- If the law enforcement official ensured none of the driver's rights were compromised.
- The chemical tests were performed properly and by a licensed official.
- The field sobriety test was conducted lawfully.
- The physical symptoms of the driver were not the result of allergies, contact lens irritation of their eyes, or any other illness.
Charges can be challenged in order to receive a reduction if any of the above criteria is not met. For example, if the law enforcement official did not have probable cause during the traffic stop, then the case can be dismissed. Another example includes if the testing was performed improperly or if, upon refusal of testing, the implied consent law was not read to the driver.