ALS After A DUI: What You Should Know
In Florida, a chemical test refusal or a chemical test result above the legal limit usually triggers the administrative license suspension process. The Sunshine State has very strict laws in this area. Defendants only have ten days to request ALS hearings. If they don’t request hearings, the full suspension period automatically takes effect. This suspension period is six months for a first failure and twelve months for a first refusal. The license suspension periods go up from there. Additionally, Florida has a refusal-to-submit law. So, defendants who don’t provide chemical samples upon demand could face additional criminal charges.
Very few defendants request ALS hearings. Since they don’t think they can win these hearings, they don’t see why they should work with a Tampa DUI lawyer and fight the suspension. Granted, the odds of beating the suspension are slim. Most administrative law judges are paid DMV employees. Additionally, since the ALS is technically a civil process, Constitutional restrictions in criminal cases don’t apply. Nevertheless, there’s a good chance for a Tampa criminal defense lawyer to secure a successful outcome that makes a difference to defendants and their families.
What the State Must Prove
At ALS hearings, prosecutors must prove that officers had probable cause to request a chemical sample. Probable cause is a nebulous standard of evidence that’s below the standard of proof at trial, which is beyond a reasonable doubt.
Usually, prosecutors rely on field sobriety test results to establish probable cause. At trial, since the standard of evidence is higher, the officer’s subjective opinion, which is always that the defendant failed the tests, often doesn’t hold up in court. However, in an ALS hearing with a lower burden of proof, that opinion is usually enough.
If the officer appears at the hearing, prosecutors usually have no problem making their cases. If the officer doesn’t appear, the ALJ usually resets the hearing, giving the officer an opportunity to appear. In a few cases, the ALJ forces defendants to be witnesses against themselves. They can do this because the Fifth Amendment only applies in criminal actions.
Officer non appearance at hearings is increasingly common. That’s especially true if a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy made the arrest in a remote part of the county, and the deputy must drive all the way to Tampa.
Why Defendants Should Request ALS Hearings
First and foremost, defendants who challenge drivers’ license suspension take absolutely no risks. At worst, the ALJ imposes the full drivers’ license suspension period. That would have happened even if the defendant did nothing.
Additionally, there’s a very good chance the ALJ will at least reduce the suspension period. That’s especially true if the state’s evidence is weak, and it usually is. Alternatively, the ALJ may grant a limited drivers’ license that’s not quite as limited as these licenses usually are.
The discovery opportunity may be the best reason to request an ALS hearing. These hearings give a Tampa criminal defense lawyer a chance to cross-examine the officer on the record and under oath. Such depositions are usually unavailable in misdemeanor cases. Even if they are, these depositions normally cost hundreds of dollars.
At trial, an attorney can use a prior inconsistent statement to erode the officer’s credibility. That prior inconsistent statement could be something as inconsequential as the weather conditions on that night.
There’s an emotional dimension as well. Defendants who request hearings know they didn’t take the matter lying down and fought against the government.
Count on a Dedicated Hillsborough County Attorney
A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters throughout the Tampa Bay area.