Pretrial DUI Drivers’ License Suspension In Hillsborough County
Florida, like every other U.S. state, has an implied consent law. A refusal to submit to a lawful request for a chemical sample could lead to drivers’ license suspension, even if the driver isn’t convicted of DUI. The suspension periods are usually six months for a first refusal and twelve months for a subsequent refusal. For many people, drivers’ license suspension is just as bad as court supervision or even confinement in jail.
These suspensions are difficult to successfully contest. Since they aren’t criminal charges, the normal Constitutional procedural protections don’t apply. Nevertheless, if a Tampa DUI attorney requests a hearing and aggressively represents the defendant at an Administrative Law Review hearing, an attorney usually obtains a good result. That good result might take one of several forms.
Officers must have probable cause to request a chemical sample. Evidence of consumption, like bloodshot eyes and erratic driving, might not be sufficient. That’s especially true if, as is often the case, the arrest happened late at night. Fatigue could cause erratic driving and bloodshot eyes just as much as alcohol.
Therefore, most administrative law judges require some field sobriety test (FST) evidence. Probable cause is a much lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. An officer’s subjective conclusion that the defendant “failed” the walk-and-turn or another FST might not hold up in criminal court. But it’s probably good enough to establish probable cause at an ALJ hearing.
Sometimes, officers skip the FSTs. Maybe the weather was bad or there was a disturbance at the scene. Furthermore, in a handful of cases, defendants refuse to perform these tests.
Defendants have a Fifth Amendment right to refuse to walk a straight line and perform other FSTs. Tampa criminal defense attorneys are divided as to whether such refusal is a good idea or not. Some say refusal makes a bad situation worse. Others say performing the test is tantamount to giving the state evidence to use in court.
Additionally, the stop itself must have been lawful. Usually, officers must have reasonable suspicion, or an evidence-based hunch, before they detain motorists. Reasonable suspicion is an even loser standard than probable cause. But a successful challenge is possible. That’s especially true if officers detained the defendant at an illegal checkpoint.
In the old days, police officers often didn’t show up at ALR hearings and the ALJ would dismiss the matter. Times have changed. Now, departments usually punish officers who don’t show up. Even if they don’t appear, the ALJ often reschedules the hearing or forces defendants to be witnesses against themselves.
So, the state usually has no problem proving a bare-bones case. In such instances, the ALJ often reduces the drivers’ license suspension period or probates part of, or all of, the suspension. Usually, the same ALJ that determines suspension also decides whether or not to grant an occupational drivers’ license. A vigorous defense makes a broad ODL more of a possibility.
Furthermore, even if a lawyer “loses” this case, the defendant wins. ALJ hearings give lawyers a chance to cross-examine the arresting officer under oath. Such a deposition usually costs hundreds of dollars, if it’s available at all. This testimony is especially an edge in closed-file jurisdictions where discovery is limited.
Above all, there’s no risk. The worst possible outcome is a full-term drivers’ license suspension. That would’ve happened even if the defendant did nothing.
Count on a Thorough 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. Convenient payment plans are available.