DUI Procedures In Florida Challenged
Convictions for driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida can have many consequences including fines, suspension of your driver’s license, probation, or even time spent in jail. However, if you are arrested on suspicion of DUI, you may experience some consequences well before a conviction is entered against you. A lawsuit recently filed in Florida is currently challenging the legality of some of these consequences.
Current procedures by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles allow an arresting law enforcement officer to physically take the DUI suspect’s license and their driving privileges are automatically and immediately suspended. This administrative suspension occurs before any prosecutor or court reviews the case for probable cause to charge the suspect with DUI. Suspects are technically allowed to challenge the suspension, however, the challenge is heard by a member of the department and can be significantly biased. An experienced criminal defense attorney may know how to present effective arguments at a suspension hearing, though suspended drivers without any representation have little to no chance of having the suspension lifted.
Drivers may apply for temporary licenses to allow them to drive to work, but these licenses have many restrictions and applying for such a license costs money. There are also fines associated with having a license reinstated at the end of an administrative suspension. The lawsuit alleges that the Department of Highway Safety rakes in up to $60 million from such fees and costs on an annual basis.
Even if a DUI suspect is later acquitted of all charges, the administrative suspension may still be in place for up to 12 months or more. This means that someone can lose their license even if they were never found guilty of DUI.
Violations Of Due Process
The lawsuit claims that this administrative license suspension violates a DUI suspect’s rights to due process under the law, which is a right provided by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The petition asserts that a DUI suspect should be entitled to a probable cause hearing conducted by a judicial official prior to having their driving privileges suspended. While this would not protect everyone from a suspension, it would at least protect those who were arrested without sufficient evidence or probable cause of DUI from additional disruption in their lives. While the future of the lawsuit is yet to be seen, if the suit is certified as a class action, it seeks to obtain an estimated $50 million for up to 240,000 DUI arrestees in Florida.
As of now, the license suspension procedures will remain the same and it is critical that anyone who has been arrested for DUI to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Any delay could cause them to miss the administrative license suspension hearing and can cause complications in the case and in their lives.
The DUI defense lawyers at the Boca Raton law firm of Lavalle, Brown & Ronan have successfully represented many individuals facing DUI charges. Please call today at 888-646-1315 for help.