young driver with head on steering wheel duiThere's a first time for everything—right? If this is your reaction to your first DUI arrest, you could be looking at a difficult road ahead. While first DUIs typically don't incur the same penalties as a second, third, or subsequent charge, you still need to fight it as if your future depends on it—because it does.

At Flaherty & Merrifield, we encourage first-timers—including parents of teens who have been charged—to contact us as soon as possible after an arrest. If you can avoid certain common mistakes, your first DUI arrest might not have to be your first DUI conviction. 

How DUI Arrests Happen in Florida

Your first shock was being stopped in the first place. The state of Florida and Okaloosa County are serious about getting drunk drivers off the road, and if that means casting a wide net in the hopes of catching a few drivers who have been drinking, they will do it. You could be arrested after any of the following.

Fort Walton Beach Traffic Stop

Law enforcement can pull you over for traffic violations, erratic driving, or suspicious behavior. During the stop, if they suspect impairment, they may conduct field sobriety tests or request a breathalyzer test.

DUI Checkpoint in Crestview

DUI checkpoints are established at certain times and locations, where all drivers passing through may be subject to sobriety checks. Refusing to comply may lead to an arrest.

Accidents in Okaloosa County

If you're involved in a traffic accident, and officers suspect alcohol or drug impairment, they may administer sobriety tests.

Anonymous Tips From Crestview Residents

Anonymous tips from other drivers reporting suspected drunk or impaired drivers can also lead to police investigation and potential arrests.

If your rights were violated in any of these situations, your lawyer could find grounds for dismissing the charges. However, it is in your best interest to cooperate during the interaction with law enforcement and let your lawyer analyze what happened during the arrest.

Mistakes Many First Timers Make That Jeopardize Their Defense

When facing a DUI arrest in Florida, it's crucial to avoid common mistakes that can exacerbate your situation. Not having experience in this frightening situation could lead you to make one of the following mistakes during your arrest:

  • Refusing breathalyzer or blood tests. Florida has implied consent laws. Refusing to take a breathalyzer or blood test can result in an automatic license suspension, independent of your guilt or innocence.
  • Resisting arrest. Resisting arrest or becoming confrontational with law enforcement can lead to additional charges.
  • Self-incrimination. Anything you say or do can be used against you. This is not just a line from a TV show. Avoid volunteering incriminating information and assert your right to remain silent until you consult with an attorney.
  • Not seeking legal counsel. Failing to secure legal representation is a significant mistake. A DUI attorney can help protect your rights and navigate the complex legal process.

Why You Need a Lawyer—Even the First Time

Here's the thing. This might be your first DUI, and the arresting officer might even tell you that you don't need a lawyer because you'll just get a slap on the wrist. However, the penalties for a second DUI are much more serious, and you can't get a second DUI charge unless you have a first charge. Therefore, it will be well worth the cost of hiring a skilled DUI defense lawyer in the long run.

The DUI defense team at Flaherty & Merrifield offers the following to our clients.

Legal Knowledge and Experience

DUI cases involve complex laws and regulations. Our experienced attorneys understand the nuances of Florida's DUI laws and can build a strong defense on your behalf.

Review All of the Evidence

We will scrutinize the evidence against you, such as field sobriety tests, breathalyzer results, and police reports. We may identify errors or procedural mistakes that could work in your favor.

Negotiation and Mitigation

We can negotiate with prosecutors to potentially reduce charges or penalties. We can also explore alternatives like diversion programs for first-time offenders.

License Issues

If you need a car to get to work, we can help you address potential license suspension issues and navigate the administrative aspects of your case.

Court Representation

Having legal representation in court is essential. We can present your case, challenge evidence, and advocate for your rights, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Your first DUI arrest in Florida is a significant legal matter that should not be taken lightly. Understanding the arrest process, avoiding common mistakes, and seeking legal representation are crucial steps to protect your rights and potentially minimize the consequences of a DUI charge. With the assistance of an experienced DUI attorney, you can navigate the legal complexities and work towards the best possible resolution for your case.

Tim Flaherty
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
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