DUI in Tampa | Frequently Asked Questions
What do you do following a DUI arrest in Hillsborough County?
After representing so many clients with DUI in Tampa and throughout Hillsborough County, we often hear the same questions asked again and again. To keep you well informed, we devised the following question and answer format to alleviate many of your concerns regarding your case.
The questions proceed as a sequence, beginning with questions typically asked after your arrest and concluding with questions typically asked regarding the outcome of your case. As always, we are available via telephone and email to discuss any unique situation with your case.
I’ve just bonded out of jail – what now?
Hire a lawyer – Contact us. Depending on how long you have been searching online, you must realize that a DUI charge is a complicated and fact sensitive issue. Lawyers who ‘dabble’ in DUI defense or provide ‘bargain prices’ are not going to represent you the way you would expect. Our lawyers are in the Tampa courtroom trenches daily and speak with people like you everyday. We know the system, we know the law and pride ourselves in representing every client to the best of our ablity.
But I blew over the legal limit – doesn’t that mean I am guilty?
Absolutely not. We encourage you to review some of our most recent case results on our case results page. Time and again, no matter the level of our clients’ breath samples, we are able to get the case reduced to a lesser charge or even dismissed. Keep in mind – you are innocent of the DUI charge at this point. Once we have had the chance to review all the evidence the State Attorney has against you, including the FULL police report and any video surveillance, it is impossible to say that you are guilty of DUI.
Why do I need a lawyer?
To protect your rights. Regardless of whether or not you think you are guilty of DUI, our lawyer’s have an obligation to protect your rights and interests and get you the best result possible. Unlike many other law firms, we have the lawyers, the knowledge, the training and the resources to provide you exceptional legal representation. We recognize that there are other DUI laywers in Tampa, but we know that our clients choose us because of the service we provide and the results we attain.
Can I defend myself?
Absolutely. Though we do not recommend it, you are entitled to represent yourself. We can guarantee that the frustration you will experience and the time away from work will not prevail over the money you will save by hiring us.& More importantly, you do not have the legal training on DUI cases or the reputation that our lawyers have in Tampa. You will not be permitted to speak to the State Attorney (because you can not implicate yourself) and you will have a very difficult time obtaining the police report and video surveillance.
Can I drive? What about my license?
Your license is suspended. HOWEVER, you can drive on the DUI citation you received for 10 days – without any restrictions. Within those 10 days, it is absolutely imperative that we file the necessary paperwork with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to challenge your DUI license suspension and attempt to get your license back. Once we file the paperwork, unless you are otherwise inelgible, we will acquire a Temporary Driving Permit to keep you driving to work.
What about my car – how do I get it out of impound?
Go to the impound lot with proof of car ownership. After you are released from jail, the jail personnel will provide you with documentation notifying you which impound company has your car. Typically, the impound company will require payment of a fine and proof that the car is yours.
What about my Court date?
We will take care of your court date. Once you are released from Hillsborough County Jail, you are told you need to make a court date at the Clerk’s Office within 10 days. We will do this for you. Once we are retained on your case, we file the necessary paperwork with the Clerk of Court (as well as the State Attorney’s office) notifying them that we represent you. This satisfies your requirement to make a court date and relinquishes one more burden from your shoulders.
I blew/refused – did I do the right thing?
Each case is different. There are benefits to providing a breath sample and benefits to refusing. A DUI case is two pronged insofar as there is a criminal case against you as well as an adminstrative suspension of your license, and in these two venues, a refusal or breath sample is considered differently. For example, the benefit of refusing to provide a breath sample means that the State Attorney will have one less piece of evidence to prove impairment; conversely, in the adminstrative arena, refusal could mean your license will be suspended for one (1) year.
Am I going back to jail?
It depends on the severity of the case and whether you have prior DUI offenses. Typically, on a first time offense, barring serious bodily injury, you will not return to jail. However, if there is serious bodily injury, or if you have prior offense(s) within a certain period of time, then jail is certainly a possibility. Hiring our team of lawyers on your case, no matter the nature of the DUI charge, will allow us the opportunity to review your case, the facts of the police report and negotiate with the State Attorney to keep you from returning to Hillsborough County Jail.
What about the bond money I paid- will I get it back?
It depends in how you paid. If you paid cash, it will be returned to you when your case is resolved. Typically, the money will be applied to your fines and court csots to reduce the amount of money owed to the Clerk of Court. If we are able to get the DUI charges dropped, then you will receive the full money back. If you paid a bondsmen, you will not get your money back.
Will my employer find out?
It depends. As you may know, your arrest, your picture and the reason for your arrest are public knoweldge and posted on the Hillsborough County website. If your employer has some concern that you have been arrested for DUI, he or she can easily check the website. Unfortunately, except in very limited circumstances, your pciture and the nature of your charge can not be removed from the website.
What happens if I live out of state?
In most cases, we can prevent you from ever having to come back to Florida for your DUI charge. Once we are retained on your case, we file all the necessary paperwork with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (for your license), the Hillsborough County Clerk and the State Attorney’s Office. Essentially, we take care of everything, alleviating any of the burdens you are required to perform. As the case proceeds through the court system, we are making all the necessary appearances on your behalf, speaking with the state attorney and updating you as to the progress of your case. When the case is resolved, we can provide paperwork to you in your home state, which you will then provide to us, and we will provide to the Court on your behalf.
How do I get my property (gun) back?
We will file a Motion with the Court. If you were arrested for your DUI and you were carrying a concealed weapon, the weapon is considered evidence until the case is resolved. Once the case is resolved, we will file the necessary Motion with the Court to release your property to you.
I’m under 21 – is my case different than a DUI charge?
Yes. You have been charged with what is commonly referred to as a “.02 Violation.” Florida, as a zero tolerance state for person under 21, enforces an administrative suspension of your driver’s license when you are under 21 and you are caught with a breath alcohol content over a .02. You have not been charged with a criminal offense. Rather, your license has been adminstratively suspended. We need to file paperwork immediately with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to challenge the suspension of your license and acquire a temporary driving permit for you.
What do I do now?
CURRENT CLIENT QUESTIONS
I’ve just retained Finebloom & Haenel – what happens next?
We file all necessary paperwork. Intially, you are required to make a court date with the Clerk within 10 days of your arrest. We take of that for you. Once this is done, the Clerk’s office will send us any information regarding your upcoming court dates. We also file a Notice of Appearance, Plea of Not Guilty and Demand for Discovery with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s office. This advises them that we are the attorneys that will be handling your case. Finally, we file the necessary paperwork with with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to challenge your license suspension and acquire a temporary driving permit for you.
How soon until I get a Court date and do I need to attend?
Typically, your first court date is 30-45 days from the date of your arrest. Your first court date is called an Arraignment. The ONLY thing that happens on the Arraignment date is the defendant pleads ‘Guilty’ or ‘Not Guilty’ to the DUI charge. Because we already filed a Plea of Not Guilty on your behalf the day we were retained, your appearance is not required on the Arraignment date and this date will be AUTOMATICALLY reset to a second court date, called a Disposition date.
What about the hearing for my Driver’s License?
This must take place within 42 days of us filing a Request for a Formal Review of your license suspension. [REMEMBER, the portion of the case dealing with your dirver's license is exclusive of the criminal case - they are two seperate cases.] As stated, we previously filed paperwork with the DHSMV to challenge your license suspension on the date we were retained. Beginning on that date, the DHSMV is required to set a hearing date within 42 days. On the hearing date, we will attend on your behalf (your appearance is not required), review the paperwork and question the stopping officer (if he or she has been subpoened to apear).
How will I know what happens at the hearing?
We will notify you in writing of the outcome of the hearing. Depending on the factual circumstances of your case, we may be able to provide you an update on the date of the hearing. However, typically, the Hearing Officer who particpated in the hearing will ‘Reserve Ruling.’ This means the Hearing Officer has taken any motions or objections we made at the hearing under advisement and needs to review your case to determine whether your license suspension will be upheld or invalidated.
What are the potential outcomes of the hearing?
We win or we lose. If we win the hearing, regardless of whether you provided a breath sampel or refused, you can get your full license back. In other words, the suspension of your license was invalidated. Conversely, if we lose, there will be a period of time during which you will not be permitted to drive for any reason. Thi sis commonly referred to as “hard time.” If you provided a breath sample when you were arrested, you will not be permitted to drive for 30 days, beginning the date your temporary permit expires. If you refused to provide a breath sample, there will be a period of 90 days during which you can not drive.
If we lose the hearing, how do I get my license back after the ‘hard time’?
You must (1) register for and complete DUI school and (2) schedule an appointment with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to acquire a hardship license. As your 30 or 90 days of hard time draws near to an end, we recommend you schedule your appintment for your hardship license.
What happens at the hardship hearing?
The Hearing Officer will determine whether you are eligible for a hardship license while your criminal case is still pending. Once you arrive for your scheduled appointment, the Hearing Officer will conduct a hearing to determine how the prior 30 or 90 days of no driving has significantly impacted and impaired your ability to make a living, to drive to the doctor, to go to school, etc. Unfortunately, we can not attend this hearing for you – even if we did, the Hearing Officer would not allow us to speak on your behalf. And remember – DON’T DRIVE TO THE HEARING!
You just sent me a letter for my first dispostion date – do I need to appear?
In most circumstances, no. Over the course of the next couple months, while your criminal case is pending, there will be a series of dispositon dates. On each disposition date, we are attending court on your behalf, speaking with the state attorney about your case and trying to reach an amicable result. Typically, because the state attorney’s caseload is so full, it takes several months for them to thoroughly review each case, review the video and reach the result we are seeking for you.
Does it look better for my case if I appear in court with you?
No. The State Attorney and the Judge are not concerned with your appearance on the dispostional court dates because the sole prupose of us appearing on your behalf is to negotiate with the State Attorney and discuss the legal merit and factual circumstances of your case.
Why haven’t we received the video and/or police report from the State Attorney?
Because it takes between 30-45 days to get the police report and approximately 60 days to acquire the video. Keep in mind, there are several throusand pending cases in Hillsborough County for people charged with DUI. The state attorney’s office is inundated with requests for police reports and video surveillance tapes. It takes time to prepare the reports, copy the videos and provide them to us.
My case has been continued 4 times – what is going on?
We are appearing in court for you, advocating and negotiating on your behalf. It is not uncommon for cases in Hillsborough County to be pending for several months. More often than not, the continuances can be blamed on the State Attorney’s office. To you and to us, your case is very important. But to the State Attorney, they have several hundred cases to deal with on a daily basis and yours is simply a file in their office. Indeed, our job is to bring your file to the forefront and make it more important than every other defendant. There may also be an issue with acquiring all the evidence on your case. Also, continuances can be a very strategic decision based on our courtroom experience and our knowledge of the court divisions. We recognize that it can be a frustrating time, wondering why your case has not resolved, but be confidently reassured, that the continuances are not a detriment to your case, and might be a benefit.
Will I know what happened in court and when my next court date is?
Absolutely. As a client, you are our top priority. We want to keep you informed and up-to-date as to the progress of your case. Each date we attend court for you, we will send you a letter indicating the status of the case and the next court date. You can also track your case online to determine the next court date, although the Clerk’s system takes several days to update.
I just recieved a notice from you that my case has been set for Trial?
This does not mean we are going to trial. At times, the Judge presiding over your case will not give any more continuances and to push the State Attorney to take a close look at your case, the Judge will set the case for Trial. Even though your case is set for Trial, there is still the opportunity to reach an agreement with the State Attorney and resolve your case, without going to Trial. Of course, if the State Attorney does not give us an offer we feel is just, and after discussing the case with you, we will be ready to go to Trial.
While my case is pending, how do I keep in contact with you?
In any way that is convenient for you. As your lawyer, it goes without saying that we are in court constantly, five days a week for several hours at a time. Despite that, we strive to provide personalized representation and make ourselves available for your questions and concerns. We will constantly provide you updated court information and copies of any discovery paperwork we receive from the State Attorney’s office. We attempt to return client phone calls and/or email within 24 hours. We encourage you to email us with questions or concerns because while in Court, we may have the opportunity to provide you a faster response.
QUESTIONS ABOUT RESOLVING THE CASE
Do I need to appear in court on the date my case is resolved?
What will happen in court on the date the case is resolved?
Will the Judge discuss the facts of the case with me?
Will I be placed on probation?
What will be the terms of my probation?
Will I lose my license?
Depends. As you now know, a DUI charge has two components – the Administrative Suspension of your driver’s license and the criminal prosecution for DUI. Immediately upon arrest, your license is suspended for 6 months if you provided a breath sample above a .08 or 1 year if you refused to provide a breath sample. However, once we are retained, we immediately challenge the adminstrative suspension of your license. If we win the hearing, then you will acquire your FULL license, meaning you will be driving without any restrictions while the criminal case is still pending. If we lose the administrative hearing, there will be a period of time you will be unable to drive for any reason.
The license suspension imposed by the Court in the second component of a DUI case depends on the outcome of the case. If you are convicted of a DUI, your license will be suspended beginning the date the case is resolved for 6 months (assuming it is a first offense DUI). During this time, you will be eligible to drive with a hardship license as long as you have registered for an completed DUI school. Conversely, if we are able to get your DUI charge reduced/amended to a Reckless Driving, then there will be no court imposed license suspension.
Can I get my case expunged or sealed?
Depends on the outcome of the criminal charge. If the DUI charge is amended/reduced to a Reckless Driving and the ultimate disposition of the case is a withhold of adjudication, then it may be possible to seal/expunge your record. Other factos are relvant to whether the petition to seal will be succesful, so it is important to discuss this with our team of lawyer.
What is the benefit of getting a DUI charged reduced/amended to a Reckless Driving?
In Hillsborough County, as well as surrounding counties, the State Attorney’s office typically does not amend or reduce a DUI charge to a civil infraction, such as careless driving. Rather, the State Attorney will offer to reduce the charge to a Reckless Driving (“RD”). The benefits of getting a DUI charge reduced/amended to an RD are multiple, but perhaps the most important is that a you will not be convicted of a DUI. This means that the DUI coinviction will not appear on your driving record as a conviction because the data entry will appear as a RD.
In addition, there are typically less sanctions imposed when the DUI charge is amended to an RD – such as no court imposed license suspension, decreased amount of fines owed to the Clerk of Court and no requirement that your vehicle be impounded. Another important consideration is that an RD, in some circumstances, can be reduced to a ‘withhold of adjudication,’ which may qualify as a case that can be expunged/sealed.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Tampa, Florida or any the following areas:
Valrico, Plant City, Brandon, Lithia, East Tampa,
South Tampa, Hyde Park, Apollo Beach, Palm River, Ruskin, Seffner,
West Chase, Ybor City, Temple Terrace,
Sun City Center, Gibsonton, Palma Ceia, Riverview, Lutz
be sure to contact one of our Tampa DUI attorneys immediately. At Finebloom & Haenel, we offer a free consultation to discuss your specific case.
Arrested for DUI in Orlando? Please visit our other website devoted to DUI defense in Orange County. Our Orlando DUI attorneys will meet and discuss your case while putting a plant together to save your drivers’ license and resolve the DUI criminal case in the best means possible. Call 800-FIGHT-IT and schedule your free case evaluation immediately. Remember, you only have 10 days from the point of your DUI arrest to schedule an appointment with the DMV.
Arrested for a Tampa, Florida DUI? Contact our law offices immediately.
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