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What to Know When You Are Arrested for a DUI in Tampa FL

Everyone knows how important having a car is. You rely on it to get you to work, to school, and to the grocery store. Not having a car is simply not an option. Florida, and Tampa in particular, lacks the public transportation infrastructure to get us to all the places we need to be to do all the things we need to do. But just having a car is not enough. You need a license to drive the car! And if you are arrested for Driving under the Influence, you face a dizzying array of restrictions, timelines, and choices to make, all of which will affect your license and your mobility. Hopefully, this post will help guide you through the myriad decisions that lay before you.

The first thing you need to know is that when you get arrested for DUI, you face not one but two matters with which you have to deal. Obviously, there is a criminal case against you. There is also an administrative matter with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). Each has their own rules of procedure, burdens of proof, timelines, and punishments.

The administrative case operates on a much faster timeline. In fact, you must make your first decision within ten days of your arrest or the decision will be made for you. When you are arrested for DUI, you are handed a citation and the officer will physically take your drivers license – but you can still drive! The citation acts as a substitute for your driver’s license, but only for 10 days, at which time it expires. Within that 10 days, you have three options.

First, you can do nothing, and at the end of the 10 days your driving privileges will be suspended for six months to 18 months depending on a number of factors. A portion of that suspension will be a “hard” suspension, meaning no driving whatsoever. At the end of the “hard” you can apply for a hardship license, and have limited driving privileges.

Second, you can elect to have a formal review and challenge the administrative suspension of your driving privileges. If you elect to have the formal review, you will be issued a business purposes only permit pending the formal review, which will be scheduled within 30 days of your request. If the hearing officer sustains the suspension, the permit you previously received will expire and your suspension will begin, including the applicable “hard” suspension period. If the hearing officer overturns the suspension, your full privileges will be reinstated. (Of course, it can always be suspended again in the criminal proceeding.)

The third option, available if you have no prior DUI arrests, convictions, or breath test refusals, is to waive your right to a formal review in exchange for the DHSMV waiving the “hard” suspension period. In other words, you can immediately obtain a hardship license and have limited driving privileges pending the outcome of the criminal matter. However, there are a number of reasons why you might want to have the formal review, even if it means risking the “hard” suspension period. An experienced DUI defense attorney can help you evaluate these options, and choose the best path for your particular circumstances.

So what are the various suspension periods? They vary greatly, depending on your particular circumstances. If you have been arrested for your first DUI, and you blow above a .08, your license will be suspended for six months, with a “hard” suspension of 30 days (unless of course, you waive your right to a formal review, in which case there is no “hard” suspension). If you are arrested for your first DUI and you refuse to blow, and have not previously refused a breathalyzer test, your license will be suspended for one year with a hard suspension of 90 days. If you refuse and have previously refused, your license will be suspended for 18 months.

While you are processing through the administrative matter, the criminal case is also proceeding, albeit at a much slower pace. In addition to the other criminal penalties associated with a DUI, the court can also suspend your license for a period of time. If you have applied and successfully obtained a hardship license with the DHSMV when you are convicted for the DUI, the court will suspend your driving privileges again, and your hardship is no longer valid. You have to go back to the DHSMV and re-apply for a hardship. Importantly, unlike the administrative suspension, with a criminal suspension there is no “hard” suspension. You can literally go straight from the courthouse to the DHSMV to apply for the hardship.

BEWARE OF THE TRAP! DON’T DRIVE TO THE DHSMV OFFICE YOURSELF! Even if you drove to the courthouse legally with your hardship license, that hardship license is suspended when you are sentenced by the court. Get a friend to drive you to DHSMV because in order to be eligible for the hardship license, you have to be able to show you didn’t drive during a period in which you have no privilege to do so – including the time after you left the courthouse. In the application interview for the hardship, the hearing officer may very well ask how you got to the DHSMV office, and if you say you drove, you will not get a hardship license! So what are the criminal suspension periods? For a first DUI, it is six months, but includes no “hard” suspension. If you have been arrested for a second DUI within 5 years of being convicted of your first DUI, your license will be suspended for 5 years, with a “hard” suspension of 1 year. If you have been arrested for a third DUI within 10 years of your second DUI conviction, your license will be suspended for 10 years with a “hard” suspension of 2 years. A fourth DUI conviction will result in the permanent revocation with no ability to obtain a hardship license.

Bear in mind, this is meant only as a general reference. As many rules and deadlines as there are, there are an equal number of exceptions, exceptions to the exceptions, and caveats to all these rules. You should not rely on this for your particular case and circumstances. Instead, if you are facing a DUI charge, you should consult an experienced, qualified DUI attorney to help you navigate this labyrinth and get this matter behind you as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Posted on: 6 Nov, 2017