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DUI Administrative Suspension for First Offenders

November 27, 2018

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If you were arrested in Florida for your first DUI offense, then the initial decision you will face is how to handle the suspension of your driver’s license. Under Florida law, drivers who provide a breath sample of .08 or above are driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level (DUBAL) and will automatically have their license suspended by the DMV for a period of six months. Drivers who refuse to submit to testing (refusal) will automatically have their license suspended for a period of one year.

You only have ten days from the date of your arrest to respond to this suspension, so it’s important that you weigh your options quickly so that you can make the best decision for your individual DUI situation. In doing so, you really have three options to consider.

Three Options for DUI Offenses

  1. Do Nothing

This isn’t a good option, so we won’t spend a lot of time with it, but drivers who fail to act within the first ten days following the date of their arrest will be stuck with the suspension as listed above. As soon as the initial ten days have passed, a thirty-day “hard suspension” will take effect for DUBAL cases, or a ninety-day hard suspension will take effect for refusal cases. As its name indicates, the hard suspension prohibits driving for any purposes.

Once the thirty or ninety days have expired, drivers who have enrolled in DUI school will then be able to request a hardship license, which will allow them to drive for business purposes only for the remainder of their suspension period. Business purposes are defined by the DMV as “any driving necessary to maintain your livelihood, including driving to and from work, necessary on-the-job driving, driving for educational purposes, and driving for church and for medical purposes.” Any other driving is prohibited.

2. Request a Formal Review Hearing

Drivers who choose to challenge the administrative suspension of their license within ten days following the date of their arrest will be given a forty-two-day temporary license (unless ineligible), which will allow driving for business purposes only. Within thirty days of the request, a hearing will be scheduled where the State must prove the following elements by “the preponderance of the evidence.” Note that this is a much lower burden than the criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

For DUBAL cases:

  • Whether the law enforcement officer had probable cause to believe that the person whose license was suspended was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle in this state while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or chemical or controlled substances;
  • Whether the person whose license was suspended had an unlawful blood alcohol level or breath alcohol level of .08 or higher.

For refusal cases:

  • Whether the law enforcement officer had probable cause to believe that the person whose license was suspended was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle in this state while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or chemical or controlled substances;
  • Whether the person whose license was suspended refused to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test after being requested to do so by a law enforcement officer or correctional officer;
  • Whether the person whose license was suspended was told that if they refused to submit to such test, their privilege to operate a motor vehicle would be suspended for a period of one year, or in the case of a second or subsequent refusal, for a period of eighteen months.

The biggest advantage to choosing this option is that it provides a way to have the administrative suspension completely removed from the DMV record. If you are successful at the formal review hearing, your license will immediately be reinstated and the administrative suspension will be erased from the system.

However, because of the small number of elements that must be proven by the State, as well as the lower burden of proof which they must be proven by, the rate of success at these hearings is extremely low. If you are not successful at the formal review hearing, then the license suspension will remain on your record and, upon expiration of your forty-two-day permit, you will have a hard suspension for a period of thirty days for DUBAL cases or ninety days for refusal cases.

3. Waive Your Formal Review Hearing

Beginning in July 2013, first-time DUI offenders were given a third option for responding to their administrative suspension. Rather than challenging the suspension and risking the hard suspension of their license, drivers can now waive their right to a formal review hearing and, unless otherwise ineligible, immediately receive a hardship permit that allows driving for business purposes for the entire suspension period. In order to qualify for this option, drivers must enroll in DUI school and show proof of enrollment to the Bureau of Administrative Reviews within ten days following the date of their arrest.

The benefit to this option is that the driver never fully loses their ability to drive during the administrative suspension period. However, by choosing this option, the driver is forfeiting any chance of having their suspension invalidated and, in essence, is agreeing to have the administrative suspension remain on their record. Therefore, even if they are ultimately found not guilty, have their case dismissed, or have their case reduced on the criminal side of the process, the evidence of the DUI will remain on their DMV record. This is especially important for refusal cases, as a second refusal in the future can become a criminal charge in and of itself and the DMV record for this suspension can act as proof of the first refusal.

What’s the Best Option for Your DUI Case?

Unfortunately, there is not one option that is perfect for everyone’s individual situation. Some people simply can’t risk a thirty- or ninety-day hard suspension of their license due to work, family, or personal concerns. Others are okay risking the hard suspension for the opportunity to keep their driver’s license record clean.

The choice must be yours, but please understand that no matter which option you choose, you must complete the process within ten days from the date of your arrest or the system will lock you out and you will immediately suffer the hard suspension of your license.

Once you make your decision, please let a defense attorney at Hersem Law know by calling 813-251-7291. They will give you additional instructions on how to complete the process. This typically takes between one and two days, so please plan accordingly.

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