Criminal Defense and DUI FAQs

Criminal Defense & D.U.I. can be a complex process that poses many obstacles as well as important options. The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) will help you begin to understand the challenges and choices but are NOT intended to be a substitute for legal advice.


Q. Will I be able to represent myself in my case? Should I?

A: Every defendant has the right to represent himself through the criminal justice system. This process, however, can be very complex and the stakes are often high. A skilled criminal defense attorney will have years of specialized education and experience that can help you fight for your cause.

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Q. When should I hire an attorney?
A: It is best to have an attorney representing you and working on your case as early in the process as possible. Often the prosecutors will take days and weeks before making an ultimate decision on whether to file charges or not. An attorney can attempt to persuade this decision in your favor.

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Q. Should I speak to law enforcement without an attorney present?
A: No, probably not. It is rare that your interests will be better served by speaking with law enforcement without the assistance of counsel.

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Q. What is it going to cost me to have an attorney represent?
A: Every case is different, and every client’s needs are different. At LeavenLaw we strive to work with every client to fashion legal representation that is affordable, flexible and focused on your individual needs. We accept all major credit cards.

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Q. Will my attorney be able to get my case thrown out?
A: Not necessarily. An attorney cannot guarantee an outcome to a case. In fact, you should be skeptical of any attorney who is willing to guarantee you a certain outcome. We at LeavenLaw look forward to meeting with you to discuss all the possible tactics and options available to defend your case to the fullest.

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Q. Who decides what crime I am charged with?
A: That decision is made by the State Attorney. Police make arrests, and State Attorney’s file charges. After you are arrested, your case is forwarded to the State Attorney for an evaluation. During this evaluation the State Attorney will decide what charges are appropriate and IF charges are appropriate. This decision is made separate and independently from the decision the police made when they decided what to arrest you for.

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Q. Before my case goes to trial, can you help “bail” me out of jail?
A. In a manner of speaking, yes. If you have been arrested and bail has not been posted, we can assist you in reducing the bail, being released on your own recognizance, or contacting a bondsman. These are all matters which need to be discussed with an attorney as soon as possible.

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Q. What is a “Diversion Program?”
A: For certain defendants accused of a third degree felony or a misdemeanor, that have a limited prior record, the State Attorney's Office have what are known as Diversion Programs. These programs are known as “Pre-Trial Intervention” and “Domestic Violence Intervention” in Pinellas County. They function similarly to probation, but allow the accused to have the charges dropped at the end of the successfully completed program. A consultation with LeavenLaw will allow us to assess this option for your case.

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Q. What is a “Withhold of Adjudication?”
A: If you have a relatively minor prior record, and the court finds that you otherwise qualify, you may be eligible for what is known as a “Withhold of Adjudication.” This means that you are not “convicted” of the offense. If the charge was a felony, you will not lose your civil rights as a “convicted felon.” If the charge requires a driver’s license revocation for a “conviction,” you would get to keep your license. This disposition usually requires a period of probation that you must successfully complete.

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Q. What is my maximum penalty exposure?
A: That depends on what you are charged with. Generally; for a charge that is classified as a Second Degree Misdemeanor, you could face up to 60 days in county jail and a $500 fine. For a charge that is classified as a First Degree Misdemeanor, you could face up to 12months in county jail and a $1000 fine. For a charge that is classified as a Third Degree Felony, you could face up to 5years in state prison and a $5000 fine. For a charge that is classified as a Second Degree Felony, you could face up to 15 years in state prison and a $10000 fine. For a charge that is classified as a First Degree Felony, you could face up to 30 years in state prison and a $10000 fine. There are a few serious felonies that are classified as “Life Felonies” which are punishable by life in state prison.

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Q. What are the different phases of a criminal case?
A: Generally the phases of a criminal case involve Arrest, Arraignment, Pretrial Conferences, Trial, Verdict, and Sentencing (if found guilty). Any Motions to Suppress or Dismiss will be made during the pre-trial phase. LeavenLaw represents our clients through any and all stages of this process including any bail or bond hearings and appeals, if necessary.

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Q. What are the key components to the evaluation of a DUI case?
A. The three key components needed to evaluate any potential DUI charge is The Breath Test, Field Sobriety Tests and Police Reports.

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Q. May the accuracy of Breath Test results be challenged?
A. Yes. The results of the breath test may be challenged or suppressed. These tests may be inaccurate or unreliable due to improper maintenance, calibration, or a lapse in certification for the machine or the operator's permit.

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Q. What is a Field Sobriety Test?
A. The A Field Sobriety Test is a test administered by a police officer to determine if you should be arrested.

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Q. Can the results of a Field Sobriety Test be challenged?
A. Yes. The officer's interpretation of your performance on these Field Sobriety Tests can be challenged for a variety of reasons, including considerations as to whether you suffer from a physical, mental or medical problem that would have impacted your performance. Furthermore, it may be important to learn if you were nervous, tired, or distracted during the testing procedures.

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Q. The police report contains what type of information?
A. The police report documents your performance on field sobriety tests, statements or admissions you may have made, and other evidence related to your state of sobriety.

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Q. If the police report contains information damaging to my case, do I have a chance to win?
A. Yes, you may. It must be remembered that the police report is only the officer's opinion or subjective interpretation of the events leading up to your arrest and the officer's subsequent request for a breath, blood, or urine sample. Our office will examine the facts recounted within report and compare the officer's account with what is observed on the videotape. We can also compare the report with your recollection of events along with the observations of any other witnesses.

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Q. How long will a DUI conviction stay on my record?
A: 75 years. In the State of Florida your DUI will stay on your record for 75 years.

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Q. Can I drive after I have been arrested for D.U.I?
A. In Florida, if you have been arrested for DUI and your breath test result was .08 or higher, you have only 10 days from the date of arrest to request a Formal Review Hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles to contest your immediate license suspension and attempt to get your license / driving privileges back. If you fail to request the hearing with the 10-day period, your license will be suspended either for 6 months, 1 year, or 18 months, depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. It is important to contact an attorney within that 10-day period to discuss what applies to your case.

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Q. Can an attorney represent me at a Formal Review Hearing?
A. Yes. We can apply for the Formal Review Hearing in your behalf and obtain a hearing date and a temporary permit to drive until after the hearing. Again, you have only 10 days to drive after you are arrested using your citation as a driving permit unless you request this hearing.

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Q. What happens at the Formal Review Hearing?
A. The Formal Review Hearing is important because it gives us an opportunity to try to get your driving privileges back. It also provides an opportunity for us to get sworn testimony from the law enforcement officer who arrested you or others involved in the case. This will provide useful critical information about your case and may help us in the defense.

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Q. What happens if I do not request a Formal Review Hearing?
A. If you do not request a DMV hearing, you will be subject after the 10-day permit to a "hard" suspension for a period of either 30 or 90 days in which you will not be able to obtain a hardship license. You should discuss the different suspension possibilities with an attorney.

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Q. Will I lose my driver’s license on a drug charge?
A: A conviction for a violation of Florida Statute 893.13 (possession of controlled substance) will result in a 2 year driver’s license suspension as part of the sentence.

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