In Florida, as in most states, every DUI case is actually two cases in one. (To find out more about this, click here) The first case is the administrative case against your drivers license. If you blew over .08 or if you refused to give a sample, the police probably took your license away. That is the beginning of the administrative suspension case.
The other case is the court case, and it can also end up with a suspension. But the court case takes 4-6 months to unfold. The administrative case happens much more quickly.
What has to be done quickly! The Administrative Suspension.
There is a ten-day deadline for taking action to protect your driving privilege. That's why all of the lawyers' advertisements emphasize that you have to act quickly. Within ten days of your arrest, you must either demand a hearing to challenge your suspension or sign up for DUI school to obtain a hardship drivers license while your case progresses. Which of these two options you should choose depends on the facts of your case. It's very difficult to decide without the input of a lawyer who knows exactly how the paperwork should look.
If you can't afford a lawyer, and your license has never been previously suspended for an alcohol-related offense, then it is likely that the best thing you can do is to waive your hearing and enroll in DUI School. If you do that, and you follow the right procedures, then you can get an immediate BPO license. A BPO is a license to drive to and from work, necessary on-the-job driving, driving for medical, educational or church purposes, and any other driving necessary to "maintain livelihood." Obviously, a BPO is not as good as a regular license, but it is the best option for most people. (Again, whether it is the best option for you only a lawyer can tell you.)
The other option is to demand a hearing on your administrative license suspension. The downside to a hearing is that if you lose, your license suspension will begin with a "hard-time" suspension when you cannot get a BPO. This "hard-time" is 30 days if you blew over .08, and 90 days if you refused to provide a sample. If your license HAS previously been suspended for a DUI-related offense, then you won't have any choice. You will have to demand an administrative hearing on your license suspension. And if you lose, you will have to undergo that hard suspension.
Only an experienced DUI lawyer can tell you which option is the best for you. But one thing is clear. You must act quickly, because the decision has to be made, and the correct paperwork filed, before midnight of the tenth day following your arrest.
What takes more time. The Court Case.
Once the initial flurry of activity of the administrative case is done, there is a long delay. If you haven't been able to get a lawyer within the ten days, and haven't taken care of your license with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, then your "hard time" suspension will have begun. But you will have a week or two or three to get a lawyer to handle the most important part of the case--the criminal charge.
If you don't have a lawyer by now, then you will have to make plans to attend your "arraignment." This is the court date they gave you when you were released from jail. If you have a private lawyer, he or she will probably tell you not to waste your time with going to court. But if you don't have a lawyer by your arraignment date, you should go. Don't worry. It's not the trial of your case. It's only the initial official hearing to formally inform you of the charges and allow you to enter a plea. (Hint: ALWAYS plead Not Guilty if you don't yet have a lawyer).
If you go to the arraignment and tell them you don't yet have a lawyer, then they will normally give you time to get one. But your case may string out for three or four more months while discovery is exchanged, motions are filed, and plea negotiations are conducted. During this time, stay in close touch with your lawyer. If you move or change your phone number or email, it's important that your lawyer be aware of it. The last thing you want is to miss a court date, and wind up with an arrest warrant being issued against you.
The process is complicated, and it can be overwhelming. Let us take that burden off of your shoulders. We have been representing citizens charged with DUI in Florida for over twenty years. You can find out more about our qualifications here.
You can reach us through our website here. Or call us. Our number is (941) 957-0500 in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Or (305) 292-8384 in the Keys.