In every Florida DUI case, there are two considerations: the criminal case and the administrative suspension of the driver’s license by the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. This blog post concerns how to protect your rights in the administrative suspension case.
The Rules for Driver’s License Suspension
From the date of an arrest, drivers in Florida have ten days to proactively take steps to affect the status of their driver’s licenses. The length of a license suspension depends on whether a Florida driver refuses to take a breath test. Refusing to submit results in a longer suspension. Accordingly, if a driver submits to a breath test, resulting in a reading of .08% or higher, the suspension will be for six months. If a driver refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test, it will result in a one-year license suspension. For second-time offenders that have had a license suspended in the past for DUI, the suspension is eighteen (18) months.
The First 10 Days
During the first ten days after an arrest for driving under the influence, the driver has a very important decision: what to do about the administrative suspension of the driver’s license? Florida Statute § 322.2615 provides “[t]he driver may request a formal or informal review of the suspension by the department within 10 days after the date of issuance of the notice of suspension or may request a review of eligibility for a restricted driving privilege under s. 322.271(7).”
Request Formal or Informal Review of the Suspension.
An option after a DUI arrest is to request an Administrative Review Hearing to determine if the officer had probable cause to make the arrest. This hearing may be formal or informal. Once an administrative review hearing is requested, the driver will be issued a permit that will be in effect for and expire in 45 days. In the interim, the hearing will occur before a hearing officer, who will determine, among other things, if the police officer had probable cause existed to make an arrest and request a breath test. If the hearing officer finds that no probable cause existed, the license suspension is reversed, and the driver’s license is reinstated. If the hearing officer finds that that probable cause existed for the arrest, the suspension is upheld. Then, the ensuing possible suspensions will be 30 days (if a .08% or more resulted) or 90 days (if a driver did not submit to a breath test) before the next option may be pursued.
Request a Review of Eligibility for a Restricted Driving Privilege Under §322.271(7).
Another option is to request a review of eligibility for a restricted license, called a Business Purpose Only License. This process allows drivers to waive their rights to an Administrative Hearing and, in exchange, immediately be eligible for a Business Purposes Only (BPO) license. This option is only available to individuals who have never had a prior DUI, administrative suspension, or DUI conviction. Drivers must enroll in DUI School to be eligible for this option, and they must show proof of enrollment before being issued a BPO license.
Third (And Worse) Option
Of course a driver may always just do nothing, which is not the wisest course of action. If arrested for DUI, a driver should immediately enlist the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney to not only plan and strategize a defense to the charges, but also, assist the driver in procuring any possible use of his or her driver’s license during pending court proceedings. Nonetheless, a driver may simply passively allow the suspension to take effect, causing the loss of driving privileges for the statutorily mandated period of time.
Please also note that the aforementioned rules and process is larger governed by the Florida Administrative Code, which is also subject to change (perhaps more frequently than Florida Statutes). Thus, you should contact our firm to have a discussion about your rights.
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, especially if in the last twenty-four (24) hours, and wish to take the steps necessary to ensure that you have the most access possible to the use of your driver’s license, call Alan Fowler, an experienced Florida Keys criminal defense attorney, for a consultation at 305.912.2516.