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A DUI (driving under the influence) arrest may leave you scared, confused, and unsure of what to do next. However, the actions you take immediately after a DUI stop can dramatically impact the legal case against you. Following these steps protects your rights and optimizes your chances of resolving the charges as favorably as possible.

Remain Calm and Politely Refuse

Florida has an implied consent law requiring all drivers to submit to sobriety testing if lawfully arrested for suspicion of DUI. Refusing chemical testing automatically results in a one-year driver’s license suspension, even before any court conviction.  However,  “field sobriety exercises” and breath or blood testing are not designed to help you.  Politely refuse to submit to any testing, even if it leads to a driver’s license suspension.  As bad as a suspension is, voluntarily submitting possibly incriminating evidence may lead to a criminal charge which is far worse.

Stay courteous and cooperate fully with the police officers’ instructions to avoid any additional criminal charges, such as resisting arrest. Never attempt to flee the scene or become confrontational, as these actions will only escalate the situation.

Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

Beyond identifying yourself, you hold the constitutional right to remain silent and refuse to answer any additional questions from the police. DUI stops frequently involve recorded questioning designed to get you to provide incriminating statements you may later regret. Once you have legal counsel present, your lawyer can advise you when to speak to law enforcement.

Request to Speak with a DUI Attorney Immediately

As soon as possible after your arrest, request to speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney. Having legal representation upfront helps prevent confused suspects from inadvertently saying things that could undermine their case.

Be Prepared for Jail Release and Pending Court Procedures

A first-time DUI arrest in Florida can result in you having to spend several hours in jail until you’re sober and can post bail for release. Make advance arrangements for bond payment if possible. Alternatively, a lawyer can appear and advocate for you to be released on your own recognizance.  

The court process involved with DUI charges moves quickly. Expect an arraignment hearing within weeks, where you must enter a plea. Then, the case moves into the discovery phase, pre-trial motions, possible plea negotiations, and, eventually, a trial if you cannot reach an agreement.

Know the Potential DUI Penalties and Consequences

In Florida, a first-offense DUI carries minimum penalties of a $500 fine, up to six months in jail, 6–12-month license revocation, victim impact panel attendance, and vehicle impoundment for ten days. Subsequent DUI convictions can result in a third-degree felony conviction, which increases maximum jail time to five years, longer license revocations, vehicle immobilization, and higher fines of up to $5,000.

Even first-time DUI convictions create a permanent criminal record that can harm future job prospects, financial aid, housing applications, and more. 

Gather Documentation and Evidence for Your Defense

Never assume that the State’s evidence proves your guilt. Your lawyer will start collecting supporting information and documentation from the night of the arrest, such as:

  • Receipt details on food, drinks consumed, locations visited
  • Names and statements from witnesses supporting your sobriety  
  • Any medical conditions or prescriptions potentially affecting sobriety tests
  • Video footage from the stop, breath test room, officers’ bodycams, etc.

Your DUI defense lawyer will meticulously examine all evidence and arrest procedures to suppress anything illegal or inadmissible while creating robust legal defense strategies for you.

You Need Skilled Legal Representation for DUI Charges

Drunk driving charges lead to harsh penalties and lifelong hardships. Prosecutors vigorously pursue DUI convictions—you should never take these charges lightly.  

If you are facing DUI charges in Panama City, Florida, or the surrounding area, contact The Sombathy Law Firm right away. Our skilled criminal defense team has defended many clients against drunk driving allegations. We provide the strong advocacy needed to protect your rights and driving privileges. Call today to request a free, confidential consultation.