You've been arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI). You've bonded out of jail. You know that your license is likely going to be suspended. So what should you do now?
First, try to relax. You are not alone in this matter. In 2013, Florida had 61,852 DUI arrests. That's an average of almost 170 DUI arrests every day. Many of those people choose to fight their DUI, and many are successful in doing so.
In Florida, fighting your DUI is essentially a two-part process. First, you must deal with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles with regards to the suspension of your license. Second, you must deal with the criminal charges you are facing. While these two sides of your case will overlap, they may have different outcomes. For example, you may lose a challenge with regards to the suspension of your license but still end up with your DUI dismissed. It is important to take these two parts of your case step by step in order to make sure they are handled properly.
If you provided a breath or blood sample over the legal limit of .08, the DHSMV will issue you an automatic suspension of your license for six months from the date of your arrest. The suspension will go into effect ten (10) days from the date of arrest. Holidays and weekends do count for purposes of determining when the suspension begins. For example, if you were arrested on Wednesday, December 24, 2014, your license suspension would automatically go into effect on Saturday, January 3, 2014. In calculating the date, the first day, December 24, would count; as would Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
If you refused to provide a breath or blood sample, the suspension will be for a period of one year from the date of the arrest. The same 10 day rule applies for determining when that suspension begins.
Regardless of whether you "blew" or "refused," for the first 10 days, you may drive unrestricted using the DUI citation (the white or yellow ticket you received that charges you with DUI) as your license. By now, you have likely noticed that the police confiscated your driver's license upon your arrest.
Challenging the Suspension of Your Licenses versus Applying for a Hardship License
If this was your first arrest for DUI, you are eligible for a hardship license regardless of how high or blow was or if you refused to provide a sample. Your license will still be suspended for the aforementioned periods; however there will be no period of time where you are ineligible for a hardship permit. In order to obtain this hardship license, you must do several things within 10 days of your arrest:
- By accepting your hardship license, you are "waiving" your right to an administrative challenge of your license suspension. Before waiving your right to a hearing, you should consult with an attorney to discuss the pros and cons. Depending on the facts of your case, an attorney may be able to successfully challenge the legality of the suspension and get you your "full" license back with no hardship provisions.
- You must enroll in DUI School and bring proof of enrollment with you to the Bureau of Administrative Reviews, located at:
- 2814 E. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, FL 33610. The Bureau can be reached by phone at 813-873-4830.
- If you reside in Hillsborough County, you will need to enroll in DUI Counterattack School. The Tampa number for Counterattack is 813-875-6201; the Brandon number is 813-875-6201. You may also register online at DriveSafeTampa.org.
- If this is your first time taking DUI School, the fee is approximately $258; if this is your second or subsequent time the fee is approximately $398. This fee must be paid with cash, money order, certified check, Visa, Mastercard, or debit card. Personal checks are not allowed.
- When you arrive at the Bureau of Administrative Reviews office, provide them with proof of enrollment in DUI school and let them know you are there to waive your right to a formal review hearing in order to obtain a hardship driving permit. Again, you should consult with an attorney before waiving your right to a formal review.
- You will then be required to complete a short application and pay a $25 filing fee. Make sure to bring a copy of your DUI citation and arrest complaint affidavit with you.
- Make sure you complete these steps within the first 10 days from the date of your arrest or an automatic suspension of your license will go into effect.
The hardship permit will allow you to drive for purposes of work, school, religious activities, or medical treatment. The permit also allows you to do "anything necessary to maintain your livelihood", which could include things like grocery shopping or getting gas for your car. The hardship permit will not include things like driving to the gym to work out or driving to your family reunion.