People's Law Guide
ARRESTED WHILE VISITING FLORIDA?
DUI & Other Criminal Offenses Often Resolvable Without Returning
If you were arrested for DUI or other misdemeanor criminal offenses while visiting Florida, there’s a good chance a local attorney will be able to fight or resolve the pending charges without your having to come back to the state. Although defendants usually must attend most court proceedings, Florida law grants judges the discretion to waive this requirement. Persons living out of state who have been charged with misdemeanor offenses frequently arrange for legal representation to avoid court appearances by attorneys who also strive to dismiss, reduce or resolve the criminal charges pending against them.
YOU NEED TO ACT QUICKLY: To avoid the expenses and hassles of taking time off from work, flying or driving back and forth to Florida and spending money for hotel or motel lodging, you must act quickly to protect your legal rights. Here’s why:
DUI ARRESTS: You have just ten days from date of arrest to file paperwork challenging the State of Florida’s suspension of your driving privileges here. Many states, if not most, suspend driving privileges of their own residents once Florida has also done so. A DUI Defense Attorney can file the necessary legal documents and represent you at this Department of Motor Vehicles Hearing without your having to personally appear.
ALL ARRESTS: Regardless of whether you were arrested for DUI or other types of criminal offenses, you must personally attend an Arraignment Hearing which will be scheduled soon after your actual arrest date - unless a Florida attorney files legal pleadings on your behalf. This paperwork typically must be filed well prior to the actual Arraignment Hearing.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can take prompt action to gather evidence which could lead to the dismissal or reduction of severity of criminal charges. Important and “favorable” evidence not quickly obtained usually vanishes. Marks caused by skidding or braking, and other physical evidence from auto accident scenes, soon disappears. Blood stains and other evidence left behind at fight and accident locations quickly vanishes. Videotapes made by law enforcement or business surveillance cameras may become lost. Witnesses become transient and their memories fade. Some people may have a motive to alter the appearance of the alleged “crime scene” to prevent police investigators, prosecutors and jurors from realizing what actually occurred. From the moment you were first observed by police - which may have been prior to your being placed under arrest - the State Attorney (sometimes referred to as the District Attorney or Prosecuting Attorney outside Florida) already started gathering evidence to use against you. Another reason you should retain a criminal defense lawyer right after being arrested; if your attorney uncovers evidence or other information favorable to you prior to the formal declaration of criminal charges, the State Attorney’s Office may agree that prosecution is unwarranted or that less serious charges are appropriate. It is always preferable to prevent criminal charges from being filed, than having to defend against a criminal prosecution once it has begun.
ARRESTS JEOPARDIZE CAREERS & SCHOOL: Criminal charges, even for misdemeanor offenses, can have serious consequences. If convicted of any criminal charge, Florida law will not permit you to later seek to have your criminal record sealed. Unlike traffic tickets, such as those for speeding or careless driving, criminal convictions have life-long effects. More employers than ever are now conducting criminal background checks on people they currently employ or are considering hiring. It becomes difficult to keep a current job or find new work once convicted of criminal misconduct. Offenses which may seem non-serious to you may be viewed as “red flags” by employers and the insurance companies which influence their hiring and firing policies. Non-favorable outcomes in certain criminal cases can make it difficult and costly or even impossible to obtain auto, health or life insurance coverage. Colleges, universities, occupational licensing boards and the military all make their decisions after reviewing criminal records.
However, Florida does permit criminal records to be expunged after criminal cases have been dismissed. Also, criminal records may usually be permanently sealed so long as the presiding judge agreed to withhold a declaration of conviction - even after formally entering a finding of guilt. The outcome of a pending criminal matter, even a misdemeanor offense, can impact you throughout your life.
That’s why persons who have been arrested need to have an experienced criminal defense attorney begin searching for favorable evidence and looking out for their best interests right away. The sooner someone who was arrested retains legal representation, the sooner an attorney can take steps to fully protect their legal rights.