Criminal Defense Attorney Reid M. Hart of The Law Offices of John M. Phillips talks about the consequences of being convicted of DUI.
Mark Leach: What’s the worst that can happen if one of your clients gets convicted? I know there are different levels, but what could be the worst thing that can happen?
Reid M. Hart: For a typical first time DUI, the worst is six months in county jail with some fines, unless it is proven the person had a breath-alcohol level over 0.15. In cases of a breath-alcohol level over 0.15, the maximum amount of jail time is 9 months for a first conviction, in addition to other stringent conditions that will be placed on your ability to drive for a while. However, if the offense involves property damage or a crash, then the maximum is a year in county jail. If somebody is injured or killed, then it can be up to five, fifteen, or even thirty years in state prison depending on the circumstances.
Mark Leach: If there was a second offense, I presume it would be worse, right?
Reid M. Hart: It depends on how close in time the second offense is to the first. But, for instance, if somebody has a DUI conviction last year and they were to get another one, which would be their second within five years, there’s a certain “minimum mandatory” amount of time that they would have to spend in jail if convicted. For instance, a second conviction within five years would be a mandatory 10 days in county jail. A third conviction within 10 years of a prior conviction is a mandatory 30 days in county jail.
Mark Leach: What two to three questions do your DUI prospects typically ask you?
Reid M. Hart: Mainly it’s around what’s going to happen with their driver’s license because over here the driver’s license suspensions are very stringent. If you do a breath test and it’s over a 0.08, you’re likely going to lose your license for six months. If you refuse a breath test, you are likely to lose your license for a year. Then, if you have refused before, and you refuse again, you lose your license for 18 months of no driving whatsoever.
With the first time over a 0.08 or first time refusal, during the six months or one year suspension, you can usually get what’s called a hardship license, where you can drive for business purposes, but that second refusal, that 18 month suspension, there’s no hardship license or business license at all. You have to go literally 18 months, no driving whatsoever.
There’s also potential issues if people are from out of state, you know, various issues that they’ll have with their driver’s license. So that’s the main thing, because people have to drive. Where we are, in Jacksonville, Florida, public transportation is virtually nonexistent, so you can imagine what that does to people’s ability to get around.
Mark Leach: What kind of ‘do it yourself’ solutions do your prospects try? I know they can represent themselves if money was an issue, but do they ever try doing any kind of plea-bargaining on their own?
Reid M. Hart: Every now and then, you’ll get people that will plead guilty, like, the morning after getting arrested. It’s pretty rare that they do, though, because DUIs are so common that chances are they’ve heard or spoken to other people about them.
I’ve handled DUIs all the way through a jury trial. So, yeah, other people, their main goal, and you know, depending on the facts of the case, is to try and make everything as easy as possible. It’s very specific as far as each individual case being considered on its own, because while some people may be best served to plea bargain and negotiate with the State Attorney’s Office, others, it’s in their best interest to take it to a trial. So, it just depends on the case.
Mark Leach: Why would working with a DUI attorney, like you, greatly improve the chances of success?
Reid M. Hart: What is considered “success” can vary depending on the case, but with an experienced DUI attorney you will know what to expect. You will know what the law says about your case, and you have someone who has experience in dealing with not only the police, but the State Attorney’s Office and the court system to put that client in the best position possible.
Reid M. Hart is an Attorney at The Law Offices of John M. Phillips in Jacksonville, Florida. Reid practices both criminal defense and civil litigation and is on his way to becoming an award-winning lawyer.
You can find more out about Reid and The Law Offices of John M. Phillips at: http://www.jaxarrest.com/about-reid-m-hart/.