The coronavirus, or commonly known as the COVID-19, changes how the world functions. It presents unique challenges for law enforcement, one of which is safely processing a DUI suspect when appropriate and according to individual agency guidelines.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical representatives and the scientific committee of the IACP Technical Advisory Panel for the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program have released recommendations in processing DUI cases.
Enhanced precautions for officers and DREs during DUI processing are highly encouraged by the IACP.
Conducting DUI processing should be considered to be done in an area with fair air exchange, in a large room when possible, and with proper safety precautions, including the use of disposable gloves and other personal protective equipment. Maintain a six-foot distance and use proper hand-washing/sanitizing at all times.
DUI During COVID-19
Strict restrictions on social gatherings have been imposed as a precautionary measure to avoid spreading the deadly COVID-19. However, this does not necessarily mean that DUI charges are also on hold.
There are still people who drive under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. Law enforcement officials are still monitoring the roads and arresting people for suspected DUI.
You can still be charged with a DUI in Florida if you are above the legal blood alcohol content limit of 0.08% and under the influence of a controlled substance if that substance impairs your driving ability.
DUI conviction process is lengthy and complicated. Being charged with a DUI during COVID-19 adds an extra level of risk because you can still be arrested and arraigned. That could put you at greater risk of getting the virus when in jail.
Driving under the influence charges are very serious and can affect your freedom, employment, insurance rates, and whether you are a convicted felon.
Workgroup on the Continuity of Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID 19
Social distancing requirements and closures have led to a delay in court proceedings all over the state of Florida.
The Workgroup on the Continuity of Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID 19 was created to monitor and ensure safety in Florida’s courts. It was established to determine ways for courts to safely operate as fully as possible during each stage of the pandemic.
The order identifies four anticipated stages of the pandemic for the Workgroup to consider. These stages are:
- in-person contact is inadvisable; court facilities are effectively closed to the public, and in-person proceedings are rate;
- limited in-person contact is authorized for certain purposes and/or requires the use of protective measures;
- in-person contact is more broadly authorized, and protective measures are relaxed;
- COVID-19 no longer presents significant risks to public health and safety.
A few of the Workgroup’s responsibility is to examine the proceedings including the status and pretrial conferences, evidentiary and non-evidentiary hearings, juror selection, and jury and bench trials that have been delayed as a result of the pandemic.
They are also to identify and propose solutions for legal issues, implementation challenges, and cost issues associated with the use of remote technology.
DUI Case Proceedings
Changes in a DUI case proceeding are affected by various factors, including the charges and how you minted to plea.
DUI defendants who want their case to go in front of a jury can expect other extensions. With stricter jury selections to keep jury members safe, it is taking longer to complete the jury process.
There will be a reduced number of jurors at each stage of jury service because there are jurors who are excused for being high-risk.
Courts will minimize the exchange of physical documents and will complete frequent sanitization between each jury meeting.
There will be restricted access in the courthouse. There will also be an increase in courthouse staff training to contain the spread of the virus within and outside the courthouse.
These guidelines are constantly changing with new recommendations and changing levels of coronavirus risk. Wearing masks is always required.
Your DUI attorney can be a valuable addition to your case as you navigate your proceedings in COVID 19 times. They can also negotiate your bail while you await a trial hearing.
Work with an experienced DUI defense attorney who is familiar with Florida’s updated proceedings to ensure that your proceeding is timely. Contact Thomas C. Grajek to handle your case.
Driver’s License Suspensions
Under Florida Statute, a police officer must suspend the driving privilege of a person who either is driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle and who has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.
It also states that the officer must take the person’s driver’s license, issue a 10-day temporary permit if the alleged offender is otherwise eligible for the driving privilege, and issue a notice of suspension.
The 10-day window is crucial because it signifies the very limited timeframe in which you can request an administrative review hearing to challenge your suspension.
The Courts and Clerk of Courts have temporarily stopped issuing suspensions due to the courthouse closures stemming from the outbreak.
If your driver’s license was suspended prior to the courthouse closures, then speak with an attorney to find out how to get your license reinstated.
Impact of COVID 19 to DUI Offenders’ Jail Time
Florida law enforcement officials are locking up fewer people, and in some cases, releasing non-violent offenders. That is a strategy designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus through the state’s criminal justice system.
The changes offer a concrete glimpse at how the coronavirus is reshaping huge swaths of Florida’s criminal justice system and street-level law enforcement.
The rights given in the Speedy Trial Act have been suspended due to the court closures. That means that you are no longer entitled to a speedy trial if you have been convicted of DUI.
Many district courts have had all court appearances adjourned. If you are set to be released, you could expect to face a significant delay.
“The court shutdown may be beneficial to your case only if you hire a skilled criminal defense attorney to help you.”
DUI Proceedings during COVID FAQs
There are three types of hearings that are most common following a drunk driving arrest. The first one is the formal review, where drivers can challenge suspensions or revocations of their driving privileges and have legal counsel and witnesses present. The second one is the informal review. The hearing officer is the only person present for a review of all materials in the case file to challenge the suspension or revocation of a person’s driving privilege. The third and the last is the hardship hearings. Drivers can request business or employment-restricted licenses because of undue hardship resulting from the suspension or revocation of their driving privileges.
You can resolve your driver’s license suspension by visiting the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida for Administrative Order 20-04 and all subsequent administrative orders. All deadlines that fall within the time that the courthouses are closed to the public are extended until further order of the court. If you choose to set the case for court, those previously scheduled court dates that fall within the time the courthouses are closed to the public due to COVID-19 will be rescheduled and you will be notified for a remote hearing via video/phone appearance.
How can I have my driver’s license reinstated and make payment when the courthouses are closed to the public?
You can make your payment and have your driver’s license reinstated by visiting the Clerk’s office website and check the Online Services page to use the online payment system. Payments can also be mailed to the Clerk’s office. However, you are more encouraged to utilize the online or automated phone service payment options.