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DUI Formal Review Hearings in Florida Explained



Understanding DUI Formal Review Hearings in Florida

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) formal review hearings in Florida are critical for contesting the administrative suspension of your driver’s license. Held by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), these hearings offer a structured process to challenge the suspension. This section will provide a comprehensive overview of what DUI formal review hearings entail and their significance.

What is a DUI Formal Review Hearing?

A DUI formal review hearing is an administrative procedure where a hearing officer evaluates the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest. The hearing is not a criminal trial but a chance to contest the automatic suspension of your driver’s license. You have only 10 days after your DUI arrest to request this hearing, making timely action crucial.

What is a DUI Formal Review Hearing? A DUI formal review hearing is an administrative procedure to contest the automatic suspension of your driver’s license following a DUI arrest in Florida.

In Florida, the rules for administrative suspension are found in Florida Statute Section 322.2615 and Chapter 15A-6 of the Administrative Code. The administrative suspension occurs after a DUI arrest for any refusal case or breath test reading over .08. Hiring an experienced DUI attorney at this stage of the case is important because of the complexity involved in successfully contesting the administrative suspension of a Florida driver’s license.

How Long is the Administrative Suspension after a DUI Arrest?

The length of the administrative suspension after a DUI arrest in Florida depends on several factors, including:

  • Whether a prior administrative suspension has occurred
  • Whether the prior suspension was for a DUI Refusal or a DUBAL (BAL over .08)

First Offense

  • If you took the breath test: Your driver’s license will be suspended for six (6) months with a thirty (30) day “hard suspension” – meaning you cannot drive for any reason during those thirty days.
  • If you refused the breath test: Your driver’s license will be suspended for twelve (12) months with a ninety (90) day “hard suspension” – meaning you cannot drive for any reason during those ninety days.

Second Offense

  • If you took the breath test: Twelve (12) month suspension with a thirty (30) day hard suspension.
  • If you refused the breath test and the first offense was after a breath test: Twelve (12) month suspension with a ninety (90) day hard suspension.
  • If you refused the breath test and the first offense was after a refusal: Eighteen (18) month suspension with all eighteen months being a hard suspension – meaning you cannot get a hardship license.

Third or Subsequent Offense

  • If you took the breath test: Twelve (12) month suspension with all twelve months being a hard suspension – meaning you cannot get a hardship license.
  • If you refused the breath test and all prior offenses were after a breath test: Twelve-month suspension with twelve months of hard time – meaning you cannot get a hardship license.
  • If you refused the breath test and one of the prior offenses was a refusal: Eighteen-month suspension with eighteen months of a hard suspension – meaning you cannot get a hardship license.

For a DUI arrest that occurs after July 1, 2013, you can request a review of eligibility for a “Business Purpose Only” restricted driving privilege to avoid the hard suspension period, but that request will waive your right to a formal or informal review hearing.

Benefits of Demanding the Formal Review Hearing

The benefits of requesting the Formal Review Hearing under Florida law include:

  • Temporary Hardship License: Requesting the formal review hearing gives you the opportunity to obtain a 42-day BPO license (a.k.a. the hardship license) so that you can continue to drive while your attorney fights the administrative suspension.
  • Automatic Win: You will automatically win the administrative hearing if the arresting officer or breath test operator fails to appear after being served with a subpoena.
  • Extended Driving Permit: If another witness fails to appear, you can obtain another extended driving permit while your attorney enforces the subpoena against the witness.
  • Insufficient Evidence: You may win the hearing if there is insufficient evidence related to any necessary showing required to uphold the suspension.
  • Invalidation of Suspension: If you win the hearing, then the administrative suspension is invalidated, which basically vacates the action taken by the officer at the scene of the arrest.
  • Early Discovery: Even if you lose the hearing, your attorney will have the opportunity to subpoena witnesses and documents, inspect calibration records, and explore important defenses early in your case.
  • Locking Testimony: By questioning the officers or civilian witnesses at the hearing, your attorney can lock them into their testimony, which allows your attorney to exploit inconsistent statements or disprove certain versions of events early in the case.
  • Obtaining Discovery: Your attorney can obtain discovery at the formal review hearing and not be deemed to have invoked criminal discovery because the Rules of Criminal Procedure have no application to discovery taken by a defendant in a parallel administrative or civil proceeding.

The benefits of a DUI Formal Review Hearing include obtaining a temporary hardship license, automatic wins if key witnesses fail to appear, and the opportunity for early discovery and locking in testimony.

Consequently, the defendant is not obligated to engage in reciprocal discovery under the Rules of Criminal Procedure even after questioning all of the witnesses in the case at the formal review hearing (Llanes v. State, 603 So.2d 1294 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992)).

Even if the administrative suspension is not invalidated, your attorney gathers valuable information by questioning the witnesses. The cross-examination questions and answers can then be typed up into a written transcript, which can be used to impeach a witness at trial if they attempt to change their testimony during a pre-trial motion hearing or at trial. Your administrative suspension must be removed by the Florida DMV in an unlawful blood alcohol level test if you are later found “not guilty” of the underlying offense of DUI (DUBAL). However, if you are charged with DUI Refusal and are found “not guilty” of DUI at trial, your administrative suspension will not be removed.

For more information on the 10-day rule for DUI or getting a BPO hardship license, visit our comprehensive guides.

Steps to Request a DUI Formal Review Hearing

DUI Formal Review Hearings in Florida Explained

Requesting a DUI formal review hearing involves several steps that must be completed within strict timelines. Understanding these steps can significantly impact the outcome of your hearing. This section will outline the process of requesting a DUI formal review hearing in Florida.

How to Request a DUI Formal Review Hearing

To request a DUI formal review hearing, you must submit a written request to the Bureau of Administrative Reviews (BAR) within 10 days of your arrest. The request should include your personal details, arrest information, and a statement contesting the suspension. Once your request is received, the BAR will schedule your hearing within 30 days.

What is a DUI formal review hearing? A DUI formal review hearing is an administrative procedure to contest the automatic suspension of your driver’s license following a DUI arrest.

Detailed Steps to Request a Hearing

Let’s break down the steps in more detail:

  1. Submit a Written Request: The first step is to submit a written request to the BAR. This must be done within 10 days of your DUI arrest. The request should clearly state your intention to contest the suspension and include all relevant personal and arrest details.
  2. Prepare Your Documentation: Gather all necessary documents, such as the DUI citation, the arrest report, and any other relevant paperwork. This documentation will be crucial for your hearing.
  3. Schedule the Hearing: Once your request is submitted, the BAR will schedule your hearing within 30 days. You will receive a Notice of Formal Review Hearing, which will include the date, time, and location of the hearing.
  4. Obtain a Temporary Permit: If eligible, you may receive a 42-day temporary driving permit. This permit allows you to drive for business purposes only while your case is being reviewed.
  5. Prepare for the Hearing: This is where hiring an experienced DUI attorney can make a significant difference. Your attorney can help you gather evidence, subpoena witnesses, and build a strong case to contest the suspension.

Understanding the importance of each step and adhering to the strict timelines can greatly influence the outcome of your DUI formal review hearing.

Importance of Timely Action

Time is of the essence when it comes to requesting a DUI formal review hearing. You only have 10 days from the date of your arrest to submit your request. Missing this deadline means forfeiting your right to contest the administrative suspension of your driver’s license.

Additionally, the administrative suspension occurs after a DUI arrest for any refusal case or breath test reading over .08. The rules for the administrative suspension are found in Florida Statute Section 322.2615 and Chapter 15A-6 of the Administrative Code. Understanding these regulations and acting promptly can make a substantial difference in your case.

Role of an Experienced DUI Attorney

Hiring an experienced DUI attorney at this stage is crucial due to the complexity involved in successfully contesting the administrative suspension of a Florida driver’s license. An attorney familiar with the best ways to conduct a formal review hearing can provide invaluable assistance, ensuring that all procedural requirements are met and that your case is presented effectively.

For example, your attorney can help you:

  • Subpoena Witnesses: The ability to subpoena witnesses, including the arresting officer, can provide valuable evidence for your case.
  • Collect Evidence: Gather and present evidence that may challenge the validity of the suspension, such as calibration records for breathalyzer machines.
  • Cross-Examine Witnesses: Question the officers or civilian witnesses at the hearing to lock them into their testimony, which can be used to exploit inconsistent statements or disprove certain versions of events early in the case.

By leveraging the expertise of a seasoned DUI attorney, you can navigate the complexities of the DUI formal review hearing process more effectively, increasing your chances of a favorable outcome.

Understanding the Administrative Suspension

The length of the administrative suspension after a DUI arrest in Florida depends on several factors, including whether a prior administrative suspension has occurred and whether the prior suspension was for a DUI Refusal or a DUBAL (BAL over .08).

Offense Suspension Duration Hard Suspension Period
First Offense (Breath Test) 6 months 30 days
First Offense (Refusal) 12 months 90 days
Second Offense (Breath Test) 12 months 30 days
Second Offense (Refusal) 12 months 90 days
Third or Subsequent Offense (Breath Test) 12 months 12 months
Third or Subsequent Offense (Refusal) 18 months 18 months

Understanding these suspension periods and the associated hard suspension periods is critical in preparing for your DUI formal review hearing. For instance, if you took the breath test during your first offense, your driver’s license will be suspended for six months with a 30-day hard suspension, meaning you cannot drive for any reason during those 30 days. If you refused the breath test, the suspension extends to 12 months with a 90-day hard suspension.

For a DUI arrest that occurs after July 1, 2013, you can request a review of eligibility for a “Business Purpose Only” restricted driving privilege to avoid the hard suspension period, but that request will waive your right to a formal or informal review hearing.

In conclusion, understanding the steps to request a DUI formal review hearing and the importance of timely action can significantly impact the outcome of your case. Hiring an experienced DUI attorney can provide invaluable assistance in navigating this complex process, ensuring that all procedural requirements are met and that your case is presented effectively.

For more detailed information on obtaining a BPO hardship license or exploring your license options after a DUI, visit our comprehensive guides.

Key Issues Addressed in a DUI Formal Review Hearing

During a DUI formal review hearing, the hearing officer will focus on specific issues to determine whether to uphold, amend, or invalidate the suspension of your driver’s license. This section will discuss the key issues that are typically addressed during the hearing.

Critical Issues in a DUI Formal Review Hearing

The hearing officer will evaluate several critical issues, including:

  • Probable Cause: Whether the arresting officer had probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence. This involves examining the officer’s observations and any evidence collected during the traffic stop.
  • Breath or Blood Alcohol Level: Whether you had an unlawful blood or breath alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. The accuracy and reliability of the testing equipment and procedures are often scrutinized.
  • Refusal to Submit: Whether you refused to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test after being informed of the consequences. The circumstances surrounding the refusal, including whether the implied consent warning was properly administered, are crucial.

What is probable cause in a DUI arrest? Probable cause in a DUI arrest means that the arresting officer has a reasonable belief, based on facts and circumstances, that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Examining Probable Cause

The first issue the hearing officer will address is whether the arresting officer had probable cause to believe that you were driving under the influence. This involves assessing the officer’s observations during the traffic stop, such as:

  • Erratic Driving: Swerving, speeding, or other erratic driving behaviors that led to the traffic stop.
  • Physical Signs of Impairment: Bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, or the smell of alcohol on your breath.
  • Field Sobriety Tests: The results of any field sobriety tests conducted during the stop.

For more details on how officers determine probable cause, read our guide on probable cause in DUI arrests.

Challenging Breath or Blood Alcohol Level

The second critical issue is whether you had an unlawful blood or breath alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. The hearing officer will examine the procedures followed during the testing process, including:

  • Calibration and Maintenance: Whether the breathalyzer or blood testing equipment was properly calibrated and maintained.
  • Testing Procedures: Whether the correct procedures were followed during the administration of the tests.
  • Operator Error: Any potential errors made by the operator administering the test.

Understanding the accuracy of chemical tests is crucial. Learn more about how calibration and maintenance affect breathalyzer results.

Evaluating Refusal to Submit

The third issue involves whether you refused to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test after being informed of the consequences. The hearing officer will consider:

  • Implied Consent Warning: Whether the officer properly informed you of the consequences of refusing the test.
  • Lawful Arrest: Whether the refusal occurred incident to a lawful arrest.
  • Documentation: The accuracy and completeness of the refusal affidavit and other related documents.

For more information on the implications of refusing a test, check out our article on the Florida DUI refusal guide.

Given the complexity and critical nature of these issues, having an experienced DUI attorney by your side can be invaluable. An attorney can:

  • Subpoena Witnesses: Obtain testimony from the arresting officer, breath test operator, and other relevant witnesses.
  • Challenge Evidence: Scrutinize the evidence and procedures to identify any inconsistencies or errors.
  • Cross-Examine Witnesses: Question witnesses to lock them into their testimony, which can be used to exploit inconsistent statements or disprove certain versions of events early in the case.

Learn more about the strategies to beat your DUI case and the importance of legal representation.

In conclusion, understanding the key issues addressed in a DUI formal review hearing is crucial for effectively contesting the administrative suspension of your driver’s license. By focusing on probable cause, breath or blood alcohol levels, and refusal to submit, you can build a strong defense with the help of an experienced DUI attorney.


Benefits of a DUI Formal Review Hearing

Requesting a DUI formal review hearing offers several benefits, even if the suspension is ultimately upheld. This section will explore the advantages of undergoing a DUI formal review hearing in Florida.

Advantages of a DUI Formal Review Hearing

Some of the key benefits include:

  • Temporary Driving Permit: You may receive a 42-day temporary driving permit while your case is being reviewed. This permit allows you to continue your daily activities such as commuting to work, school, or other essential places.
  • Subpoena Witnesses: The ability to subpoena witnesses, including the arresting officer, can provide valuable evidence for your case. This can be crucial in identifying procedural errors or inconsistencies in the officer’s testimony.
  • Early Discovery: The hearing allows for early discovery of evidence and witness testimony, which can be beneficial for your defense in the criminal case. This early insight can help your attorney build a stronger case from the outset.

What is a temporary driving permit? A temporary driving permit is a 42-day permit that allows you to continue driving for essential purposes while your DUI case is being reviewed.

Opportunity to Challenge Evidence

One of the most significant advantages of a DUI formal review hearing is the opportunity to challenge the evidence presented against you. This includes:

  • Questioning the Accuracy of Chemical Tests: Breathalyzers and other chemical tests are not infallible. Factors such as improper calibration, maintenance issues, and operator error can lead to inaccurate results.
  • Scrutinizing Officer’s Observations: The observations and procedures followed by the arresting officer are critical components of a DUI case. Any deviations from standard protocols or inconsistencies in the officer’s report can be used to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.
  • Exploring Alternative Explanations: Medical conditions or other factors can sometimes mimic signs of intoxication. Your attorney can present evidence to show that these factors, rather than alcohol, were responsible for your behavior.

For more detailed strategies on how to challenge the evidence in a DUI case, read our guide on beating your DUI case.

Potential Outcomes of the Hearing

While the primary goal of a DUI formal review hearing is to contest the suspension of your driver’s license, there are several possible outcomes:

  • Suspension Upheld: If the hearing officer finds sufficient evidence to support the suspension, your license will remain suspended for the designated period. However, you will have gained valuable information and insights for your criminal defense.
  • Suspension Invalidated: If the hearing officer determines that there was insufficient evidence or procedural errors, the suspension can be invalidated. This means your driving privileges are restored, and the administrative suspension is removed from your record.

What happens if the suspension is invalidated? If the suspension is invalidated, your driving privileges are restored, and the administrative suspension is removed from your record.

Gathering Evidence for Criminal Defense

Even if the administrative suspension is not invalidated, the formal review hearing serves as a valuable opportunity to gather evidence for your criminal defense. By questioning witnesses and examining documents, your attorney can:

  • Lock Witnesses into Testimony: By questioning the officers or civilian witnesses at the hearing, your attorney can lock them into their testimony, which allows your attorney to exploit inconsistent statements or disprove certain versions of events early in the case.
  • Identify Weaknesses in the Prosecution’s Case: The hearing can reveal weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, such as procedural errors or insufficient evidence, which can be used to your advantage in the criminal trial.
  • Build a Stronger Defense: The information gathered during the hearing can be used to build a stronger defense strategy, increasing your chances of a favorable outcome in the criminal case.

Understanding the importance of gathering evidence early on can be crucial for your defense. Learn more about fighting administrative suspensions and the role of evidence in your defense strategy.

Given the complexity and critical nature of DUI formal review hearings, having an experienced DUI attorney by your side is essential. An attorney can:

  • Navigate Complex Procedures: The rules and procedures governing DUI formal review hearings can be complex and challenging to navigate without legal expertise.
  • Challenge Evidence Effectively: An attorney can effectively challenge the evidence presented against you, increasing your chances of a favorable outcome.
  • Provide Expert Guidance: With their expertise, a DUI attorney can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the hearing process, ensuring that your rights are protected.

For more information on how an attorney can assist you, visit our guide to administrative suspension review hearings.

“Your Voice, Our Mission” – we champion your rights with the tenacity and dedication that has earned us the trust of our community members.

In conclusion, requesting a DUI formal review hearing in Florida offers numerous benefits, from obtaining a temporary driving permit to gathering valuable evidence for your criminal defense. By understanding the advantages and potential outcomes of the hearing, you can make informed decisions and increase your chances of a favorable outcome. If you have been arrested for DUI, contact Leppard Law: DUI Lawyers at 407-476-4111 to discuss your case and explore your legal options.

DUI Formal Review Hearings in Florida Explained


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What happens if I miss the 10-day deadline to request a DUI formal review hearing?

If you miss the 10-day deadline to request a DUI formal review hearing, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended. This suspension is immediate and you will lose the opportunity to contest it through an administrative hearing. It’s crucial to act quickly and consult with an experienced DUI attorney to ensure you meet all necessary deadlines.

Can I get a temporary driving permit while awaiting my DUI formal review hearing?

Yes, you can receive a 42-day temporary driving permit while awaiting your DUI formal review hearing. This permit allows you to drive for essential purposes such as work, school, and medical appointments. It provides a temporary solution while your case is being reviewed.

What is the role of the hearing officer in a DUI formal review hearing?

The hearing officer in a DUI formal review hearing evaluates the evidence presented to determine whether to uphold, amend, or invalidate the suspension of your driver’s license. They review documents, hear testimonies, and ensure that all procedures were followed correctly during your DUI arrest.

How can an attorney help during a DUI formal review hearing?

An attorney can provide invaluable assistance during a DUI formal review hearing by navigating complex procedures, challenging the evidence against you, and subpoenaing witnesses. They can also gather critical evidence and testimonies that can strengthen your defense in both the administrative and criminal aspects of your case.

Explore additional areas we serve to understand the full scope of our legal expertise:

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Legally reviewed by Joe Easton and the content team, this article reflects the firm’s 60 years of combined criminal defense expertise. Joe Easton, with his extensive experience and strategic prowess in DUI and criminal defense, offers more than just legal representation; he brings a commitment to turning legal challenges into triumphs. His approach, combining tenacity in the courtroom with personalized client care, ensures your DUI case is not just defended but championed with dedication and expertise.

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