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Panama City DUI Defense Lawyer

Panama City is Florida’s ultimate Spring Break destination, with its sun-kissed beaches and vibrant atmosphere attracting partygoers from all over the U.S. However, amidst the excitement of Panama City’s “party central” lies the sobering reality of DUI charges.

When facing drunk driving allegations in the Fourteenth Judicial circuit, it’s crucial to have a trusted criminal defense attorney by your side. Attempting to navigate Florida’s DUI penalties or the legal proceedings in Panama City will be difficult on your own. The consequences of a DUI conviction can result in fines, imprisonment, vehicle impoundment, and even getting your driver’s license revoked.

With the high stakes laid out before you, securing legal representation can make all the difference in receiving the most ideal outcome for your case or trial. Pumphrey Law Firm understands the gravity of a DUI charge and is committed to providing aggressive defense tailored to each defendant’s unique case.

Drunk Driving Defense Attorney in Panama City, FL

Were you recently arrested for an alleged drunk driving incident in Panama City or the surrounding North Florida area? Consider discussing your options with a legal representative. Even if it is your first ever DUI accusation, the resulting penalties from a conviction are severe. You could end up losing your driving eligibility, be forced to pay fines, complete courses on drug and alcohol abuse, and even face the possibility of imprisonment.

If you or a loved one are currently facing a DUI charge, contact the defense attorneys with Pumphrey Law. Our firm represents locals and visitors of Panama City in need of criminal defense. Receive a free consultation to discuss your current situation by calling (850) 681-7777 or fill in our form online.

DUI Offenses in Panama City

Florida’s law against drunk driving is codified under Statute Section 316.193. The legislature provides that a person is considered under the influence if they are driving or are in actual physical control of a vehicle and:

  • Has a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of .08 or higher; or
  • Has their normal faculties impaired.

When a person is accused of drunk driving in Panama City, there are several DUI offenses they may be charged with. Florida separates DUI offenses by the defendant’s criminal history, and by any aggravating factors that may have occurred.

Important language in Florida’s DUI statute is the phrase “actual physical control.” What this means is that even if you are not actively driving a motor vehicle while drunk, a Panama City law enforcement officer can charge you with DUI just for being inside the vehicle while it is parked. Read more on how Florida courts determine actual physical control and whether such evidence is sufficient.

Penalties for Panama City DUI

The penalties for a Panama City DUI conviction will vary depending on several factors. First, the court will look to see if it is your first DUI or if it is a second or subsequent offense. Sentencing is also based on the evidence against the defendant, such as the results of a field sobriety test or the person’s breath- or blood-alcohol level. Finally, there may be sentencing enhancements if the DUI resulted in a crash with property damage, serious injury, or the death of another person.

The following provides a list of the varying penalties for DUI in Panama City:

  • First Offense DUI – Classified as a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida. A conviction can carry:
    • Fines between $500 to $1,000 (or between $1,000 to $2,000 for a BAL of .15 or higher);
    • 50 hours of community service;
    • Up to one year of probation;
    • Up to six months in jail (or up to nine months for a BAL of .15 or higher);
    • Minimum license revocation of 180 days;
    • Twelve hours of Level I DUI program; and
    • Up to six (6) months of an ignition interlock device (IID).
  • Second Offense DUI – Classified as a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. A conviction can carry:
    • Fines between $1,000 to $2,000 (or between $2,000 to $4,000 for a BAL of .15 or higher);
    • Up to nine months in jail;
    • Minimum license revocation of 180 days;
    • Twenty-one hours of Level II DUI program; and
    • At least one year with an IID.
  • Third Offense DUI – Classified as a first-degree misdemeanor if the prior offenses occurred over 10 years ago, or as a third-degree felony if prior convictions occurred within 10 years of most recent Florida arrest. A conviction can carry:
    • Fines between $2,000 to $5,000 (or no less than $4,000 for a BAL of .15 or higher);
    • Up to one year in jail (or five years if it is a third-degree felony);
    • Minimum license revocation of 180 days;
    • Twenty-one hours of Level II DUI program; and
    • At least two years with an IID.
  • Fourth or Subsequent Offense DUI – Classified as a third-degree felony in Florida. A conviction can carry:
    • A fine of at least $2,000 (or no less than $4,000 for a BAL of .15 or higher);
    • Up to five years in prison; and
    • Mandatory permanent license revocation (Can apply for a hardship license after five years).
  • DUI with Property Damage or Personal Injury – Any person in Panama City who causes property damage or personal injury to another person from a DUI offense faces a first-degree misdemeanor. A conviction can carry up to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
  • DUI with Serious Injury – Any person in Panama City who causes serious bodily injury to another person from a DUI offense faces a third-degree felony. A conviction can carry up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
  • DUI Manslaughter Any person in Panama City who causes the death of another person from a DUI offense can be charged with DUI manslaughter. This is classified as a second-degree felony, with a conviction carrying up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

Even the penalties for a first-time DUI offense are severe. To protect yourself and your future, consider hiring a defense attorney to represent your DUI case. Pumphrey Law Firm proudly represents those accused of DUI in Panama City and the surrounding North Florida areas.

DUI Process in Bay County

If you’ve been accused of drunk driving in Panama City, you’ll have to go through the DUI process in Bay County. The Bay County Clerk of Court & Comptroller is Bill Kinsaul. Provided on their official website, DUI cases are considered criminal traffic violations. A criminal traffic violation requires a court appearance and if convicted, can result in fines, probation, and/or incarceration.

During the arraignment (first court appearance), the defendant will be told the charges against them. The defendant can enter a plea if desired. Pleas of guilt or no contest will result in a sentencing at that time. However, a defendant who wishes to plead not guilty should have legal representation to help enter the written plea of not guilty on your behalf.

The defense attorneys with Pumphrey Law Firm can represent your DUI case in Bay County and fight to get the charges against you lessened or dismissed.

The Fourteenth Judicial Circuit DUI Program

Under Florida Statute Section 316.193(5), any offender convicted of DUI shall be required to complete a substance abuse course conducted by a licensed DUI program. Panama City is in Bay County. Bay County is a part of the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida. When a person in Panama City is convicted of DUI, they must complete the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit DUI Program.

This specific program is licensed to satisfy the statutory obligations for those convicted of DUI or reckless driving with alcohol. Eligible offenders include:

  • Level 1: First time offenders of DUI, reckless driving with alcohol, or a controlled substance charge. Includes 12 hours of class and an evaluation.
  • Level 2: Offenders who have already participated in a DUI course and have more than one DUI conviction or an offense resulting in the program’s referral. Includes 21 hours of class and an evaluation.

Example DUI Cases in Panama City

  • June 2023 – The Bay County Sheriff’s Office arrested an individual for DUI, which later turned into DUI manslaughter after the victim died at the hospital. The local report indicates that Anthony Charles Hill Jr., 47, was driving southbound on Bob Little Road on April 15th around 11:30pm. On the opposite side of the road, Javis Jerome Whipple, 23, and his friend were both parked to try and fix Whipple’s vehicle that had broken down. Hill’s car ended up crossing the center line of the road, striking both parked vehicles. The collision caused one of the parked cars to hit the other and overturn it. Whipple sustained critical injuries in the collision and was later reported dead at the hospital. Hill was initially charged with DUI with serious injury, which later turned into DUI manslaughter following Whipple’s death.
  • July 2023 – A Bay County Sheriff’s deputy was arrested for suspected DUI after a traffic crash occurred. According to the local report, deputy Steven House, 32, was found by a Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officer at the intersection of Center Drive and Ivydell Street after he drove his vehicle into a ditch. The report indicates that House had a 3-year-old child in the vehicle at the time of the crash, and a bystander was urging him to let the child go after the two appeared to be covered in blood.

“The child appeared to be already injured on the head and the male was holding the child in a dangerous manner,” the report stated. “The male had his arm nearly around the child’s throat and kept tightening his grip as he cursed and screamed and moved around.”

The FHP officer requested that House release the child multiple times, and when he refused to comply the officer used a stun gun on the suspect. Once House was separated from the child, he was arrested and charged with DUI with a blood alcohol level of .253. House was also charged with battery on an officer, resisting an officer with violence, and failing to register a motor vehicle.

“I am very disappointed at the conduct of Steven House,” said Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford. “He was arrested and will be treated the same as anyone else exhibiting the same behavior.”

  • August 2023 Defendant Courtney Spears was sentenced to over 20 years in prison by a Bay County judge following a DUI incident in 2020. According to the local report, the crash occurred in the 16400 block of Front Beach Road and Lakeview Circle when Spears failed to yield to a golf cart as it was making a left turn, resulting in a collision. The crash resulted in the injury of seven people who were thrown out of the golf cart. At the time of the incident, Spears had a BAC level of .25, which is three times over Florida’s legal limit. Spears entered a plea for six counts of DUI with serious bodily injury and one count of enhanced DUI. Judge Shonna Gay sentenced Spears to the maximum penalty, which she will be serving the five-year sentences consecutively.

Defense Strategies for a DUI in Panama City

Dealing with a DUI charge is a scary experience. Not only do you have to endure the nuanced legal processes in Florida, but you can also lose your ability to drive. Even if you have already been booked and charged by a Panama City law enforcement agency, there are still potential defenses that may be available to you to fight against a conviction. Example defense strategies can include, but are not limited to:

  • First time DUI offense – In some cases, the judge may be more lenient for a defendant facing their first-ever DUI. A defense attorney can help convince the prosecution to reduce the charge or lower the potential penalties if a conviction is reached.
  • Errors by Law enforcement – There are strict procedures surrounding DUI cases and how police can obtain evidence. Any processing errors in the field sobriety tests, breathalyzer, or other methods to collect evidence can result in the evidence getting thrown out. Pumphrey Law can help you file a motion to dismiss the evidence against you.
  • “Wet reckless” – In some DUI cases, there may not be sufficient evidence to secure the DUI conviction. Instead, the State may try to plea bargain the initial charge to a lesser charge of reckless driving involving alcohol. This is often referred to as “wet reckless” and can result in less severe penalties than a standard DUI.
  • Illegal Stop by Police – Police officers in Panama City cannot stop a person without probable cause. If a DUI arrest occurs, the arresting officers must be able to prove that the driver was committing a moving violation which indicates that it may be a suspected DUI. A defense attorney can help argue that the arrest made by law enforcement occurred through an illegal traffic stop.

If you need legal assistance to defend your Panama City DUI case, contact Pumphrey Law Firm. We offer free consultations to go over the circumstances surrounding your case so we can accurately advise you on what to do next.

Contact a DUI Defense Attorney with Pumphrey Law

The reality of a suspected DUI arrest is a harsh one. This is a type of criminal offense that can continuously impact you even after the fines and jail sentence has been served. Depending on the specific details of your case, you could lose your driver’s license, have your car impounded, or have the installation of an IID inside your vehicle. To avoid the potential penalties that come with a conviction, put your case in the hands of an experienced DUI attorney.

At Pumphrey Law Firm, our defense attorneys have years of experience defending individuals in Panama City. We understand the stress and anxiety that comes with legal proceedings. We intend to protect your rights and create a defense strategy to get the charges against you lessened or dismissed. Contact our office today at (850) 681-7777 or send us a message online to obtain a free consultation regarding your DUI case.

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