DUI / Drunk Driving

Drunk driving, or driving under the influence, is a problem that plagues several states throughout the nation, and Florida is no exception. In 2012, there were 697 fatalities that were a result of drunk driving in Florida, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

The Sunshine State has strict laws against drunk driving, but driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol remains a common offense. In 2011, there were 33,625 DUI convictions in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

When you hear the term “DUI” most people think of driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages, however, allegations of driving under the influence of a controlled substance is becoming more common.

Knowing your rights and understanding the laws are paramount to the outcome of the case.

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Driving Under the Influence

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The Defendant was stopped for running a red light and speeding...During trial, Meltzer & Bell, P.A. was able to show that these officers were not being truthful as to their observations as the DUI Investigator was repeatedly impeached by prior sworn contrary testimony that our firm had obtained...The Defendant was found NOT GUILTY by a JURY in 9 minutes!!!!
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DUI Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, FL

A DUI conviction in Florida can severely affect your future, time and finances. If convicted, you may not be able to drive and you may be forced to pay thousands of dollars in fines, in addition to possible jail time. It is important you have legal guidance to understand the charges against you.

An experienced criminal defense attorney in Broward County can help ease the burden of drunk driving charges. Contact a DUI lawyer at Meltzer & Bell in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Meltzer & Bell represents clients throughout Broward County, including Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, Miramar, Coral Springs, Hollywood, Pompano Beach, Plantation, Davie, Sunrise, Weston and Wilton Manors.

Dedicated DUI defense attorneys Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell are available to assist you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call (954) 745-7457 today at Meltzer & Bell to schedule your free consultation.


Florida DUI Information Center


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Definitions of Drunk Driving in Florida

Driving under the influence is defined as driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the point where your normal faculties are impaired, according to Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.193. Normal faculties include the ability to see, hear, walk, balance, talk and the ability to perform the mental and physical acts of daily life.

You also can be considered under the influence if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit of .08 grams. Law enforcement officers can use blood, breath or urine tests to determine your BAC. However, a breath test is the most common.


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Implied Consent Laws

Anytime someone makes the decision to operate a motor vehicle in Florida, he or she is deemed to have given implied consent to submit a chemical test for the purpose of determining their sobriety, according to Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.1932.

This means, if a driver refuses to submit a breath, blood or urine sample for a BAC test, he or she can face an automatic license suspension for up to one year. If it is the second time he or she refused a BAC test, the license could be suspended for up to 18 months.

When you refuse the test, you are arrested and issued a citation called a “Notice of Suspension.” This specific citation notifies you the state’s Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles intends to suspend your driver’s license for one year because you refused to submit or failed to submit to a breath, blood or urine sample upon your arrest for DUI as required by Florida Law.

If you provided a breath or blood sample of .08 or greater at the time of your arrest for DUI, your license will be suspended for six months. These suspensions are imposed administratively by DHSMV. They are not criminal in nature and are unrelated to criminal charges for DUI.

You have up to 10 days after the arrest to act on the suspension. If you do not, you will not be able to fight the violation with the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and will result in the automatic suspension of your driving privileges.

Contact Meltzer & Bell and an attorney immediately will contact the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to assist you in obtaining a temporary driving permit or a hardship license. You may be eligible for a temporary driving permit, even if you have been convicted of DUI in your past.


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Can I Be Charged With DUI If I Wasn’t Actually Driving?

There are several scenarios that can result in drunk driving charges in Florida even if you are not actually driving the vehicle. According to state law, if an individual is in actual physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated, he or she can be arrested.

There are a plethora of factors that Broward County law enforcement officers can use to determine whether or not an individual is in actual physical control, such as:

  • Whether or not the engine was on
  • Where the vehicle was parked
  • Where the keys were located
  • If the vehicle been recently driven
  • Was the car drivable
  • The defendants position in the vehicle

DUI charges can be confusing and frustrating because they carry such serious penalties. If you are charged with drunk driving when you are not driving the vehicle, a Fort Lauderdale DUI lawyer at Meltzer & Bell can examine the evidence in your case.


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Penalties for Drunk Driving in Broward County

In Florida, the penalties for driving under the influence depend on the number of previous DUI convictions already on your criminal record. If convicted, you could face prison time, fines or both. In most cases, your driver’s license also will be suspended.

If you are arrested and charged with your first DUI offense, you face a second-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $2,000 and your license suspended for a minimum of 180 days.

A second DUI conviction is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to nine months of imprisonment, a fine of up to $4,000 and a suspended license for at least 180 days.

A third offense, or a subsequent offense within 10 years, could be a third-degree felony. In Florida, a third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in a state prison, a fine of up to $5,000 and a minimum license suspension of 10 years.

If you are convicted a fourth time, the charges automatically can be filed as a felony no matter the time that has elapsed since the previous convictions. The felony conviction can result in permanent revocation of your driver’s license and up to five years in a state prison.

In addition, anytime someone is convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she can be ordered to serve probation, do community service, attend DUI classes or install an interlock device in their vehicle. Convictions also can carry financial and social repercussions.


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Defenses in Driving Under the Influence Cases

Drunk driving cases can be complex, but there are ways to defend yourself against the charges. The attorneys at Meltzer & Bell have experience in examining evidence and arguing for clients.

For instance, police officers are required to have probable cause to believe you have committed a traffic infraction,  reasonable suspicion that you were committing a crime or evidence that your well-being was in danger in order to stop your vehicle, according to Florida law.

If the driving pattern for which you were stopped failed to affect other traffic on the road or did not create a “safety hazard,”  the officer may have acted unlawfully and courts may require all evidence gathered by the officer such as physical observations, roadside exercises or breath test results be thrown out of your case.

Also, the state must prove your breath test was over the limit “while driving” or “while in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.” If you were tested at the police station after the arrest, there could be discrepancies. Meltzer & Bell can help build your defense.


First Appearance Procedures in DUI Cases

Administrative Order No. III-92-F-1A explains the arrest and booking procedures related to magistrate hearings in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County, FL. The order was entered by the Chief Judge in chambers at the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, FL on September 25, 1992. The order was entered in accordance with the authority vested in the Chief Judge by Rule 2.050 of the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration. The order provides it is “procedural in nature only and not substantive as to the law or legal right of any person or party.” In other words, a violation of the order governing the rules for first appearance court appearances in Fort Lauderdale, FL, will not result in the charges being dismissed.

In order to comply with Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.130(a), the order required that every arrested person must have a magistrate hearing within twenty-four (24) hours of their arrest.

To make sure a person was booked into the jail in time to appear for the magistrate hearing, the order requires that any person arrested by any law enforcement agency within Broward County, shall be transported and booked in the Broward County Jail system and transported to the Broward County Main Jail within two (2) hours of their arrest. The order includes an exception to this two-hour rule for anyone arrested for Driving under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (DUI) because that charge requires additional processing. For DUI cases, the order related to magistrate hearing requires that a person arrested for DUI shall be transported and booked within three (3) hours.

Under the order, the Broward Sheriff’s Office shall accept all arrestees for booking at the time they are presented for booking. The Broward Sheriff’s Office shall document and note on the booking sheet the time of arrest, time of arrival of the arrestee for booking, the actual time of booking as well as the time of arrival at the main jail of all arrestees.


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Broward County Drunk Driving Resources

Broward County DUI School Level I – Visit the website of the Broward County Safety Council to enroll in the State Approved DUI – Level I – 12 Hour Program for a person arrested for a first DUI. The class is for anyone who lives or works in Broward County, FL. The cost for the class is $276.00 plus a $2 online processing fine. The DUI school in Broward County includes 12 hours of classroom instruction and a one-hour alcohol and drug evaluation at the office in Downtown Fort Lauderdale or Lauderdale Lakes, FL. The DUI program is provided in English and Spanish. Find information on MADD Victim Impact Panel and certain online courses. For individuals with a prior DUI arrest, they must register for Level II DUI school which costs $423.00. The fees paid to the Broward-Dade Safety Council are non-refundable, even if the student is later found not guilty of the DUI and the administrative suspension is invalidated. A breath BAC test will be administered prior to every class. The program must be completed within 90 days of this enrollment.

Broward Sheriff’s Office DUI Unit – The DUI Unit of the Broward Sheriff’s Office is comprised of three separate divisions that work together to increase awareness of the dangers of driving or boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, enforce DUI laws, and process DUI offenders. Those three divisions of the Broward Sheriff’s DUI Unit include:

  • BAT Video;
  • DUI/Breath Alcohol Testing (BAT); and
  • the DUI Task Force.

Florida Highway Patrol, Troop L – Troop L of the Florida Highway Patrol covers the highways of Broward County and frequently pulls over suspected drunk drivers. With an office in Davie, FL, Troop L Headquarters is located on Florida’s Turnpike at the 94 Mile Post Service Plaza in Lake Worth, located in Palm Beach County.

Florida Highway Patrol
Troop L Headquarters
14190 W. State Road 84
Davie, FL 33325
(954) 837-4000

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Finding a Drunk Driving Defense Attorney in Broward County

If you have been arrested and charged with DUI anywhere in Broward County, Florida, contact a Fort Lauderdale DUI defense attorney at Meltzer & Bell. The attorneys at Meltzer & Bell have more than two decades of experience defending clients like you who have faced DUI charges.

After a DUI arrest by the Florida Highway Patrol, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, or the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, call us to discuss the case. We can begin your defense today.

Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell are qualified DUI defense lawyers who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call Meltzer & Bell at (954) 745-7457 to set up a free consultation.


This article was last updated on Friday, April 27, 2018.

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