DUI / Drunk Driving
Driving under the influence (DUI) has been a rising issue in the United States with Florida as one of the leading states in drunk driving fatalities. In 2012, there were 697 fatalities that were a result of drunk driving in Florida according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. Unfortunately, these statistics seem to increase every year without fail.
Although DUI is mostly a non-violent crime, the state of Florida aggressively prosecutes those accused of driving drunk. In 2011, there were 33,625 DUI convictions in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Each of these convictions were accompanied with heavy penalties including fines, probation, community service, DUI classes, possible alcohol monitoring and even incarceration.
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. More officers are arresting people for driving under the influence of marijuana, street drugs or even prescription medications.
If you or someone you know has been charged with driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or controlled substance, then we suggest you hire legal representation.
DUI Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
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 and even be forced to spend time in jail or prison. That is why we highly recommend you secure experienced legal representation as soon as possible.
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 (754) 755-8554 today at Meltzer & Bell to schedule your free consultation.
Overview of DUI Charges in FL
- What Does Florida Define as Driving Under the Influence (DUI)?
- Breathalyzer & Field Sobriety Testing in FL
- What Is Florida’s Implied Consent Laws?
- Should I Refuse Breathalyzer or DUI Testing?
- Penalties for DUI in Florida
- Additional Resources
What Does Florida Define as Driving Under the Influence (DUI)?
It’s illegal, as in all fifty states, to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the state of Florida. Florida Statutes Section 316.193 defines driving under the influence as any driver who is found in actual physical control of a vehicle and has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher or doesn’t have normal use over their physical and mental faculties.
You might be confused on what the term “actual physical control” means. Essentially, if it’s shown that you had the capability to drive in court (even if you aren’t actively driving) then you are considered in actual physical control. This means you could be convicted of DUI even if you were never driving the motor vehicle in the first place.
For example, if you were found at the wheel of the car intoxicated with the keys in the ignition, then you could be charged with DUI. That is because you were intoxicated, and you were in “actual physical control” by having the keys while being within the car.
The court uses the following factors to determine whether a person is in actual physical control of the vehicle or not.
- If the car is turned on or not;
- If the motor vehicle is parked;
- If the car has been driven recently;
- The car’s workability;
- Where the alleged offender was in the vehicle;
- Whether the engine is on or not; and
- Where the keys are located.
Breathalyzer & DUI Testing in Florida
Florida’s law enforcement utilizes several methods to determine what a person’s impairment level is. Police officer tend to use one of the two testing types when they are attempting to collect evidence of a person’s intoxication. These are field sobriety testing and chemical DUI tests such as breathalyzers, blood analysis or urine analysis.
Field sobriety testing is the less reliable of the two to calculate a person’s impairment level. It involves a series of physical exercises which use the officer’s subjective reasoning to determine whether a person is under the influence or not. Although officers use multiple kinds of field sobriety testing, only three have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). These three are the only field sobriety tests whose results can be utilized in a court of law as evidence.
The three field sobriety tests standardized by the NHTSA include:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – Nystagmus is the phenomenon when a person’s eye twitches due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Law enforcement will measure your eyes by using a horizontal gaze nystagmus test to determine if your nystagmus is in effect. A police officer will put an object 12 to 15 inches away from your nose as a stimulus. They will then sway it back and forth for a period of 30 seconds. If your eye twitches or has issues tracking it may be a sign of intoxication.
- Walk-and-Turn – Law enforcement may use the walk and turn test to measure your physical faculties. The officer will ask you to perform nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line and then turn on one foot to take another nine heel-to-toe steps back.
- One-Leg Stand – Police officers will test your balance with a one-leg stand to see if your physical faculties have been affected by alcohol or a controlled substance. You will be asked to stand on one leg about six inches off the ground and count while standing on one leg 30 seconds. If you struggle to keep balance or fall as a result, then the officer may believe you’re intoxicated.
Chemical testing is used by law enforcement as a scientific method of proving if a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. All of these tests measure your blood alcohol content (BAC) by using bio samples supplied by the offender. A chemical DUI test is one of the most valuable pieces of evidence to the prosecution in a DUI case. Field sobriety testing results can be vague and hard to argue their validity in court. However, chemical DUI tests are concrete scientific pieces of evidence that prove your intoxication. That is why many criminal defense lawyers recommend to their clients to refuse chemical testing when they have been pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence.
The following are the three chemical tests officers may ask you to submit to if you have been stopped for DUI.
- Breathalyzer Tests – The most common chemical testing is breath analysis, which can be measured by a breathalyzer at the station or with a portable breath test at a DUI stop. PBT devices however are much more prone to error than the full-sized breathalyzer models. Breath analysis can be controversial since blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is difficult to determine with a breath sample.
- Blood Analysis – Officers may ask you to submit to a blood draw, especially if you are under the influence of a controlled substance. Blood tests are the most accurate out of all chemical testing, but still have some flaws. A blood test sample can be contaminated or be improperly stored, which can lead to false BAC results.
- Urine Analysis – Sometimes officers will ask you to submit to a urine test instead of a blood or breathalyzer test. Urine analysis is incredibly controversial because drugs can remain in your system longer than 24 hours due to the amount of terpenes they may have. For example, if you consumed marijuana, the drug may stay in your body for up to three weeks. This can happen even if you aren’t a chronic cannabis user.
What Are Implied Consent Laws in Florida?
To reinforce DUI testing, the state of Florida implemented “implied consent laws.” These laws are found under Florida Statute Section 316.1932 and state that if any person uses Florida’s public roads then they are implicitly giving their consent to chemical DUI testing by law enforcement. Violating these laws will result in an immediate administrative consequence.
Refusing chemical testing will lead to an automatic administrative suspension. You will receive a “Notice of Suspension” after your DUI stop and have up to 10 days to file for an administrative license revocation hearing (ALR hearing). Failure to act will result in your license being administratively suspended for up to 12 months. If you file for a hearing, then you will have a chance to contest your suspension with experienced legal representation.
Should I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test or DUI Testing?
Despite implied consent laws, many attorneys will still suggest you refuse chemical testing. It’s been shown that failed chemical DUI tests have happened in the past due to simple human error. Factors such as a bad chain of command, faulty testing machines and poorly trained lab staff can all lead to false BAC results. This is especially true for breathalyzer testing, which can be skewed by something as simple as taking cough medicine.
If you refuse chemical testing, you could possibly end up in handcuffs. Officers can arrest you if they have probable cause you’re driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some police officers will take your refusal as reasonable grounds for arrest. Although an arrest is never a pleasurable experience, it may be the best option in that scenario.
If you don’t submit to chemical testing, then the prosecution will have little to no hard evidence against you. Instead they will be relying on objective evidence from the officer and testimony from eyewitnesses. It’s much easier to convict a person of DUI if there is scientific proof of inebriation. Without it, the prosecution’s case can look pretty weak to a jury.
Since an arrest is temporary and a suspension is fixable with an ALR hearing, it can be the best decision to refuse testing. You may be arrested and booked for a short period, but you won’t have to deal with the stress, finance struggle and penalties surrounding a DUI conviction.
What are the Penalties for Driving Under the Influence in Florida?
(more than five years from first conviction)
(within five years of first conviction)
DUI Statistics in Florida – Visit the official website for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to gain access to infograms and statistics for driving under the influence crimes. Learn how many DUI arrests occurred in Florida, the percentage based on age and sex of the offender, and DUI arrest county by Judicial Circuit Court.
Florida DUI Laws – Visit the official website for Online Sunshine, which contains all of Florida state laws and legislation for driving under the influence (DUI). Find more information about how driving under the influence offenses are treated under Florida law, the elements of the crime, the penalties and the possible admissible defenses.
Lawyers for DUI Defense in Broward County, Fl
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 any other law enforcement office in Florida, call us at Meltzer & Bell to discuss your case in further detail 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 (754) 755-8554 to set up a free consultation.