Getting stopped for drunk driving and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida can be an anxiety-inducing experience.
It is extremely important for anyone who is facing DUI charges in Florida—whether as a first-time offender or as someone with previous DUI charges—to understand how DUI charges work, what the repercussions can be and what a DUI lawyer in Florida can do for you.
What is a DUI Under Florida Law?
In order to understand what happens when you get a DUI in Florida, it is necessary first to understand why you can even be facing these charges. Under Florida law (Fla. Stat. § 316.193), a person is guilty of driving under the influence if she or he is driving or is otherwise in control of a vehicle and one of the following is true:
- Person’s normal faculties are impaired because she or he is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, a chemical substance, or a controlled substance;
- Person has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 per 100 milliliters of blood or more; or
- Person has a breath alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath or more.
Stops and Searches for DUI in Florida
When you get a DUI in Florida, the first step in the criminal process typically is being pulled over or stopped by the police. In order to stop a person for driving under the influence of alcohol, a law enforcement official must have what is known as “reasonable suspicion.”
Reasonable suspicion is a relatively low bar to meet, and there are numerous situations in which a law enforcement official might argue that she or he has reasonable suspicion. However, it is important to understand examples that might allow a police officer or Florida sheriff to show that she or he had reasonable suspicion to make the stop since, without reasonable suspicion, the entire arrest may be unlawful.
Examples of Reasonable Suspicion
The following are examples of situations in which a law enforcement official likely will be able to successfully demonstrate that she or he had reasonable suspicion to make a DUI stop. For example, a court likely will agree that a police officer or Florida sheriff had reasonable suspicion if the driver did any of the following:
- Made an illegal turn;
- Drifted between lanes;
- Drove onto the shoulder;
- Repeatedly drove onto centerline or shoulder rumble strips;
- Drove erratically;
- Drove very slowly;
- Came to a stop without an obvious reason;
- Braked frequently;
- Violated certain other traffic laws; and/or
- Was seen consuming alcohol by a law enforcement official prior to driving or while driving.
Suspicion of DUI
If you are stopped for suspicion of a DUI and the law enforcement official has probable cause to believe that you are driving under the influence in violation of Florida law, you may be required to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test to determine your blood alcohol or breath alcohol content.
DUI checkpoints are also common ways in which a person can end up facing DUI charges. While Florida case law generally says that DUI checkpoints are lawful, you should speak with a DUI defense lawyer about your options if you get a DUI after stopping at a DUI checkpoint.
Breath and Blood Tests for DUIs
A breath test or a blood test technically is a “search” for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which means that a law enforcement official must have probable cause to conduct that search.
At the same time, it is important to know that, under Florida law (Fla. Stat. § 316.1932), as soon as you get behind the wheel to drive in Florida, you give implied consent to submit to a chemical or physical breath test when a law enforcement officer requests it in relation to a DUI stop.
Failure to submit to a breath test or chemical test can come with significant penalties, including a mandatory suspension of your driver’s license. You should keep in mind that you can get a DUI even if you do not have a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Possible Penalties for Getting a DUI in Florida
When you are charged with a DUI, you can face substantial penalties that are based in part on whether this is a first offense or a subsequent offense. The following are possible penalties that you should know when facing DUI charges:
Up to 6 months in jail, fine of up to $1,000, license revocation from 180 days to one year, 50 hours of community service, one year of probation, vehicle impoundment for 10 days, ignition interlock device for 6 months (required if the offender had a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher), and up to nine months in jail if the offender had a minor passenger in the vehicle or a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher.
Up to 9 months in jail, fine of up to $2,000, license revocation from 180 days to one year, 50 hours of community service, one year of probation, vehicle impoundment for up to 30 days, ignition interlock device for up to 2 years, and up to 12 months in jail if the offender had a minor passenger in the vehicle or a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher. If the second offense occurred within five years of the first offense, the penalty will also included a minimum of 10 days in jail and a revocation of the driver’s license for 5 years.
Up to 12 months in jail, fine of up to $5,000, license revocation from 180 days to one year, 50 hours of community service, one year of probation, vehicle impoundment for 10 days, and an ignition interlock device for up to 2 years. If a person’s third offense occurs within 10 years of any prior DUI offense, it is a felony offense that comes with a mandatory 30 days in jail, impoundment of the vehicle for 90 days, and a driver’s license revocation for 10 years.
Contact an Orlando DUI Defense Lawyer
While it is necessary to learn more about what happens when you get a DUI in Florida at any stage of the process, you should know that hiring an Orlando DUI defense attorney can help you immensely.
Not only can your traffic defense lawyer assist you with information about the charges and the process that lies ahead of you, but your attorney can also begin working on a variety of defense strategies that are tailored to your specific case.
Contact Skubiak & Rivas, P.A. today for more information.