The laws regarding drinking while intoxicated (DWI) or driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (DUI) in the State of Florida are some of the toughest in the nation. If you are arrested on DUI or DWI charges, contact The Law Office of Silverman, Mack & Associates to speak with an experienced Gainesville criminal law attorney. We will defend your rights and work diligently to ensure the best outcome for your drunk driving case.
What Determines DUI Charges?
According to Florida Statute § 316.1934, “It is unlawful and punishable for any person who is under the influence of alcoholic beverages or controlled substances, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired or to the extent that the person is deprived of full possession of normal faculties, to drive or be in actual physical control of any motor vehicle within this state. Such normal faculties include, but are not limited to, the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, make judgments, act in emergencies, and, in general, normally perform the many mental and physical acts of daily life.”
In the State of Florida, if you have a blood alcohol level or breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or above and you are driving a vehicle, you can be charged with DUI. This is true whether or not your normal faculties are impaired, which is the way to prove an individual drove while intoxicated. A breath test is often the primary evidence against someone in a DUI case. This test can make DUI a strict liability standard. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t know you were over the 0.08 level or if you didn’t mean to be over the 0.08 level. If you are over the 0.08 level, you can be charged with DUI with an unlawful blood alcohol level.
What To Know Before You're Pulled Over For DWI
One of the most frequent questions our DWI defense attorneys receive from defendants in a DUI case is whether he or she should agree to engage in a Breathalyzer test if they have been pulled over after drinking. The answer depends on the facts of each specific case — there is no one way to answer this question in advance. Whether you gave a breath sample or not, an attorney experienced in criminal law can analyze your case to help determine the best course of action. If you have been charged with DUI, contact our Gainesville attorneys immediately. The license suspension provision previously mentioned cannot be challenged after 10 days following the arrest.
When considering whether to give a breath sample, someone should consider the following factors:
- If you are over the limit of 0.08 and you give a sample, your chances of being convicted of DUI are very high.
- If you refuse to give a breath sample, the prosecutor will argue that the reason you refused was that you knew you would give a sample over the legal limit.
- If you give a sample of 0.00 to 0.049, you are actually entitled to a jury instruction that the jury is to presume that you are not impaired should you be charged with DUI (assuming you do not have any drugs in your system that are found by a urine test), but you could still be charged with DUI.
- If you have previously refused to a breath sample and you refuse for a second time, you inevitably commit a crime considered to be more serious than a first-time DUI.
- You can still be charged with DUI if you refuse to give a breath sample.
- If you feel the effects of alcohol in any material way (if you are “buzzed” or “drunk”), there is a good chance you will have a breath alcohol level of 0.08 or above.
- If you refuse to give a sample, your driver’s license will automatically be suspended for 12 months. If you give a sample of 0.08 or above, it will be suspended for 6 months. A sample of less than 0.08 prevents license suspension.
- If you give a breath sample of between a 0.05 and 0.79, you could still be charged with DUI under the theory that while your breath alcohol level was not over the limit, your “normal faculties were impaired.”
What Are Field Sobriety Exercises?
Field sobriety exercises, also called field sobriety tests, are the physical tests that law enforcement ask suspected drunk drivers to perform after they are pulled over. These exercises include the “walk the line,” “finger-to-nose,” “the eye test,” — looking for horizontal gaze nystagmus — and “one leg stand” tests. Law enforcement may refer to these tests as “exercises,” these activities are tests that determine whether an individual can proceed on his or her way or become arrested for DUI.
The most important factor regarding field sobriety exercises is that you don't have to do them. Unlike a breath test, there is no penalty for a second, third or even 100th refusal to perform field sobriety exercises. You can simply say “no” to law enforcement’s requests. If you have been drinking and you refuse a field sobriety test, you may be arrested on suspicion of DUI. We recommend that you avoid attempting these tests if you have been drinking. Oftentimes, you are better off having refused the test as opposed to attempting them and failing.
Frequently Asked Questions About DUI
Is A DUI/DWI Treated As A Felony Or A Misdemeanor?
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) may be treated as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the BAC level, previous convictions on a driver’s record, and the damages that occur to others as a result of driving under the influence. Most first-time DUI/DWI offenses are treated as misdemeanors.
A driver may be charged with a felony when there are aggravating circumstances, such as previous DUI charges within close time periods, the presence of minor passengers in the vehicle, and injuries/damages sustained to others on the road. If you are faced with a DUI or DWI in the state of Florida, you should visit our Gainesville DUI law firm as soon as possible.
After Being Convicted Of DUI, Will My License Be Revoked?
Possibly. If it is your first-time offense, a license revocation is less likely, unless your BAC level and other aggravating circumstance are severe. Usually, second and third time DUI conviction warrant license revocations.
Is It Possible For My License To Be Suspended Due To A DUI Charge?
There is a strong chance that your license will be suspended because of a DUI. When this happens, you are required to surrender your license to a Florida DMV and cease driving for the specified period of time.
Can I Drive With A Revoked License?
Under no circumstances can you drive or operate a vehicle with a revoked license. Florida law takes DUI charges very seriously because driving while under the influence of drugs, alcohol or other substances pose significant threats to the safety and wellbeing of the public. It is important to recognize that driving is a privilege, not a right. So, if it is deemed that your DUI warrants a license revocation, your driving privileges in the state of Florida will be permanently seized.
Can I Drive With A Suspended License?
No. You may not drive with a suspended license. You must wait until the designated suspension passes, take any and all necessary traffic courses, and pay your reinstatement fee in due time. Driving with a suspended license is against the law.
If I Decline A Breath/Urine/Blood Test, What Happens To My License?
In the State of Florida, if you refuse to submit a breath, urine, or blood test, your license can be suspended for one full year (for a first offense). In order to reinstate your license, you have 90 days to take a DUI course. You must show proof of enrollment in the course, demonstrate proof of bodily injury liability coverage, and pay several administrative and license fees.
Am I Required To Perform A Field Sobriety Test?
You are not required to take a field sobriety test. If you do not feel comfortable taking a field sobriety test, you should not take it. However, failure to take other forms of testing, such as blood or urine testing, may result in license suspension for up to one year. It is also possible to be arrested.
After Being Released From Jail Following A DUI, What Should I Do?
You should contact a criminal law attorney as soon as possible. If you have been arrested, you will likely have to attend court hearings at a future date. To understand what you may be up against and for an effective defense, you will need a lawyer.
Is Hiring A Lawyer Necessary?
Yes. You will need a lawyer for DUI charges. A lot of your rights and driving privileges may be at stake after a DUI charge. In order to gain a favorable outcome, legal representation is beneficial.
Which Symptoms Can Indicate Drunkenness While Driving?
Drunk drivers on highways are usually detectable by common behaviors on the road. Police officers may look for drivers whose cars make constant sudden stops, swerves, turns abruptly, drives closely behind other vehicles, and use driving signals inconsistently. Excessive speeding or slow driving on the left side of the highway may also be indicative of drunk driving.
An officer may look for the following symptoms to indicate drunkenness.
- Red eyes
- Slurred speech/difficulty communicating
- Breath odor that mimics the smell of alcohol
- Uneasy gestures and fumbling
- Inappropriate, loud or reckless behavior