With so many sources of questionable information available to everyone these days, people can get a lot of incorrect information. At the Stechschulte Nell Law Firm, we believe you should be certain about what constitutes a DUI under the law in Florida. When you know what the law is, you can better understand where your boundaries are.
If you go out of bounds on some occasion, and you get stopped for, or charged with, Driving Under the Influence, you should contact the most experienced DUI lawyers near you who have a long record of effective and successful DUI case defenses.
Here are 10 things you should know about Florid DUI.
#1. There are two grounds the police and prosecutors can use to try to convict you of DUI.
The government must prove that you were driving, or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle either
- while under the influence of alcohol or another chemical substance (drug) to the degree that your “normal functioning” was impaired,
- with a blood alcohol content (BAC) measuring 0.08 or above.
For a first offense DUI conviction, the penalty includes a six-month license suspension, a fine of $500 up to $1,000, up to a 6-month period of incarceration, probation, community service, DUI education classes, and possible drug or alcohol counseling, and impoundment of your car for ten days.
#2. Your Vehicle Does Not Need to Be Moving to Be Convicted of DUI.
The law in Florida specifies that a person commits DUI if they are driving or “in physical control” of the vehicle. That means someone stopped along the side of the road, sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition, can be charged with DUI if the police have sufficient evidence of intoxication above the required level.
With contemporary automotive technology allowing a car’s engine to start with an electronic key not inserted in the ignition, DUI law will continue to develop on this point. If a driver can be arrested for DUI while sitting in a stopped car with the engine off and keys in their pocket, or somewhere else in the car, will that be enough to prove “actual physical possession of the car?”
#3. DUI with Aggravating Factors increases the penalties that can be imposed by the court if you are convicted even of a first offense.
If your case includes evidence the prosecutor can use to prove the following circumstances, then the court can impose the enhanced penalties shown below the list:
- blood alcohol level (BAC) at or above 0.15 (misdemeanor)
- a child was in the care during the first DUI offense (misdemeanor)
- the DUI charge involves an accident with minor property damage (misdemeanor)
- the DUI involves an accident with serious injury to or death of someone other than the driver (felony)
- 3rd or subsequent offense DUIs (felony)
#4. Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) Are Not Mandatory
It is always the best practice to remain calm, polite, and courteous to the investigating officer during a traffic stop, especially if the officer suspects you are driving under the influence. However, drivers have no legal obligation to perform the SFSTs when asked to do so by an officer. A driver may indeed be “rocking the boat” by refusing to take the SFSTs, but without the tests, the officer has much less evidence on which to base the decision to arrest the driver. The officer needs “probable cause.” (see below)
#5. Any DUI Arrest Requires the Officer to Have Probable Cause
Probable cause to arrest someone for DUI means the officer must have sufficient articulable evidence that would make a reasonable person believe that the suspect probably committed a specific crime. Interestingly, the field sobriety tests regularly used by police, like the heel-to-toe, the one-legged stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus were created to help an officer prove probable cause.
#6. Getting Your Florida Driver’s License Automatically Expressed Your Consent to Chemical Tests
Under Florida Statute 316.1932, you consented to submit to chemical testing of your breath, urine, and blood for DUI purposes when you received your driver’s license. It’s called the Implied Consent Law. It is the law that allows the state to punish you for Refusing a Chemical test when asked to do so during a DUI arrest. Since you already gave your “implied consent” when you got your license, you can be penalized for failure to do so, if other circumstances comply with the law.
#7. Refusing a Chemical Test Carries a Longer License Suspension than DUI
Refusing a breath test or other chemical test in the context of a DUI arrest carries a 1-year loss of license when a DUI first offense includes up to a 6-month license suspension
#8. The Record of a DUI Conviction Can’t Be Expunged or Sealed
A DUI conviction in Florida is a permanent public record of conviction. It cannot be expunged from the records, nor can it be sealed from public view. It is permanently accessible to anyone who looks because of the Sunshine Law allowing everyone to see all records of convictions in Florida.
#9. There Are Effective Defenses to DUI – Get an Experienced DUI Defense Lawyer
Avoiding a DUI conviction is the only way to avoid a permanent record that will follow you throughout your life. When defended properly and aggressively by a Tampa or St. Petersburg DUI defense lawyer, the prosecution of your case could be dismissed because the evidence is flawed, or you could be acquitted because the evidence is insufficient, or you could get your DUI charge amended to a lesser offense that actually can have its records expunged or sealed.
#10. You Can Expunge or Seal a DUI Charge if It Gets Changed to Reckless Driving
Experienced DUI defense lawyers know that aggressively contesting the evidence gathered by police in a DUI investigation can expose mistakes made by officers in the highly technical procedure that must be followed to convict a defendant.
When a skilled DUI defense lawyer begins to make progress attacking the evidence, even if only partially, prosecutors often agree to amend the DUI to a Reckless Driving that is less socially stigmatized and is more easily removed from the record if no adjudication was entered by the judge. This too is often negotiated to make the disposition of the case more advantageous to the DUI defense lawyer’s client.
Charged with a DUI?
If you or someone you love has been charged with a DUI in Tampa Bay, Florida, call Stechschulte Nell Law, Tampa’s DUI defense lawyers; 813-280-1244.