While the majority of DWI cases are prosecuted in state courts located throughout Florida, there is a small number that is brought forth in federal court. Specifically, federal DWI cases arise when a person is accused of driving while impaired by drugs and/or alcohol on land owned by the government, such as a military base, a VA hospital, or a national park. It is important to understand that under state law, the offense is charged as DUI, or “driving under the influence.” Under federal law, the offense is often charged as DWI, which stands for “driving while intoxicated.”


If a person is arrested for a DWI on federal land, he or she will receive a United States District Court Notice Violation (Notice Violation) indicating the time and place where the offense occurred, a summary of the specific charge(s), and the facts underlying the charge. The accused will also receive a Notice to Appear before a United States Magistrate judge at the federal courthouse in his or her jurisdiction.

In many federal DWI cases, the offense charged in the Notice Violation is a violation of Florida’s DUI laws pursuant to the Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA). Offenses that are charged under the ACA typically involve the operation of an automobile while impaired due to drugs or alcohol with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater and a refusal to take a breathalyzer or chemical test.

The purpose of the ACA is to assimilate into federal law and imposes on federal property (also called enclaves) Florida’s criminal laws where the enclave is specifically located. In other words, the ACA fills in the gaps where Congress has not defined the offense under federal law. As indicated by one federal court, it becomes a federal crime even if there are only state laws on point that criminalize the specific behavior.

There are several types of DWI charges under federal law which vary depending upon where the crime happened, whether at enclaves such as a national park, military base, or a VA hospital.

Seasoned Federal DWI Defense Attorneys are Ready to Help You Now

If you or a loved one has been accused of driving while impaired on federal property located within the State of Florida, it is critical that you contact a seasoned Federal DWI attorney at Musca Law today to learn more about your legal rights and options. Defenses may be available in your case, so don’t wait; call Musca Law now at (888) 484-5057 to schedule your free and completely confidential case evaluation.

Refusal-to-Test Law

When federal authorities conduct an investigation of accidents involving an impaired driver on federal property, they will often read to the offender the Federal Implied Consent Law codified at 18 U.S.C. § 3118. This law provides the driver with notice that a refusal to submit to breath testing will result in the suspension of his or her driving privileges on federal property. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3118, it indicates that a person who fails to take a breath test, after being told of the associated consequences of such refusal, will be denied the ability to operate a motor vehicle in the territorial or special maritime jurisdiction of the United States beginning upon the date when the offender was arrested and lasting for one year. Otherwise stated, a person who refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test will be prohibited from driving on federal land for a period of at least one year.

The Gap in Federal DWI Law for a Refusal-to-Test and the Difference Between 18 U.S.C. § 3118 and Federal Criminal Statutes

A question that is often raised is whether there is a gap in federal criminal law when a person who is arrested for DWI refuses to submit to a breath test. According to governing case law, the answer to this question is “yes.” In one federal case, it provides that driving while impaired within the territorial and special maritime jurisdiction of the U.S. is not directly actionable under federal criminal laws.

The ACA addresses this gap through the incorporation of state criminal statutory prohibitions against driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. The gap under federal law exists despite the fact that 18 U.S.C. § 3118, a procedural rather than substantive law, addresses a situation where an accused fails to submit to a breath test such as on a military installation. For instance, according to federal case law, the loss of driving privileges is not a law that is a subject for prosecution, as it is a procedural sanction. This applies when a person refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test, and means that the person subject to this law will lose their driving privileges on federal law rather than face a judicial hearing.

Contact Musca Law to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Florida Federal DWI Defense Lawyer

Contact Musca Law today if you have been charged with a DWI on federal property. Our firm offers free, confidential consultations with our Florida DWI defense attorneys, and we will investigate your case to help you understand your options. Our lawyers have a combined 150 years of experience in criminal defense, and we understand the potential consequences of a conviction. We have the legal knowledge and skills to deliver the quality defense you deserve.

Our attorneys schedule weekend and evening appointments, and our office is available now to take your call. You can reach Musca Law to schedule your case consultation today by calling (888) 484-5057.