Driving under the influence in Florida is a severe crime. The type of charges you might face vary depending on many specific facts, including whether you have previous DUI's, your blood alcohol level, your age, and several other potential aggravating factors. Facing these charges can be intimidating, especially for individuals who are unfamiliar with the criminal justice system.
Remember that facing charges is not the same thing as being convicted. You have the right to hire a lawyer to defend you and protect your interests throughout the process. Never wait to reach out to an experienced Florida DUI attorney to discuss your case and your possible options for defending against the charges.
Defining DUIs in Florida
Florida law defines DUIs, or driving under the influence, as operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or more. Driving under the influence of chemical substances also falls under the state's DUI law.
The specific crime you will face might be a misdemeanor, but in difficult situations with aggravating factors, you might face felony charges. Felony charges will typically only apply when you severely injured or killed someone while driving under the influence.
Drug Use and Florida DUI Charges
As mentioned, DUIs do not only include charges related to driving after consuming alcohol. Any drug that impairs your normal faculties will put you at risk of facing DUI charges if law enforcement discovers four suspects that you are under the influence. Prescription drugs also qualify if they influence a person's ability to operate a car.
In recent years, driving under the influence of marijuana has become are a more common problem. With the legalization of this drug for medical purposes, if not for recreational purposes, the prevalence of drivers using marijuana is increasing. One problem this is causing for law enforcement is that it can be challenging to prove a person is under the influence of a drug other than alcohol.
Currently, startups are seeking to create a marijuana breathalyzer. This technology may influence DUI laws to make it possible for police to screen for marijuana in a similar way to how they screen for alcohol. If such tests become available, Florida will likely set a standard like the .08 percent blood alcohol level they set for alcohol.
Until technology improves, officers must rely on their observations when it comes to determining whether a driver is under the influence of drugs. Proving these cases can be tricky for officers and prosecutors. If you face a DUI related to drug use, you should speak to your attorney about the evidence that led to those charges.
DUI Penalties in Florida
Even in first-time DUI cases, you can face jail time. It is vital to understand the potential outcomes of a DUI conviction. In general, Florida Statutes state that the charges will lead to the following sentences:
- First DUI BAC under .15 percent: At most, six months in jail
- First DUI BAC of .15 percent or more: At most nine months in jail
- First DUI with a minor in the vehicle: At most nine months in jail
- Second DUI: At most nine months in jail
- Second DUI with a BAC of .15 percent or more: At most twelve months in jail
- Second DUI with a minor in the vehicle: At most twelve months in jail
- Second DUI in five years or less: Mandatory ten-day jail term
- Third DUI in ten years: Mandatory 30 days in jail
- Third DUI in more than ten years: At most twelve months in jail
- Fourth DUI or more: At most five years in prison
Remember that there are other consequences for DUI's including having your vehicle impounded or immobilized, monetary fines, and the suspension or revocation of your driver's license.
Once the police arrest you for a suspected DUI, they can hold you until eight hours elapse, or you are no longer impaired, or your BAC is no longer at or above .05 percent. The fines, potential jail time, and other consequences are more serious in cases where you cause damage to property or injuries to a person while driving under the influence.
DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony resulting in no more than fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If you flee the site of a DUI manslaughter, the potential prison time doubles to 30 years. The same consequences exist for vehicular homicide.
Defending Against a DUI in Florida
There are several strategies for defending against charges for a DUI. The correct strategy will depend heavily on the specific facts in your case. It is possible to break down some of the most common defenses into two broad categories.
First, there are defenses based on denying guilt because there are elements of the crime missing from the prosecutor's case. Secondly, there are affirmative defenses where you would admit that you committed the crime but argue that there are facts that mitigate the consequences or even require that the court dismissed the charges.
Prosecutors must provide evidence that you were operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and that your normal faculties were impaired. If your blood alcohol level is .08 percent, the law presumes that you are under the influence of alcohol. Some strategies for denying the charges will include asserting that you were not in actual control of the vehicle, that you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or that your normal faculties are not impaired when you were driving.
Alternatively, if you were operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol and your faculties were impaired, you can assert one of the following affirmative defenses:
- Involuntary Intoxication
- Mistaken Fact
A lawyer may also argue the police violated your rights during the investigation. When police carry out an investigation that violates the suspect's rights, courts will often need to exclude the wrongfully collected evidence. Without that evidence, prosecutors will often need to drop the charges. You will need to discuss your case strategy with an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer to learn which of these may apply in your situation.
Finding a Lawyer to Represent You in Your DUI Case
If you face DUI charges, you will need a dedicated Florida DUI Defense Attorney who is ready to fight to defend you. Keep in mind that a conviction can remain on your record for many years. The steps you take now will significantly impact your future. Don’t hesitate to call our office to schedule a free, no-obligation, and confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today by calling (888) 484-5057. We are available 24/7.