Driving Under the Influence of Illegal Drugs in the State of Florida
You hear a lot about cases where someone has been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, but did you know that you can also be charged with driving under the influence of drugs?
Under Florida law, you can be convicted of driving under the influence if you drive while under the influence of any controlled substance or chemical substance, particularly if that substance or chemical impairs your ability to drive. Driving under the influence of drugs can have the same consequences as if you were convicted of a DUI involving alcohol, including imprisonment, fines, community service, and license suspensions. However, unlike driving under the influence of alcohol where the amount of alcohol in your system can affect your conviction and/or sentence, any amount of drugs found in your system, including illegal, prescription, or over the counter drugs, can lead to a DUI charge and/or conviction.
What Constitutes a Controlled Substance or Chemical Substance for Purposes of a Drug DUI?
In Florida, regulated chemical substances include any compounds or liquids such as those containing diethyl either, acetone, toluene, nitrous oxide, or other similar substances that can be used for getting intoxicated, or which have the ability to distort your normal auditory, visual, or mental faculties. Controlled substances, or drugs, are substances regulated and categorized under Florida’s five drug schedules. The schedules categorize drugs according to their potential for abuse and whether the drug has an accepted medical use in the United States. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous and have no accepted medical use, including substances such as meth or heroin. The other schedules include drugs that have an accepted medical use, but depending on the schedule, the use is restricted based on the drug’s potential for abuse or dependency.
Usually the bottom line is, no matter whether a drug is illegal, taken via a prescription, or is obtained over the counter, if the chemical substance or controlled substance adversely affects your ability to drive, or even to talk, walk, or otherwise function normally, you can be arrested and charged with driving under the influence. Usually, in DUI cases involving drugs, after you are arrested, law enforcement conducts chemical tests of your blood or urine, rather than of your breath, as is usually the case for a DUI involving alcohol. You have the right to refuse a chemical test; however, remember if you do refuse, you can be subject to additional penalties under Florida’s implied consent law.
A driving under the influence conviction can have serious consequences whether you are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Even if you are driving after taking a medication your doctor prescribed for you, make sure you are able to function normally and to drive after taking the medication. Penalties for any DUI can include significant fines, lengthy jail time, treatment programs, community service, and license suspensions. If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, it is important that you speak with a seasoned and experienced criminal defense attorney right away.
What Happens During a Florida DUI Case
While every case is different, most DUI cases follow the same general track. If you’ve never been arrested for a DUI before, you may find the court process confusing and intimidating. Below is an overview of what to expect to help ease your fears.
When you are arrested, you will be taken to the local police precinct. Most cities have several precincts. These precincts cover specific geographic areas. You will be taken to the precinct that is in charge of the area in which you were arrested.
Once at the station, your mugshot will be taken, as well as your fingerprints. The officer will ask you for biographical data, such as your name, date of birth, and home address.
The officer may also ask you questions about what happened, such as whether you had anything to drink. Do not answer any questions that might incriminate you! Tell the officer you want to consult with a lawyer and call Musca Law immediately.
After you are booked and processed, you may be released on citation. Your car will likely have been impounded, so you will need to call a cab or have someone pick you up. However, if you are intoxicated, you may be held overnight.
DUI Defense Terminology to Understand
Arraignment - If the police department decides to hold you, you will appear before a magistrate judge the following day. The magistrate judge will determine if you should be released, and if so, on what conditions.
Personal Recognizance - Personal recognizance is your promise to return to court for hearings. It may be coupled with conditions such as drug testing.
Release on Bond - Release on bond is similar, except you pay money to the court to ensure your appearance. The judge determines the bond amount.
Held without bond means that the judge has determined you are a danger to the community and that there is no reasonable assurance you would return for court. This is very rare in DUI cases.
Status Hearings - Status hearings will be set by the court to handle preliminary matters. For instance, your attorney and the prosecutor will share discovery, make requests, and discuss plea and diversion offers.
Diversion - If you enter into diversion, your court case is placed on hold. If you complete the terms of diversion, the prosecutor will reduce your charges or dismiss your case.
Guilty Pleas - If you plead guilty, you will enter that plea at a status hearing. The prosecutor may be willing to negotiate on the charges you plead to or the sentencing recommendation. The judge will then sentence you after hearing sentencing arguments.
Trial - If you do not enter into diversion or a guilty plea, you will proceed to trial. Prior to trial, your attorney will investigate the charges and may file motions. At trial, witnesses from both sides will be called and evidence presented. At the conclusion of the testimony, the prosecutor and your attorney will make arguments. If the judge or jury believes you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, you will be convicted, then sentenced. If you are acquitted, your case is closed.
Let Our Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Help You Fight Your DUI Charge Today!
Even your first driving under the influence offense should not be taken lightly. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, not only can a DUI conviction subject you to large fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension, but a conviction can have lasting consequences on your everyday life, including your ability to obtain and keep a job, or qualify for a student loan. If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.