West Palm Beach DUI Lawyers
150 Years of Combined West Palm Beach DUI Defense Practice
The state of Florida has some of the most rigorous drinking and driving laws in the United States. A conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) has some very severe penalties associated with it, including massive fines, jail time, responsibilities to perform community service, and even having an ignition interlock device placed in your car. Besides these criminal penalties, the guilty motorist will also most likely face civil and administrative repercussions, including the suspension or revocation of their Florida driver’s license.
Just the process of being arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be an uncomfortable and frightening experience. The most important thing for you to remember is that, just because you have been arrested, it does not mean that you will necessarily be found guilty of the driving under the influence charge. Driving under the influence is a severe infraction; however, making sure that you have an accomplished and qualified defense attorney by your side will greatly increase your chances of putting this event behind you with the best outcome possible.
After your DUI arrest, you have just 10 days in which to petition for a formal review hearing. Hiring the best attorney for the job during that 10 day period is one of the most crucial decisions that you will ever make. If you or someone you love has recently been charged with driving under the influence in West Palm Beach, FL then please get in touch with the offices of Musca Law immediately so that we can review your case and ascertain your legal options during a free, no-obligation case consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.
Florida Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs)
Under Florida law, an officer is permitted to pull over any driver that they consider, under probable cause guidelines, to be intoxicated. After pulling someone to the side of the road, the officer may join in a conversation to ascertain sobriety or, in some cases, may give a physical test in lieu of or before a breathalyzer.
These standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) include:
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: During the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the officer observes the suspect’s eyes while the suspect’s eyes follow the path of a slow-moving object. Officers typically use flashlights as it allows them to illuminate and easily monitor the suspect’s face, but any small item is usable. Officers look for certain signs of intoxication while administering the test. These signs include the suspect being unable to smoothly follow the object, as seen by the suspect involuntary jerking their eye in a movement called nystagmus, as well as the suspect involuntary jerking their eyes when it’s moved 45 degrees to the right or left.
- The One-Leg Stand Test: This test is designed to measure a suspect’s intoxication levels by their ability to stay balanced and to multi-task. The officer begins this test by explaining the instructions to the suspect. After the suspect has heard the instructions while standing with both feet on the ground and their arms at their side, the suspect then lifts one foot, keeping the bottom of their foot parallel to the floor. They must then begin counting while keeping their attention on their raised foot. The officer will be monitoring their ability to remain balanced, observing if the suspect sways, drops their foot too soon, or uses their arms to remain upright.
- The Walk and Turn Test: The walk and turn test is a staple of intoxication testing and is likely the one that first comes to mind when you think of a driver testing someone who may be intoxicated. To administer this test, an officer explains the instructions to the suspect, who must then walk nine steps forward in a straight line. Each step must be heel-to-toe, and the suspect must not sway or wobble while walking. After proceeding nine steps forward, the suspect must then turn and walk back to their starting point. If the suspect cannot stay balanced while walking or turning, begins before the officer has instructed them to do so, takes the wrong number of steps, or does not walk heel-to-toe, the officer may have probable cause to determine that the suspect is intoxicated.
What does law enforcement look for when determining if you are under the influence?
Likely, if you are under suspicion of drunk driving it indicates that you have already been pulled over for some sort of moving violation like reckless driving, speeding, neglecting to use your turn signal, etc. Conventional moving violations such as those that occur late at night, especially in areas that are known for their nightlife, are clues to law enforcement that drugs and alcohol could be involved. Once a law enforcement officer has pulled you over, they will look for evidence of drunkenness such as:
- A flushed face
- Watery or bloodshot eyes
- The smell of alcohol coming from you or your vehicle
- Slurred or incoherent speech
- Disordered functioning
- Diminished motor skills
- Wobbliness or inability to stand
DUI Rules for Commercial Drivers
Basic regulations regarding CDL’s are laid out in federal statute, more precisely in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration statutes will also apply to:
- Bus drivers, understood to include drivers of school buses, shuttle buses, metro buses and buses that are used for religious or civic organizations
- Taxicab drivers
- Truck drivers
- Construction equipment operators
Drivers of non-commercial vehicles may lawfully drive a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of less than 0.08% given that there is no impairment to their faculties. Conventional drunk driving laws make a first-time DUI charge a misdemeanor, given that the accused was not involved in an accident where another person was injured or killed.
Drivers of commercial vehicles, however, are considered to be in violation of the law if they have a blood-alcohol level that exceeds 0.04%, which is half of the legal limit for the general public. That is the per se amount of a violation for a commercial driver. They could also be charged with driving under the influence if they are under the influence of any drug, legal or illegal, to the extent that their usual faculties are impaired.
How Long Will my Commercial Driver’s License be Suspended?
You will catch an automatic one-year suspension of your commercial driver’s license if:
- You are found guilty of driving a commercial vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Your blood-alcohol level meets or exceeds 0.04%
- You refuse to yield to a test to determine your blood alcohol level
- You have a controlled substance in your possession
- You flee the scene of an accident
- You knowingly used a commercial vehicle in the perpetration of a felony
- You are caught operating a commercial vehicle while your commercial driver’s license is suspended or you have been disqualified
You will be ineligible to apply for a standard hardship license, which means there is no possible way you can continue working.
A second DUI in a commercial vehicle will most likely earn you a lifetime disqualification of your CDL.
If you were transporting hazardous materials at the time of your arrest, you will be banned from operating a commercial vehicle for a minimum of three years.
If you wish to have your commercial driver’s license reinstated following a conviction, you will have to wait until your current disqualification expires, and then you will be required to pay a reinstatement fee before you can begin the process of restoring your commercial driver’s license.
You might lose your license for up to 60 days if you are found guilty of any two of the following in a three-year time span:
- Driving more than 15 mph over the posted speed limit
- Improper/Illegal lane change
- Reckless driving
- Following too closely (tailgating)
- Driving a commercial vehicle without the proper class of CDL
- Driving a commercial vehicle without any CDL
A person who is found guilty of three of these offenses in a three-year window could be looking at as many as 120 days of suspension.
DUI Traffic Stop
There are steps that you are able to take in order to limit your chances of a drunk driving arrest. For instance:
Get a Designated Driver: Before going out drinking, schedule a designated driver for yourself or make sure that you have the Uber of Lyft app set-up on your cell phone. Restaurants and bars will always phone a taxi for you if you ask. Being proactive and using common sense could save lives, as well as money and an arrest record
Have Your Driving Documents Readily Available: If you do decide to drink and then get behind the wheel of a car, it is vital that you have your valid driver's license, current vehicle registration, and proof of insurance ready and easily within reach. One indication of drunkenness frequently described by law enforcement officers is that the suspected drunk driver clumsily pawed through their wallet or purse or otherwise had issues with locating the necessary documentation. This situation can be avoided if you simply gather your documents together and always keep them in the same place, with no additional jumble to distract you or get in your way.
Do Not Incriminate Yourself: It is a perfectly natural response to attempt to talk your way out of any form of trouble, no matter if it is a minor traffic ticket or a possible arrest. One of the worst things that you can do, however, is to give the police any evidence which they may be able to use against you. It is a smart idea to always be polite, but do not be overly anxious to assist law enforcement in doing their job. The only thing that is expected of any United States citizen is to give a legal name when you are asked and to produce all of your up-to-date driving paperwork..
DUI for Marijuana
The offense of driving under the influence is most often associated with alcoholic drinks. This has led to law enforcement officers having various methods for testing the blood alcohol level of a suspected drunk driver. Drivers in Florida, however, may also run the risk of being charged with a DUI if they are suspected of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of weed or other drugs.
There are a few companies throughout America that are working on creating mobile testing devices to measure the THC in a person’s breath. Florida does not yet have a “per se” version of driving under the influence of marijuana, although it has been given consideration by Florida’s lawmakers in the past. Even without a viable field test, law enforcement officers in the field are still able to claim that a driver appeared to be impaired and under the influence of marijuana.
The potential penalties for a conviction for driving under the influence as it pertains to drugs of any sort are just as serious as a DUI you would get for consuming too much alcohol, however, these cases involving supposed offenders who have been charged with driving while high are much more intricate. In some cases, drivers can be placed under arrest in spite of the fact that previous smoking from days or even weeks before they got pulled over in no way affected their capacity for driving a car at the time of the incident.
DUI Marijuana Penalties
The maximum penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana include but are not limited to:
- First Conviction — As long as six months in county jail and a fine of as much as $1,000
- Second Conviction — As long as nine months in county jail and a fine of as much as $2,000
- Third Conviction (Within 10 Years of Second) — As long as five years in state prison and a fine of as much as $5,000
- Third Conviction (More Than 10 Years After Second) — As long as 12 months in county jail and a fine of as much as $2,500
- Fourth or Subsequent Conviction — As long as five years in state prison and a fine of as much as $5,000
If you know that you are facing charges for driving while intoxicated, or any other criminal traffic violation, it is imperative that you have an experienced attorney representing you in court. An attorney can examine the evidence against you and work to get your charges reduced to reckless driving, or possibly even dismissed. At the Musca Law offices in West Palm Beach, we realize that being charged with a DUI is a stressful and frightening experience.
To schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation in the West Palm Beach area, please get in touch with our reliable criminal defense attorneys by calling (888) 484-5057 today.