Drinking and driving is not only dangerous, it’s also a serious crime. This potential crime extends beyond alcohol to also driving under the influence of controlled substances. In Florida, the crime of illegally driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is called DUI. Others states call it DWI, or driving while intoxicated. The terms are interchangeable, as states are responsible for enacting and naming their own driving laws.
Florida law expressly states that a person is guilty of DUI if they were in physical control of a vehicle, and were influenced by alcohol or controlled substances to the extent that their normal driving faculties were sufficiently impaired.
A driver must have a blood-alcohol level of .08 or more, or a breath-alcohol level of at least .08. If the driver’s breath-alcohol level is .15 or above, they may face much harsher penalties under Florida’s DUI/DWI laws. A first offense is usually considered a misdemeanor. While it does depend on the circumstances, this can lead to a $1,000 fine, 50 hours of community service and up to six months in jail.
An incident causing severe property damage or injuries would likely be considered a felony, and possibly lead to years in prison and many thousands of dollars in fines. DUI Manslaughter, for example, can be a felony involving the death of another person. In Florida, it carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of four years, and could lead to as many as 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
When a law enforcement officer stops a motorist for erratic driving or some other infraction, or arrives at the scene of an accident, the officer may request a driver to take a breathalyzer test — or perhaps a blood or urine test for drugs. If the result is positive, or shows the motorist’s alcohol concentration is above the legal limit, the officer can arrest the driver. If the driver refuses to take a breath test, their license can be immediately suspended.
Refusing to take a roadside test is also no guarantee of avoiding a DUI. Should the case go to trial, the refusal is admissible in court and can be used as evidence by prosecutors to show an awareness of guilt.
Whether in Florida, or anywhere else, it’s critical to drive safely and soberly. Otherwise, serious consequences can follow including serious harm to yourself and others, the loss of driving privileges and potential jail time. Are you or a loved one facing charges like these? Do not wait to contact a member of our experienced, local legal defense team today!