When it comes to Fort Lauderdale DUI arrests, our criminal defense attorneys have heard numerous misconceptions and misunderstandings – and it can cost people bigtime in court.
Florida DUI misconceptions are frequently the result of people combing the internet in an attempt to “do their own research” about their situation. The internet contains a great deal of good information (this site, for example), but there’s also a lot of junk. Plus, every case is going to be different. It’s impossible to say how the law may apply to the specific circumstances of your case unless/until you speak with an experienced local criminal defense lawyer who can assess the facts of your case, and then carefully apply it to state law, local ordinances and common local judicial practices.
Here, we outline some of the things people most often get wrong about DUI arrests and the criminal justice system process:
Top Myths About Fort Lauderdale DUI Cases
- You need a BAC of 0.08 or higher to be arrested for a South Florida DUI. The reality is, this is just one of the ways you could be arrested and convicted of a DUI. Per F.S. 316.193, a person can be found guilty of driving under the influence if they have a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher OR if they are under the influence of any chemical substance “to the extent that person’s normal faculties are impaired.” That is a subjective definition, which is why field sobriety tests are often so valued in DUI cases. You can be arrested with a BAC of under 0.08 – or even 0.00 – if the officer suspects you’re under the influence of a substance other than alcohol. Plus, if you are underage, the threshold for the amount of alcohol you can legally have in your system while driving drops dramatically under the state’s zero tolerance law. If you’re under 21, you can be arrested for DUI if your BAC is just 0.02 (though the penalties are slightly less severe than a typical DUI if your BAC remains under 0.08).
- You have to be driving to be arrested for a DUI. This is incorrect. What the statute says is you must be under the influence of alcohol/drugs while either driving or “in actual physical control of the vehicle.” Per Florida Standard Jury Instructions, this means that the defendant was physically in or on the vehicle and was capable of operating the vehicle – regardless of whether he/she is actually operating the vehicle at the time. This can include someone who pulled over to the shoulder and parked to “sleep it off.” If you weren’t actually driving at the time of the arrest, your attorney may be able to argue you weren’t in actual physical control, but that’s a judgment call that should really only be made by an experienced DUI defense lawyer.
- You are legally required to take a field sobriety test if an officer asks. The term “field sobriety testing” refers to a number of different tests police use to determine whether a driver is sober. Some have sort of scientific-sounding names (horizontal gaze nystagmus test) while others are less formal (on-leg stand, walk-and-turn, etc.). Officers must be trained to perform them, but as our Fort Lauderdale DUI defense lawyers can explain, the scientific validity of them is questionable, at best. That said, they’re still be used as strong evidence against you. And you don’t legally have to agree to take them. Florida’s implied consent law compels you to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test when prompted by the lawful request of a law enforcement officer investigating a suspected DUI. Refusal is going to mean automatic license suspension. The same is not true for field sobriety tests. You can legally refuse to undergo a field sobriety test without being arrested or having your license suspended. It should be noted that your refusal, as well as your demeanor during the encounter, can be used against you in court. However, that could potentially be less damaging than taking the test and failing it.
- People can successfully represent themselves on a DUI charge in court. We should clarify by saying that there is no law that says you can’t do this. The wisdom of it and whether you’ll be successful are something else. Unfortunately, you don’t know what you don’t know. A little internet research is not going to give you enough insight to be able to talk your way out of a serious criminal charge like DUI. Even criminal defense attorneys don’t represent themselves in court. It’s fair to say most offenders who represent themselves in court will get jail time. Understand that while a first-time DUI conviction doesn’t require a jail sentence, it can carry a jail term of up to six months. Even if you only get a fraction of that, will you be able to keep your job if you have to call out for 10-30 days? What about child care or custody? That’s on top of whatever additional fines or penalties you’re facing, plus a conviction on your public record. Judges are not inclined to cut anyone slack for missing a legal landmine or missing a deadline just because they’re representing themselves in court. DUI defense lawyers can’t make promises as to the outcome of any case, but it’s pretty well established that when you hire an attorney to represent you, outcomes tend to be far more favorable. Serious charges may be pleaded to lesser offenses. Your attorney may even be able to negotiate an adjudication withheld if you meet certain conditions (DUI education courses, addiction services, fines, etc.). Many folks who represent themselves aren’t even aware of what all their legal options are, let alone how to successfully negotiate for them.
If you are arrested in Fort Lauderdale for a DUI, our South Florida criminal defense lawyers can help assess the details of your case, determine how the law may be applied, and help you formulate a successful defense strategy.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
F.S. 316.193, Florida DUI Statute
More Blog Entries:
Arrested for Drunk Driving in Fort Lauderdale? Hire a Defense Lawyer Now. April 1, 2021, Fort Lauderdale DUI Defense Attorney Blog