There is never a good excuse to drink and drive. Even if you have only had one drink, the complications that it can add to your life if you get pulled over or stopped at a DUI checkpoint are far greater than any enjoyment you may have gotten from an alcoholic beverage. Even if your driving and behavior is perfectly normal, it only takes one slightly suspicious police officer to make you jump through proverbial hoops of a roadside sobriety test. As I have mentioned before, field sobriety tests (FST) are virtually impossible for anyone to pass. Although they are designed to assess balance and coordination, you would have to be a gymnast, one who has not been drinking, to have any hope of succeeding at following the instructions given to you by the cop. We all have seen how these FSTs are performed, if not through personal experience, everyone has at least seen this circus sideshow performed on television. The cop usually starts his assessment by asking you to track some object such as a pen with your eyes. Then there are the other tasks such as standing on one foot or walking heel-to-toe you’re your arms at your sides. These are not activities that we practice every day, so very few of us would be able to perform them to the satisfaction of the police officer who is looking to make a DUI arrest.
Once you fail the FST, as you surely will, you will then be asked to take a breathalyzer test. I take issue with this for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it compromises the driver’s civil liberties. Secondly, breathalyzers are not as accurate as the powers that be would like for you to think they are. Unfortunately, these tests which you are likely to fail are compulsory in the state of Florida, and you will be arrested if you refuse to do them. It is, therefore, going to seem absurd for me to recommend that you politely decline to engage in these activities. For the FST, state to the officer that you have a knee or back injury; for the breathalyzer, state that you have concerns about the cleanliness of the object he is suggesting that you put in your mouth. Keep in mind that failing these tests is going to result in you being arrested anyway because getting your Florida driver’s license comes with implied consent that you will follow all of the directives of law enforcement. In the case of drinking and driving, if you are not impaired, there is no point in providing them with any evidence to use against you in court. Your best bet is to call our office as soon as possible to let us advise you.
There are other somewhat off-the-wall suggestions that are floating around out there. One popular belief that is arising in several states due to a video that has been released is that you should hold up a sign that states that you wish to remain silent, refuse any searches, and wish to speak with your attorney. This is supposed to be done while also holding up your driver’s license and registration against your closed window with your doors locked. I do NOT advocate this. There is no legal precedent to indicate whether or not this is an appropriate means of protecting your constitutional rights. Additionally, with all of the recent hype in the media, cops are more on edge than ever. If you show any signs of resistance when they feel they have issued a lawful order, you can end up being just one more tragedy in the long list of tragedies that we have been seeing so much of lately.
Another course of action some who drink and drive may have considered is buying their own breathalyzer for a couple of hundred bucks in effort to ensure that their blood alcohol content (BAC) is not excessive. The problem with this is apparent. The devices vary in reliability and there is no guarantee that your reading will be the same reading that of a cop may get if you are pulled over. Concerns about drunk driving are often valid, and generally speaking, the enforcement of drunk driving laws is in the best interests of everyone who could potentially be impacted by a drunk driver. One such example is an incident that occurred in South Florida. A Miami woman was recently arraigned for charges of manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and a DUI that resulted in property damage/injury. These charges stem from an incident of drunk driving that occurred several months ago.
On July19, 2014 a young woman was arrested for driving in the wrong direction on I-95 which resulted in a tragic head-on collision that killed a 42-year-old motorcyclist. The indiscretion of choosing to consume too much alcohol cost one man his life. Additionally, her poor judgment has irrevocably damaged her life as well, because of the criminal charges that have been brought against her and the permanent disfigurement she also sustained as a result of the accident. This young woman‘s BAC was more than twice the legal limit was unquestionably drunk. Had she been pulled over or stopped at a checkpoint, she undoubtedly would have been arrested, and a man’s life could have been spared. As lousy as it is to get arrested for a DUI, her life would be exponentially better to endure that arrest than to live with the consequences that she now faces.
It is situations like this one that makes enforcement of drunk driving laws a necessity. Just one incident such as this has a ripple effect which impacts the lives of innumerable others. Unfortunately, tragedies such as this have caused police officers to view nearly every driver as a potential drunk driver, even if the driver is not truly drunk. Once a cop asks you if you have been drinking and you try to be a cooperative citizen by saying, “Well, I had a glass of wine with dinner,” it’s pretty much all over from there. You can expect the FST to be administered, and there’s a good chance you will be arrested. All a cop needs to do is think that you’re driving poorly and then learn you have consumed ANY amount of alcohol, and you are most assuredly going to jail for the night. This is why we are here, to help those who are not truly drunk, but have been saddled with all of the negative consequences that go along with putting the lives of other at risk by driving drunk. Yes, we also represent those who may very well have been drunk too, because our constitution entitles every citizen fair defense. The consequences of not defending your drunk driving charge are just too great.
Penalties for DUI
The suggestions that I have made will hopefully offer you the best possible chance to have the DUI charge dropped. Because the penalties for a DUI conviction can be so harsh and entail an extensive list, the following address first time offenders:
- The fine for a first conviction is least $500 but no more than $1,000. If the driver’s BAC is .15 or higher, or if there is a minor in the vehicle, the fine is to be no less than $1,000, but no more than $2,000.
- The court requires 50 hours of mandatory community service or the additional fine of $10 for each hour that community service was to be served.
- Possible probation for up to a year.
- Imprisonment of not more than 6 months, provided that there is no minor in the car and your BAC is less than .15. The court can order a drug or alcohol treatment program that is credited to the amount of time of the sentence.
- If the family of the person convicted of a DUI has more than one vehicle for transportation, the vehicle used in the DUI can be impounded, or fitted with an immobilization device, for up to 10 days.
- Driver’s license revocation of 180 days, but not to exceed one year.
- Must attend DUI school and apply for a hearing to determine whether or not the driver can receive a hardship reinstatement.
- Mandatory ignition interlock device for up to 6 months if the BAC is .15 or greater.
- A first time conviction of DUI causing injury or property damage will result in a first degree misdemeanor which warrants a fine of not more than $1,000 or one year in prison. If serious bodily injuries occur, the driver can be convicted of a third degree felony and can face a $5,000 fine and/or 5 years in prison.
These are just a few of the penalties that someone convicted of DUI for the first time may face, and they are mandatory penalties so judges have no discretionary power to change them. The penalties get significantly more profound, as they should, if someone is killed as a result of drunk driving like in the previously mentioned incident. Just don’t drink and drive. The devastation that can result from drunk driving is too great across the board. Even if you think you are sober, if you have another way home, it is always best to take it. Don’t forget that cop cars have dash cameras and there is a growing trend for cops to wear body cameras. Consequently, even the slightest imbalance or a hint of slurred speech gives the cop all the motivation he needs to arrest you and he WILL present that video/audio in court as evidence of your guilt. (This is another good reason to not perform a FST – they will make nearly everyone appear drunk.)