Imagine this scenario – You finally managed to rustle up a babysitter so that you and your spouse can finally enjoy a date night. You partake in a little candlelight, a glass of wine, and no demands from the kids. As you are driving home, you encounter a Miami-Dade DUI checkpoint. No big deal, right? Not necessarily. The cop who stops your vehicle detects the particular odor of alcohol, so he asks if you have been drinking. You see no reason not to say, “Well, I had a glass of wine with dinner.” Uh oh; big mistake. He asks you to get out of the car and then asks you to tract some small object with your eyes only, holding your head still. This is called a horizontal gaze nystagmus. You know you are not drunk so you see know harm in following his request.
Regrettably, this is probably just the beginning of what started out as a great evening turning into a bad situation that will follow you permanently. Even the slightest indicator that you are unable to track whatever object to his satisfaction will probably result in his request that you complete field sobriety test (FST). Often people don’t realize that submitting to a field sobriety test is not mandatory. Most of you know what these exercises entail, at least to one degree or another, and most of you know that these ‘tests’ are virtually impossible to pass, even for the most sober of us. Unless you have an acute sense of coordination, walking heel-to-toe with your arms by your sides or standing on one foot fail to be easy tasks.
Unfortunately, since law enforcement agencies use these tests widely as a standard to determine whether or not an individual is intoxicated, it is likely that they will presume your blood alcohol content is greater than it may actually be. Consequently, if, or when, you fail these tests as many people do, they are probably going to arrest you. In other words, being putting in a situation where your divided attention and normal human failings in coordination are compromised is likely to end up with you spending a night in jail. So much for your nice, romantic evening, but you will definitely be away from the kids for the night.
Once an officer feels that you are impaired based upon how you function during the FSTs, he is going to request that you take a breathalyzer test. Although this is supposed to register the amount of alcohol in your system, they are not always accurate or an indicator of intoxication. One man in Texas was arrested after a BAC test registered 0.0. He is still fighting that conviction.
One factor that you should keep in mind while all of this is transpiring is that it is highly likely that you are being videotaped. This makes it critical that no matter how absurd the stop may seem, you need to keep your composure. Here are a few tips to help make the process move along, but also will help ensure a greater chance of dismissal if and when you fight your DUI charge in court.
- Politely decline to voluntarily submit to the FSTs and the breathalyzer. With the possible inaccuracy of these tests, it almost never works in your favor to comply. As I previously mentioned, once a cop suspects you of DUI, there is a strong likelihood of you spending the night in jail. You certainly don’t need to provide any further action that may increase speculation that you may have actually been impaired. You may choose to state that you have bad knees, et cetera, or you can just politely decline.
- Do not become argumentative with the cop. Debating your case on the side of the road is a situation from which you will never emerge victorious. The chances are good that you are only going to annoy the police officer, and he will remember you and the circumstances of the traffic stop clearly when it comes time to face him in court. Additionally, don’t lose sight of the fact that you are playing to the cameras. Remaining calm and polite are paramount. Avoid leaning up against the car, sitting on the curb, swaying back and forth, or other such behaviors can often be construed as your needing to be propped up due to the lack of balance being intoxicated can create.
- Keep in mind that the cop is also probably recording the conversation when he is questioning you. Even if you are smiling for the camera, it will be detrimental if you make inappropriate or inflammatory statements. Of course, NEVER confess to anything.
Those who are convicted of this crime face severe penalties. The particulars of your arrest and the leniency of the judge who is assigned the case may affect the penalties you may face, but here are the general guidelines:
- 1st offense: a fine of between $500 and $1,000 fine; 50 hours of community service; six to nine months in prison; probation of up to one year; and the vehicle impounded for 10 days.
- 2nd offense: a fine of between $1,000 and $4,000; nine to 12 months in imprison with a mandatory sentence of at least 10 days; and the vehicle impounded for 30 days.
- 3rd offense: a fine of $2,000 to $5,000; nine to 12 month in prison with a mandatory sentence of at least 30 days; and the vehicle impounded for 90 days.
- 4th offense: a fine of $2,000 or more; as much as five years of in prison with a sentence of at least 30 days; and the vehicle impounded for 90 days.
The State of Florida takes the crime of DUI very seriously. It is, therefore, critical that if you are accused of DUI, you tread very carefully when dealing with this matter. If convicted, it is something that can plague you for the rest of your life. Whether it is applying for a job or another matter, a conviction of this nature can impact you in ways that you may not experience for some time to come. Therefore, if you find yourself in this situation, you should immediately ask to speak to an attorney, and remember that you have the right to remain silent and it is usually a good idea to invoke that right until your attorney is present. If you or someone you know is facing the very serious charge, give us a call at 954-967-9888 for a free consultation