Don’t drink and drive; I have stressed this for as long as I have been a traffic ticket attorney. It’s never worth the risk – not worth risking injury to yourself or someone else, and it’s not worth the penalties that you can incur if you are convicted of this offense. If, however, you do get pulled over for any reason, let me give you a few tips to help me be successful in representing you. Before you read these suggestions and conclude that I am nuts, keep in mind that you are probably going to jail for the night anyway.
If you get pulled over, especially if the police officer thinks you are drinking and driving, I can assure you that he saw you long before you saw him. As such, the chances are good that he has video of how you were driving which may not feature you in a favorable light, but the movie doesn’t end there. The odds are that he will be recording the entire incident and is probably wearing a small microphone so that he also has audio evidence for the court room. This is one way that cops get convictions for DUIs. What you need to remember is that if acting works in his favor, it can work in your favor, too. Remain polite, but don’t forget that your actions can help you avoid a DUI conviction.
If he asks you if you have been drinking, the answer is always, “No, sir.” Regardless of how you answer his question, his next step is likely to be to ask you to step out of the car. You can calmly tell him that you are not comfortable standing around on the side of the road with a complete stranger. He will still probably order you out of the car anyway so, when you get out, do so gracefully. Do not lean up against anything, and be certain to stand up straight – no swaying allowed.
His purpose of having you get out of the car is so that he can issue a “field sobriety test.” We have all seen people make jackasses out of themselves by performing these tests. They may be funny when you see some drunken fool attempt them on TV, but the fact is, these tests are virtually impossible to perform even for the most sober of us. That’s why when asked by the cop to perform them, you should always respectfully decline. Remember that you are playing to the camera so tell the officer that you have arthritis in your knees or an old football injury. This is not going to make him very happy so, remember that you are probably being recorded, but so is he. Whoever gets annoyed first generally loses.
When it comes to being issued a breathalyzer test, you need to cordially refuse this, as well. You can use the excuse of not knowing what kind of germs that thing may have. Florida is an “implied consent” state. That means that by obtaining your driver’s license, you are consenting to follow all state laws and the legal commands of its officers. As I said previously, the chances are good that you are going to go to jail anyway for three reasons – 1. He witnessed you driving erratically or he wouldn’t have pulled you over; 2. You have already refused to perform the field sobriety test; and 3. You declined the breathalyzer.
Penalties for DUI
All of the suggestions that I have made are to give you the best possible chance to have the DUI charge dropped. The penalties for a DUI conviction can be quite severe and the list is extensive based upon varying details, so I will just cover those for a first offense.
- 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.
Once a person has been taken to jail for the night, the cops look for several things to ensure the person has sobered up. They assess whether or not the person is still under the influence and that their abilities are no longer impaired. They also test to ensure the driver’s BAC is less than .05, or that 8 hours have elapsed from the time of the arrest.
Now, I know that for most ordinary citizens, the thought of spending a night in jail is frightening. Usually, we strive our whole lives to stay out of trouble and out of jail. After all, what would your mother say??? Additionally, you better hope you have a friend who has $500 for the bail. The important issue to remember here though is that without the results of a breathalyzer test, no video of you doing those awkward and ridiculous road tests, and you behaving in a respectful and sober manner, the chances of you getting convicted are very slim. Don’t let the fear of one night in jail cause you to make poor decisions by yielding to the requests of the officer and certainly don’t let intimidation be a factor. That’s why there are traffic ticket attorneys like myself; the cops don’t intimidate us. By following these suggestions, you will be making my job of getting the charge dismissed much easier. Don’t forget that DUIs are very serious offense and can result in a criminal conviction. I have defended hundreds of DUIs with a great deal of success so give us a call at the Traffic Ticket Team 954-967-9888.