TAMPA HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE (DUI)
Driving under the influence, better known as a “DUI,” is defined by Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.193 as being in actual physical control of a vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the point where your normal faculties are impaired. Normal faculties include the ability to see, hear, walk, balance, talk, and the ability to perform the mental and physical acts of daily life.
Individuals can also be considered under the influence if their breath or blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit of .08. Law enforcement can use several tests to determine your BAC, such as a blood, breath, or urine test. Due to its convenience, the Breathalyzer is the most commonly used BAC test.
Due to the laws outlined in Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.1932, anytime an individual accepts the privilege of operating a motor vehicle in the state of Florida, he or she is deemed to have given his or her implied consent to submit to a chemical test for the purpose of determining their sobriety.
If a driver refuses to submit to a blood, breath, urine, or any other BAC test, he or she can face an automatic license suspension for up to a year. If it is his or her second or subsequent offense for refusing a BAC, their license can be suspended for up to 18 months.
The Florida Uniform DUI citation you received upon being arrested is also known as a “Notice of Suspension.” This specific citation places you on notice that the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles intends to suspend your driver’s license for 6 months if you provided a breath or blood sample of .08 or greater at the time of your arrest for DUI or for 12 months if you refused to submit or failed to submit to a breath, blood or urine sample upon your arrest for DUI as required by Florida Law.
These types of suspensions are imposed administratively by DHSMV; they are not criminal in nature; and are unrelated to criminal charges for DUI and the court system, except that they originate from the same arrest. Failure to act within 10 days of your arrest will prevent you from fighting the Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and will result in the automatic suspension of your driving privileges. Call In Law We Trust, P.A. immediately to protect your due process rights.
What If You Weren’t Actually Driving?
The most common frustration and confusion over DUI charges is that you do not actually have to be driving at the time you are arrested for drunk driving. By law, if an individual is in actual physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated, he or she can be arrested.
There are a number of factors that law enforcement can use to determine whether or not an individual is in actual physical control, including but not limited to:
- Whether or not the car was on;
- Where the vehicle was parked;
- Whether or not the engine was on;
- The location of the keys;
- Had the vehicle been recently driven;
- Was the car drivable; and/or
- The defendants position in the vehicle
If you are charged with drunk driving even when you were not actually driving the vehicle, your In Law We Trust, P.A. DUI criminal defense lawyer may be able to use the evidence in your case to successfully prove that you were not in actual physical control of the vehicle, helping you avoid the consequences of your alleged offense.
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Tampa, Florida
The penalties for drunk driving usually depend on the number of previous DUI convictions you have on your record. For a first offense, an individual can face second degree misdemeanor charges, and subjected to up to six months in jail, a maximum fine of $2,000, and a minimum licenses suspension for 180 days.
A second conviction for drunk driving is considered a first degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to nine months of imprisonment, a fine of up to $4,000, and a license suspension for at least 180 days.
For a third or subsequent offense (within 10 years), can face third degree felony charges, and be punished by up to five years in Florida State Prison, a fine of up to $5,000, and a minimum license suspension of 10 years.
For a fourth offense, the charges can be automatically filed as a felony no matter how old the previous DUI convictions are and can result in a permanent/lifetime revocation of your driving privileges amongst the possibility of a maximum sentence of 5 years in Florida State Prison.
Aside from the penalties mentioned above, anytime an individual is convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Florida, he or she can also be ordered to serve probation, community control, attend DUI School, have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle, and other appropriate penalties.
Defenses to Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Tampa, Florida
Florida law requires that police officers must have probable cause to believe you have committed a traffic infraction, reasonable suspicion that you were committing a crime or evidence that your well-being was in danger in order to stop your vehicle.
If the driving pattern for which you were stopped failed to affect other traffic on the road or did not create a “safety hazard”, the officer in your case may have acted unlawfully and courts may require that all evidence gathered by the officer such as physical observations, roadside exercises, breath test results be thrown out of your case.
Do you suffer from diabetes, arthritis, vertigo, concussion issues, gout, issues from head injuries or surgeries at the time you were arrested for DUI? Officers will claim that you were DUI based upon the allegations that you were unsteady, incapable of maintaining balance, and that you performed poorly during roadside sobriety exercises.
These “signs of impairment” can easily be explained away by demonstrating that you suffered from injuries or illnesses that mimicked impairment by alcohol or drugs that the officers either knew about or never bothered to look into. This is especially true if you were involved in a traffic crash at the time of your DUI arrest.
Under Florida Law, the State must prove that your breath test was over the limit “while driving” or “while in actual physical control of a motor vehicle”. If you were arrested for DUI in Florida, you know that your breath test occurred at the police station well after the officer placed you under arrest and not “while” you were driving.
Levels of alcohol change in the body over time and as it absorbs in to your system as time passes. It can be argued that you were not impaired at the time of the traffic stop, but became impaired as the alcohol absorbed fully in to their bodies and by the time our client arrived at the station and blew into the breathalyzer. This called an “absorption” defense; “on the rise” or “time of driving” defense.
Did your urine sample come back reflecting you took prescription medications or even ingested illegal drugs or narcotics? If so, those results do not mean you are guilty of DUI in any way or that you were impaired while driving, as required by Florida law. All drugs, legal or illegal, have “half-lives” – that means that a drug will only remain in your body for a given amount of time and may have had no effect on you at the time of your arrest.