Many people think of alcohol and driving when they hear the term “DUI,” as alcohol is the most common type of substance involved in a DUI offense. However, it is important to remember that the law in Florida defines the term “driving under the influence” to include being under the influence of legal prescription drugs or medical marijuana while operating a motor vehicle. Florida law provides for severe penalties for drivers who are found guilty of DUI in the state.
In Florida, a person can be found guilty of driving under the influence if they are “in actual physical control” of a car. It is important to note that you do not need to be in motion and actually driving the car to be subject to the law. Sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys can be enough to be seen as in “actual physical control” and be in violation of the law. For this reason, when you have been drinking alcohol or using any kind of medication or drug, even a legal prescription, it is crucial to avoid even having the potential to be in control of a car, with the keys and ability to go.
“Under The Influence”
There are three parts to the Florida definition of “driving under the influence” that can result in a driver getting a DUI charge. The first two parts have to do with alcohol in the blood system. “Driving under the influence” is defined to include cases where a driver is tested, by blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol test, and has a level of at or above 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or per 210 liters of breath, in the person’s system.
The third part of the definition says that a person who is influenced by alcohol or any controlled substance “to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired” is guilty of driving under the influence. This wording allows police to use their discretion in determining whether someone’s “faculties are impaired” such that they should not be driving a vehicle and can be arrested. Basically, the standard of whether the driver is affected to the extent of not being able to do normal things safely is a question of judgment for the officer who is investigating. Currently under Florida law, though, the officer cannot require a blood or other test for the presence of drugs in the driver’s system, other than the alcohol test, unless there has been a crash involving serious bodily injury or death.
If an officer has stopped you for investigation of DUI and suspects some sort of impairment, but the blood-alcohol test does not show that there is more than the legal limit of alcohol in your system, there usually is not much more that the officer can do. If there is something else that gives the officer reason to think that you may be impaired though, such as the visible presence or strong odors of drugs in the car, the officer may be able to investigate further. However, even if the blood-alcohol test and additional investigation do not confirm drug or alcohol use, if the person is showing signs of definite impairment “to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired,” then the officer can still issue a DUI ticket.
Penalties For Driving Under The Influence
Studies show that many of the same dangers exist with drugged driving while under the influence of strong prescription opioids or even marijuana as with drunk driving. Under Florida law, the same penalties apply if you are found to be “driving or in actual physical control” of a vehicle, regardless of whether you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even if the drugs were legally prescribed to you. The possible legal penalties, and the possibility of a serious car crash resulting in damages or injuries, makes driving while impaired by any substance not worth the risk. If you take prescription medication or use marijuana, then to play it safe, plan to not drive when it can affect your senses and motor control.
If an officer suspects you of driving while intoxicated and lawfully requests that you take a breath or blood test, you may lose your driver’s license if you refuse to do so. If you know that you do not have more than 0.08 percent alcohol in your system at the time, but an officer suspects impairment and requests a test, it is in your best interest to take the breathalyzer test to avoid the penalty of losing your license. If the test shows less than the legal limit of alcohol in your system, the officer may have limited options remaining. Generally, if there hasn’t been a serious crash with bodily injury or death, the officer would not be able to compel you to take some other kind of drug test, such as by urine or blood sample.
Florida DUI Lawyer
It is understandable to be anxious about your DUI charge. With so much at stake, it is vital that you talk with an experienced criminal defense attorney who is abreast of Florida DUI laws and who can chart the best path forward for you. The attorneys at Koberlein Law Offices are devoted to protecting the rights of Floridians who have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We are here for you. To learn more about how we can help you, reach out to Koberlein Law Offices today by calling us toll-free at 877.556.2889 or by contacting us online.