Each state in the United States has various laws defining the criminal act of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. DUI or “drunk driving” refers to the act of operating a motor vehicle when your breath alcohol level or blood alcohol level (BAC) is at or above the legal limit for that state. The lawmakers in each state have set BAC levels that indicate the level of intoxication that prevents a person from operating a motor vehicle in a safe manner.
The legal BAC limit according to Florida law is .08 for individuals 21 years of age and older. A person is presumed to be intoxicated if his or her BAC is .08 or higher. YES, a driver can be charged with DUI for BAC levels lower than .08 if an officer determines the driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner is impaired. We have been asked the question numerous times. An experienced prosecutor can present a strong case for impairment even though your BAC was under the legal limit. A judge or jury would decide if you were impaired at the time the officer made the arrest based on other evidence presented by the prosecutor.
What about drivers under the age of 21? What about commercial drivers?
The BAC limit is lower for drivers under the age of 21 years and commercial drivers. Underage drivers can be arrested if their BAC is .02 or higher. Commercial vehicle drivers are also subject to a lower BAC level — .04 or higher. To be guilty of DUI, you must have been operating a motor vehicle or recently operating a motor vehicle with a BAC at or above the legal limit as prescribed by Florida law.
Testing Drivers for Alcohol
A law enforcement officer can obtain your breath or blood alcohol level in one of several ways. The easiest way to test BAC levels is to administer a Breathalyzer test. However, if you refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test, the officer may obtain a urine sample. Finally, the officer may attempt to obtain a blood sample.
Three ways to obtain a blood sample: The officer can request a search warrant from a judge for a blood draw if the officer can prove to the judge that a breath or urine test is impractical. The officer does not need a search warrant to forcibly take blood if your arrest involves a DUI accident that resulted in death or serious injury, you are unconscious, or you are being arrested for a third offense DUI. The third way is to subpoena the medical records from the hospital if you were treated at a hospital and the hospital conducted a blood test as part of your treatment.
If you were the subject of a forced blood draw, it is important you contact a DUI attorney immediately. The circumstances of the forced blood draw may not have been legal under Florida law. An experienced attorney can fight to have the results suppressed, limited, or thrown out if this your legal rights were violated. It is crucial to have an experienced DUI defense attorney review the entire process to determine if law enforcement officers made a mistake or violated your civil rights. A prosecutor will not tell you if your rights were violated. The prosecutor is only interested in obtaining a conviction.
What Are the Penalties for DUI in Florida?
If you are charged with DUI in Florida there will be immediate consequences:
- You will be taken to jail where you will remain for at least 8 hours.
- Your driver's license is immediately suspended.
- You can drive up to 10 days after your DUI arrest without fear of being arrested for driving under suspension. However, you must request a formal review hearing within those ten days, or your driver's license is administratively suspended for six to 18 months depending on the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest. If you request a hearing, a temporary license is issued so you can drive until the hearing is held.
If you are convicted of a DUI charge, you face severe penalties. For a first offense DUI conviction, potential punishments include:
- A minimum fine of $500, up to $1,000, plus more than $450, additional in court costs
- Attending classes at a DUI School
- A minimum of 50 hours of community service
- Up to one-year probation
- Up to six months in jail
- Installation of an ignition interlock device
- Suspension of driving privileges for 180 days to one year
- Attendance in a victim awareness program
- Impoundment of your vehicle
In addition to the above penalties, you will also have a permanent criminal record.
Call a Florida DUI Attorney As Soon As Possible
Facing a DUI charge can be frightening, especially if this is your first criminal charge and you have no idea how the judicial process works. As experienced DUI lawyers we are regularly in the courthouses in the Lake City, Live Oak, and Gainesville areas. We understand the emotions and the stress you are experiencing. It is our job to guide you through the process, deal with the prosecutor, and protect your legal right to a fair and impartial hearing. Don't discuss your arrest with an officer or a prosecutor — request your attorney immediately.
Contact the Koberlein Law Offices by calling our Lake City office at 386-269-9802 or our Gainesville office at 352-519-4357 to schedule a free consultation. You may also contact our office by using the contact form on our website.