Frequently asked Questions Regarding DUI Charges in Florida

An all-around guide to help answer questions regarding DUI charges in the state of Florida

Frequently Asked Questions

What signs do police officers look for when searching for DUI offenders?

When searching for DUI offenders, police officers search for specific actions from drivers showing that they may be driving under the influence.

Below is a list of the most common actions that officers look for when searching for DUI offenders:

• Continually hitting the brakes
• Driving on center marker in between lanes
• Driving on wrong side of road
• Excessive signaling
• Delayed reaction to traffic lights or signals
• Unnecessary slowing down or stopping
• Turning illegally, such as illegal U-turns
• Sudden acceleration or stopping too quickly
• Driving with headlights off
• Making extremely wide turns
• Continuous overlapping of the center marker that separate lanes
• Hitting or almost hitting another vehicle or object
• Swerving between two lanes
• Driving off of the road
• Swerving in the lane’s lines/unsteadiness of the car
• Speeding
• Hesitant stops in traffic
• Driving too close to another vehicle

Should I answer any questions the police officer asked me about me drinking when I am pulled over?

This is a judgment call. By law you do not have to answer any questions that are incriminating. You can simply ask for a lawyer when asked any incriminating questions. However, if you have not been drinking or only had one or two drinks earlier in the day, you may be at a legal drinking limit and may want to comply with the officer’s questions.

What are the repercussions for a first time DUI offender?

In the state of Florida, the most common consequence that is given to a first time DUI offender is a fine of $500 to $1000 and a suspended license.

Penalties for a first time DUI offense are:

• Suspended License (Minimum of 180 days and Maximum of 1 year)
• Fine of $500 to $1000
• 50 Hours of community service hours
• Probation (No more than a year)
• Imprisonment (No more than six months)
• 12 hours of DUI school

However, if an adult is found driving under the influence with a minor present in the vehicle or has a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher, they can face up to nine months in prison and a fine of $1000 to $2000.

Should I take the Field Sobriety Tests?

This is a judgment call. Understand that if an officer asks you to take the field sobriety test, they most likely have already concluded that you are driving under the influence and the test is just to collect more evidence against you. It would be a sound judgment call to respectfully decline to take the test. In addition, most field sobriety tests are recorded and can be humiliating to you if shown to others in court.

Should I take the Breathalyzer Test?

If you are suspected for driving under the influence you will most likely be asked to take a breathalyzer test. This test will tell the officer your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level.

You have the right to refuse to take the test. By doing so you may receive harsher penalties and it may be seen as an admission of guilt. In the state of Florida, if this is your first breathalyzer test refusal, refusal to take the test will automatically suspend your license for a year, but it is not considered a crime. In addition, by refusing to take the test you will have the time to consult with your lawyer and see if you can overthrow your license suspension which may work out to your benefit.

Can I get my case dismissed if the Miranda Warning was not read?

The Miranda warning is read to individuals being arrested so that they understand their right to remain silent, their right to an attorney, and their right to understand that what they say can and will be used against them in a court of law. If a Miranda warning is not stated to an arrestee of a DUI charge, the case will not be dismissed because the driver still committed a crime. However, incriminating statements that an individualsaid while not knowing that those statements would be used against them in a court of law may be dismissed.

What are the penalties for driving under the influence?

In the state of Florida there are various charges that one can face from a DUI charge. The most common charges are as follows:

First DUI

A driver’s first DUI offense can result in numerous consequences. One common consequence that is given to a first time DUI offender is a fine of $500 to $1000. Other common penalties for a first time DUI offense are:

• Suspended License (Minimum of 180 days and Maximum of 1 year)
• 50 Hours of community service hours
• Probation (No more than a year)
• Imprisonment (No more than six months)
• 12 hours of DUI school

Second DUI

A driver’s second DUI offense results in higher penalties than a first DUI offense. The fine for a second DUI is $1000 to $2000. Other penalties for a second DUI are as follows:

• Revokedlicense (Minimum of 180 days and Maximum of 1 year) if date of second DUI is over five years from the first DUI
• Revoked license for FIVE years if second DUI is within five years of the first DUI
• Imprisonment (up to nine months)

Third DUI

A driver’s third DUI charge has significantly higher penalties than the first two and is the last DUI charge a person can have without their license being revoked permanently. The fine for a third DUI charge is $2000 to $5000. Other penalties for a third DUI charge are as follows:

• Revoked license (Minimum of 180 days and Maximum of 1 year) if date of second DUI is over ten years from the first and second DUI
• Revoked license for FIVE years if third DUI is within ten years of the first DUI
• Imprisonment (up to twelve months)
• If the DUI is within ten years of the first two then a five year sentence can be enforced with a minimum of 30 days in jail

All of these penalties will be intensified if there was a minor present in the vehicle, or if the person’s BAC level was higher than 0.15.

Can I get jail time for a first time DUI offense?

Yes, in the state of Florida you can get jail time for a first-time DUI charge. A first time DUI offender can get up to six months of jail time. An individual who is charged with a DUI that involved the injuries of other individuals or severe property damage are more likely to receive a jail time for a first-time offense.

How much jail time can I get for a second or third time DUI charge?

In Florida, even a first- time DUI offender can face jail time. A second- time offender is required to spend a maximum of nine months to one year in jail, depending on the individual’s BAC. Note: a second conviction within five years of the first in Florida mandates a MANDATORY jail sentence of at least ten days. A third- time DUI offender is required to spend a maximum of one year in jail, and at LEAST thirty days.

Should I hire an attorney?

Being charged with DUI is no laughing matter, and it is highly recommended to hire an attorney when possible. Public defenders are notoriously over-worked, and finding a private attorney will help ensure the best defense possible.

How do I find a good attorney?

There are many commendable resources on the internet, and two of the most recommended are the Florida Bar website and Martindale-Hubbel.com, the host company of Lexus Nexus, the most utilized legal research and reference website in the United States. The Florida Bar Website is extremely user- friendly, and will relay any information needed, favorable and otherwise, about an attorney in questions. Martindale-Hubbel.com is also an excellent resource for finding the best DUI attorney on an individual basis, as there are ways to search for attorneys that specialize in DUI defense. The recommendation of the author is to first search Martindale- Hubbel.com for a list of DUI defense attorneys. From there, check out each potential attorney on the Florida Bar website for their attorney history, their education, their disciplinary actions (if any), and an abundance of other information that will make the selection process far more manageable.

What is BAC?

BAC is an acronym, and stands for “Blood Alcohol Concentration”. This refers to the percentage of alcohol in one’s blood stream. BAC is determined by taking a breathalyzer test given by a police officer. When operating a motor vehicle, an individual is legally over the BAC limit at 0.08 percent. The BAC legal limit changes with each individual. For example, an individual under 21 years of age would fall under what is known in Florida as the Zero Tolerance (Underage) BAC, and that legal limit is 0.02 percent. Also, an individual who has too much alcohol in their system at the time a breathalyzer test is administered could face harsher penalties. This is referred to as Enhanced Penalty (Aggravated) BAC, and an individual falls into this category when their BAC is 0.15 percent or higher.

What defenses do I have to fight a DUI case?

There are two common defenses in fighting a DUI case. The first and most commondefense that an individual may be able to fight in court revolves around the traffic stop made by the arresting officer. A police officer can only stop an individual while driving for two reasons: the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a traffic infraction is taking place, or the officer must have probable cause that a crime is being committed. Police officers cannot pull an individual over on a “hunch”, and especially if no reason is given at all. Another major defense utilized in a DUI case involves the administering of the field sobriety test, a test being proven non-effective more and more in recent years. In a field sobriety test, the police officer gives commands, typically involving hand- eye coordination and balance. For example, if a police officer commands an individual to recite the alphabet backwards (a test of commonplace not too long ago), the Courts are now finding this test not reliable, thus thrown out.

Questions to keep in mind when contemplating a field sobriety test defense include an individual’s normal, sober state of balance and coordination. How would an officer have anything to compare it to prior to the test? The best thing to do is to discuss in great detail with your attorney the best strategies to ensure the best defense.

Are breathalyzer tests always accurate?

Determining whether or not breathalyzer tests are accurate really depends on who you ask. Major breathalyzer manufacturingcompanies claim that breathalyzer technology consistently improves, therefore making them the most reliable source of determining an individual’s BAC levels. On the other hand, ask a seasoned DUI defense attorney, and they will provide you with an abundance of reasons why breathalyzer tests are not only fallible and prone to error, but why their findings should not even be admissible in court. By and large, breathalyzer tests are accurate, but this is not true in every instance. There are factors that make breathalyzer tests unreliable: foreign substances, the test’s calibration, the software utilized, environmental factors, and, of course, human error. If you feel your breathalyzer test was inaccurate, discuss your reasons in great detail with the attorney handling your DUI defense.

Should I comply with a field sobriety test?

Look at it this way, if you refuse, you will AUTOMATICALLY forfeit your driver’s license for an extended period of time. Of course, if you are convicted guilty of DUI, you will face the same result. The answer to this question depends entirely on the individual’s situation: if you’re drunk and you know you will never pass their sobriety test, your best bet is to decline the test, ask to speak with your attorney, and exercise your right to remain silent pursuant to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

Will my car insurance company drop me after a DUI charge?

Almost definitely, but if not, there will surely be an obscene increase in your rate. The only good news is that, typically, auto policies are only reviewed by adjusters once every six months or so, so chances are, nothing will happen immediately. In addition, if your auto insurance company does drop you, there are other insurance companies that will take you, but you will be paying more money.

Will I be allowed to drive to work?

This varies on an individual basis. In Florida, if convicted of a first- time DUI charge, one can apply for a Hardship License. If granted by the judge, an individual is permitted to drive ONLY to and from their place of employment. When convicted of DUI, an individual should plan on their driving privileges being taken away completely. This could greatly affect one’s employment.

Should I hire a lawyer if I plan to plead guilty?

It is the recommendation of the author to always hire an attorney when being dealt with a DUI charge. DUI’s are serious offenses and will stay with an individual found guilty for the rest of his or her life. Hiring a lawyer will also help an individual to determine if pleading guilty is even the best course of action.

Should I admit to drinking if the officer asks me?

In a word: NO! In our great United States we have laws that protect individuals from self- incrimination, commonly referred to as “pleading the fifth”. Being suspected of driving under the influence is serious, and while it is always in the individual’s best interest to be courteous, polite, and professional with police officers, it is well within an individual’s right to simply reply, “Officer, I appreciate the gravity of the questions you are asking me, and I respectfully choose to exercise my right to remain silent as pursuant to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.” From there, ask to speak with your attorney.

But, there are circumstances where you may want to comply with the questions. For example, if you know you are under the legal drinking amount or if you did not have anything to drink.

When will I lose my license?

This really depends on your case, and the experience of the attorney handling your defense. In Florida, an individual is allowed to drive for ten days following their DUI charge. Most attorneys will file pleadings and attempt to get the courts to grant an additional 42 days. In general, if charged with a DUI, plan to have your license suspended within ten days.

How long will my license be suspended for?

This is greatly determined by the amount of DUI’s an individual already has on their record, the severity of the DUI (Such as other people being harmed aside from the driver) and their BAC level. For DUI offenders in Florida, the license is suspended for at least six months and up to twelve months. The amount of time a license is revoked lengthens with repeated offenders.

What is the legal drinking limit amount?

Throughout the country the legal drinking limit is below a blood alcohol concentration level of .08. Depending on the weight and size of an individual the amount of drinks varies, but usually this is equivalent to one beer, maybe two, depending on the person. To be safe a person should not drink and drive even after one beer.

What happens if I am under the age of 21 and get a DUI?

The .08 level of alcohol does not apply to an individual under the age of 21. Florida has a Zero Tolerance Law in affect for underage drinking and driving. If a driver is under the age of 21 and has a blood alcohol level of .02 then their license will automatically be suspended for six months.