Driving under the influence (DUI) may be a common offense in Florida, but it is also very serious. A DUI cannot be dismissed as a traffic offense since it actually mandates a term of imprisonment even for a first-time offender. Most drivers convicted of a simple DUI without damage, injury or major traffic infraction do not actually serve a prison sentence thanks to the discretion and wisdom of judges who usually suspend incarceration.
Over the last few decades, Florida has turned into a battleground jurisdiction where DUI cases clog court dockets and law enforcement allocates considerable resources to DUI interdiction. A DUI offense is by no means a cut-and-dry affair; it is, in fact, a fairly complex legal practice field. A DUI conviction puts a defendant in a rather uncomfortable position due to the long-term negative ramifications it brings about. It’s a bit difficult to be preemptive when it comes to getting pulled over in Florida; however, here are five things everyone should remember when it comes to DUI:
1. You Are A Suspect
A random traffic stop must be preceded by a law enforcement officer’s assessment of circumstances that may constitute a traffic violation. This assessment can be highly subjective; for example, a police officer witnesses a car swerving on the road, or a driver walking erratically towards his or her car. Once a traffic stop begins, law enforcement personnel will do everything they can to escalate the situation from reasonable suspicion to probable cause.
2. You Have Certain Rights
Traffic stops are supposed to be non-custodial, which means that drivers should not have to provide anything more than their license, registration and proof or insurance. Law enforcement officers know this, but they will do everything they can to extract incriminating information from drivers. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution protects against self-incrimination, and to this extent drivers can refrain from answering inquisitive questions such as “have you been drinking?”
3. You Have Given Consent
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issues licenses to drivers only on the condition that they give consent to field sobriety, breathalyzer or blood alcohol content (BAC) testing. When any of those tests are refused, drivers face immediate suspension of driving and possibly prosecution.
4. You Can Be Impaired or Over The Limit
Section 316.193 of the Florida Statutes explains that prosecutors have three angles to pursue in a DUI case: impairment, breathalyzer results or BAC lab test reports. Prosecutors only have to prove one condition to get a conviction.
5. You Have Legal Options
The graveness and complexity of DUI cases can be offset with a proper defense strategy. In Florida, DUI offenses are simultaneously handled in administrative and judicial venues, and the chances of defendants obtaining a positive outcome are slim without adequate representation.
If you or a loved one has been accused of driving under the influence call Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A., Attorneys at Law for your free consultation at 727-478-4125.