Steps to Take If You Are Pulled Over for a DUI
Don’t drink and drive
The easiest way to avoid a DUI conviction is to avoid driving after drinking, especially after consuming three or more servings of alcohol. If you plan on getting home from a bar or other place where alcohol is served by driving yourself, don’t drink more than two alcoholic beverages. Even driving “buzzed” can land you in jail, or worse, cause an accident that might injure yourself or others. Not to mention the need to hire a competent DUI lawyer.
If you control your alcohol intake not only will you be far less likely to receive a DUI conviction, you will more than likely have the sobriety necessary to drive yourself home. If you intended to drive yourself home but have had enough alcohol to be even “buzzed”, then be responsible; get home another way, such as with a friend who has had no more than two alcoholic beverages (known as a “designated driver”) a taxi, or a ride sharing service like Uber or Lyft. Make these plans beforehand, not when your judgement is clouded by alcohol.
According to Florida DMV records there were 43,899 DUI Violation Tickets Issued in 2017 and 24,334 DUI convictions. Of the 43,899 DUI tickets issued in Florida in 2017 – 7,612 were issued by the FHP, 17,530 were issued by police departments in Florida, and 18,056 were issued by Florida Sheriffs departments.
2017 Florida DUI Original Violations in the large Counties
- Hillsborough County (Tampa) – 4,499
- Miami-Dade – (Miami) – 3,099
- Duval County – (Jacksonville Area) – 2,995
- Pinellas County (St Petersburg) – 3,155
- Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach) – 2,567
- Orange County (Orlando) – 2,013
- Brevard County (Melbourne) – 2,466
- Broward County (Fort Lauderdale) – 3,104
If you are convicted of DUI in Florida, you could be facing jail time, loss of your Florida drivers license, heavy fines, and much higher auto insurance rates.
And a conviction will stay on your Florida driving record for 75 years.
For drivers over 21 the legal limit in Florida is .08.
Regardless of your age be aware that drinking and driving is considered a serious offense. Florida has a Zero Tolerance law for drivers under 21. This means that any driver under 21 that is stopped by law enforcement and has a blood alcohol level of .02 or higher will automatically have their Florida drivers license suspended for 6 months. The .02 limit really means that you cannot have a single drink and drive.
Florida Penalties for DUI First Conviction
- Fine – $500 to $1000 (blood alcohol level of .15 or higher or minor in vehicle)
- Community Service – 50 Hours
- Probation – Not more than 1 Year
- Imprisonment – Not more than 6 Months
- Imprisonment with BAL of .08 or higher with a minor in the vehicle, not more than 9 months
- License Revocation – Minimum of 180 days
- DUI School – 12 Hours
A law enforcement officer usually must have a reason to pull you over, this is called Probable Cause of simply “PC”. Weaving in and out of your lane, not having headlights on at night, even not using a turn signal when changing lanes, are just some of the things that could fall under the “PC” category.
There are also DUI checkpoints that law enforcement uses occasionally that can be used to check drivers for possible DUI.
If an officer has PC or you pull up to a DUI checkpoint, here are some tips.
If you show poor driving technique while pulling over, the officer will usually begin collecting qualitative evidence against you.
Keep your hands on the wheel, and don’t disrespect the officer
If you are pulled over at night turn on your dome light and roll down all your windows. These moves can show the officer that you have nothing to hide. Keep in mind that a traffic stop, especially at night, is a tense thing for a law enforcement officer, everything you can do to put that officer as ease, will usually help your own situation.
Keeping your left hand on the left side of the wheel and your right hand on the right side of the wheel (known as “9 and 3 o’clock”) or on top of the wheel and using respectful words to the officer will decrease the probability of the officer looking at you unfavorably and decrease the amount of qualitative evidence against you. In short, let the officer see your hands, don’t be fumbling around. Keep in mind that the officer doesn’t know you; they don’t know if you are an average good citizen reaching for your wallet or purse, or a criminal looking for a gun.
Don’t answer every question
If the officer asks, “how many servings of alcohol have you consumed this evening?” and you answer, “four,” then the officer has quantitative evidence against you. You are not required to answer questions apart from your name, driver’s license, and car paperwork. Simply reply, “I decline to answer.”
Should you decline the field sobriety test or the breathalyzer?
The officer will look for bloodshot or glassy appearance of the eyes, an odor of alcohol on the breath, or slurred or slow speech. If the officer observes any of these signs of impairment (or if they have already established reasonable suspicion from one of those signs, they can claim reasonable suspicion.
If an officer has a reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired that officer will inform that driver that a DUI investigation is now being conducted. The first part of a DUI investigation is something called a Field Sobriety Test or FST for short.
Nothing in Florida law requires that you take an FST, but keep in mind that refusing will most likely raise the suspicion of the officer and will not help your cause. However, without the results of a FST, good or bad, a DUI case is usually harder to prosecute.
You may also be given the chance to take a Portable Breath Test or PBT in the field. The results of a PBT are usually not admissible in court in Florida; unless the driver is under 21 or is operating a commercial vehicle. In those instances, a PBT can be used at an administrative hearing.
The PBT can give an on the spot indication of a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC). It can either give the officer cause to continue the investigation or give an indication that your BAC is below the legal limit, which is Florida is .08 for person’s over the age of 21, and .02 for those under the age of 21.
Florida law says you can refuse the field sobriety test and the PBT, so taking either of those is unnecessarily self-incriminating. If the officer asks you to take either, respond “I decline to take that test.” The officer will take you to the police station and offer you a choice between a breath test and a blood test. The blood test is more precise than the breath test, so if you are certain that you have consumed two or less servings of alcohol, choose the blood test, but if you have consumed three or more servings, choose the breath test.
Under Florida Statute 316.1932 (1)(a)1.a. a driver who fails to submit to, “an approved chemical test or physical test,” which is usually a breath test or blood test to determine the alcoholic content of his or her blood or breath, will be “lawfully arrested for any offense allegedly committed while the person was driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages.” So, if you refuse the tests in the field, expect to be handcuffed and taken to a police station where you will then be tested to determine your BAC.
Keep a private log of the night
Writing down everything that happened during the night will make it easier for your attorney to fight for your case. Take particular note if the officer didn’t tell you your Miranda rights, i.e., “You have the right to remain silent….” Don’t show your log to the police, though, because it may be self-incriminating.
Remember that right to remain silent unless a lawyer is present. You can exercise this right at any time whether it’s when you are being asked questions or being asked to write a statement.
Contact an experienced DUI attorney
If you have been charged with DUI, it is crucial that you contact an experienced DUI law firm, like Pappas & Russell, P.A., that can defend you against your charge. A DUI charge doesn’t always lead to a conviction. Only an attorney experienced in DUI law can give you a better chance of avoiding a conviction. Don’t wait, contact us today.
Fighting for Fairness, Justice, and Equality