It doesn’t matter if you only had one beer, getting behind the wheel after drinking could result in a DUI arrest. Driving under the influence, or DUI, is a common offense. Thousands of Floridians get pulled over for DUI each year, but you might be surprised to learn that not all DUI arrests involve alcohol consumption.
Florida law defines DUI as a person who is driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or prohibited chemicals or controlled substances. The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) is less than 0.08%. If you are caught driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, you may face serious penalties.
First conviction: $500 to $1,000 fine and/or up to 6 months in jail. You may also be required to place an ignition interlock device in your vehicle and face a suspended license or revocation.
Second conviction: $1,000 to $2,000 fine and/or up to 9 months in jail. You may also be required to place an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for at least one year, and face a suspended or revoked license.
Most DUI arrests take place after an officer administers field sobriety, blood and/or breathalyzer tests and the driver fails one or more tests. But, in other cases, a DUI arrest can take place without the involvement of alcohol.
DUI Arrests Without Alcohol Consumption
Prescription medications: As mentioned earlier, you can get a DUI without consuming alcohol, as being “under the influence” includes the use of drugs such as prescription medications. Thus, even if you absolutely need to drive your vehicle, you cannot do so if you are taking certain medications that your doctor approved and prescribed. These include medications used for:
- heart and cholesterol conditions
- high blood pressure
- muscle spasms
- Parkinson's disease
The side effects of these medications can inhibit your ability to drive safely. These include:
- blurred vision
- slowed movement
- inability to focus or pay attention
Sleeping in your car: If you felt tired from your medications, and realized it was best to pull over to a parking lot or the side of the road to sleep it off, you may be charged with a DUI. The “actual physical control element” can apply in this situation because, even if your car is off, you have the keys on or near your person, therefore by making you in “actual physical control” of your vehicle.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST): Further, you may be arrested for failing an SFST. The one-leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus and walk-and-turn tests are typically given to drivers whom officers believe are driving under the influence. If you swerved out of your lane, didn’t use your blinker or drove slightly under the speed limit, you may be required to take an SFST. These field sobriety tests are administered to give an officer probable cause to arrest you. If you fail one or more of these tests, then an officer has a reason to charge you.
However, these tests aren’t easy for even a sober person to complete. Factors such as unstable grounds, inappropriate shoes, bad weather and underlying medical conditions all influence the outcome of test results. Thus, it’s unfair to charge a driver for DUI if external or underlying factors caused them to fail.
Another way in which you may “fail” your SFST is if an officer administered it incorrectly. You’d be shocked to learn that many officers aren’t adequately trained on the scientific or technical elements of SFSTs. As such, they can easily misread test results or conduct them improperly. That’s not your fault, and you shouldn’t be charged with DUI as a result.
I Can Help You Fight Your DUI Charge
Many people aren’t aware of the fact that a DUI goes far beyond the consumption of alcohol. Drugs, prescription medications, flawed SFST administration and sleeping in your car with drugs in your system can produce unintended consequences with the law.
I have successfully handled thousands of cases utilizing my former prosecutorial experience and know what it takes to fiercely defend clients facing a DUI charge. Contact my firm online or by calling (305) 707-0036 for a free consultation!