Understanding the Legal Consequences: When Can You Be Charged with Driving Under the Influence?
Driving under the influence (DUI) Section 316.193, Florida Statutesis a very serious offense that can have severe legal consequences. Understanding when you can be charged with DUI is critical to ensuring your safety and the safety of others on the road. This article will delve into the factors determining whether you can be charged with DUI and what that charge entails. From breath and blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits to the use of controlled substances, we will explore the different scenarios that can lead to a DUI charge. We will also discuss the potential penalties and how they can vary depending on the specific facts of your case. By the end of this article, you will have a comprehensive understanding of the legal implications of driving under the influence and be better equipped to make responsible decisions behind the wheel. Let’s dive in!
Definition of Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence, commonly called DUI, is a criminal offense. The crime of DUI requires proof of two main components:
1) Driving or Actual Physical Control of a Vehicle (vehicle can be parked and off), AND 2) while Driving or in Actual Physical Control the driver:
- A) was under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances to the extent that his/her normal faculties were impaired, or
- B) had a blood or breath alcohol level of .08 or more.
Driving is driving. But the State may also elect to prove DUI by showing Actual Physical Control or “APC” of a Vehicle as well. “APC” is defined by the Florida Supreme Court as “defendant must be physically in or on the vehicle and have the capability to operate the vehicle, regardless of whether he/she is actually operating the vehicle at the time.”
The “I” in “DUI” stands for Influence. But the rest of the story is “…influence to the extent your normal faculties are impaired. Impairment is defined by the Florida Supreme Court (link above to jury instructions) as “diminished in some material respect.” In other words, and often argued by prosecutors, your ability to walk, talk, see, hear, react to emergencies, or DRIVE was A common misconception is that DUI is “Drunk Driving”, however Florida Statutes have been revised over the years to require proof of only IMPAIRED DRIVING. The State will attempt to prove IMPAIRMENT one of two ways: either 1) by blood or breath alcohol level over .08 (presumed impaired) or 2) with evidence that your ability to walk, talk, see, hear, react, or DRIVE was in some way materially diminished because of alcohol or controlled substances.
Legal Consequences of DUI
Being charged with DUI can have serious legal consequences that can vary depending on the the circumstances of the offense. For example, penalties for a second DUI are more severe than the penalties for a first DUI. Likewise, the penalty for a DUI with a breath or blood sample over .15 is nearly twice as severe as the penalty for a DUI conviction stemming from a .08 or higher sample. The penalties for a DUI conviction include fines, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, probation, and even jail time. In some cases, for example3rd or more DUI, or DUI with Serious Injury or Death, a DUI can be charged as a felony.
Breath and Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits and DUI
Following an arrest for DUI, most will be requested to provide a breath sample. The legal limit in Florida for breath or blood alcohol is 0.08. While there is an administrative license suspension for refusing to provide a breath sample, very often, the arrestee who refused the sample will be immediately eligible for a hardship driver’s license. The hardship license permits driving for work and life sustaining activity. What police and law enforcement will not tell you is that even if you provide a breath sample under .08 you will not be “un-arrested” or free to go home.
It is important to note that breath alcohol is influenced by a variety of factors, including the number of drinks consumed, the time of last drink consumed, alcohol absorption rate, body composition, and some diseases like diabetes.Thus, the effects of, or impairment by alcohol can vary from person to person.
Factors that Can Lead to a DUI Charge
Because breath alcohol tests cannot be legally requested UNTIL an arrest for DUI is made, law enforcement often make their decision to arrest on observations of driving, physical observations of the driver such as: flushed face, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, delayed reactions, poor coordination or fine motor skills. It is important to note that impairment by controlled substances may appear different than impairment by alcohol. It is also important to note that even if a drug is legally prescribed, it can still impair a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.
Law enforcement officers use various methods to identify potential impairment, including field sobriety tests. If a driver’s “performance” on these field sobriety tests indicate impairment, they can and will be arrested and charged with DUI.
Field Sobriety Tests and DUI Charges
Field sobriety tests are a series of “psychomotor” tests that law enforcement officers use to assess a driver’s level of impairment. These tests are designed to measure a driver’s balance, coordination, and mental acuity. Common field sobriety tests include:
- The walk-and-turn test.
- The one-leg stand test.
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
It is important to note that field sobriety tests are not foolproof and can be influenced by various factors, such as physical limitations or nervousness. However, the results of these tests can be used as evidence to support a DUI charge. If a driver fails a field sobriety test or shows signs of impairment, they can be arrested and charged with DUI.
DUI and License Suspension
One of the most significant consequences of a DUI conviction is the suspension of your driver’s license. License suspension can profoundly impact your daily life, making it difficult to commute to work, run errands, or attend appointments. The length of the suspension can vary depending on circumstances and the driver’s previous offenses.
In some cases, drivers may be eligible for a restricted or hardship license during their suspension period. A restricted license allows the driver to travel to specific locations, such as work or school, while a hardship license may have additional privileges, such as driving with an IID installed. These licenses are typically granted on a case-by-case basis and may require the driver to meet certain criteria, such as enrolling and possibly completing an alcohol education program.
How to Avoid a DUI Charge
The best way to avoid a DUI charge is to make responsible decisions behind the wheel. If you plan on consuming alcohol, having a designated driver or using alternative transportation options, such as taxis or ride-sharing services, is essential. Additionally, if you are taking medication that can impair your ability to drive, it is crucial to read the warning labels and follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider.
If you are in a situation where you believe you may be impaired, it is important to refrain from driving and find a safe alternative. Calling a friend or family member, using public transportation, or staying overnight at a friend’s place are all viable options that can help you avoid the legal and personal consequences of a DUI charge.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that can have severe legal consequences. Whether it involves alcohol impairment or the use of controlled substances, DUI laws are in place to protect the safety of all road users. Understanding when you can be charged with DUI is essential to making responsible decisions behind the wheel.
From blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits to the potential penalties, it is crucial to be aware of the legal implications of driving under the influence. License suspension, increased insurance rates, and the potential for jail time are just some of the consequences that can result from a DUI conviction. By making responsible choices and avoiding situations that can lead to a DUI charge, you can protect your safety and the safety of others on the road.