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Florida DUI Law: Know Your Rights and How to Protect Them

With a bustling nightlife scene and miles of beautiful white sandy beaches, South Florida has many opportunities for relaxation and leisure. In many situations, these activities involve enjoying alcoholic beverages, creating ample opportunities for drivers to find themselves being taken into custody on suspicion of driving under the influence. Not every arrest for DUI is a valid one, and many defendants end up facing criminal charges because they did not understand the full scope of their rights.

Knowing when you may be at risk of being arrested for a DUI is the first step to protecting your rights. According to Florida’ DUI statutes, the police have the power to arrest someone on suspicion of driving under the influence even when the defendant is not driving. According to Florida law, as long as the defendant has actual, physical control of the car while also under the influence, the officer may arrest him or her on suspicion of DUI. 

Courts have interpreted the “actual, physical control” standard as having two elements. First, the defendant must be in the vehicle. Second, the defendant must have the ability to make the car move. Under this test, a police officer would probably be able to arrest an intoxicated person if he or she is sleeping in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, even if the vehicle is not running. In this scenario, it is possible for the intoxicated person to wake up and begin driving the vehicle.

If you have been detained by the police after they suspect that you are driving under the influence, one of the first things the police may ask you to do is submit to a blood alcohol test. This test can be performed in three different ways:  breath, blood, and urine. The police have the authority to ask you to submit to more than one type of blood alcohol test. An officer can only request that you submit to a blood alcohol test if the officer has probable cause to support a belief that you were operating your vehicle under the influence.

If you refuse to submit to any type of blood alcohol test, the police officer must tell you that your refusal to submit to the test can be used against you during subsequent legal proceedings and that your driver’s license will be suspended. In the event that you have had your license suspended on a prior occasion, your refusal to submit to the blood alcohol test constitutes a misdemeanor, and your license will be suspended a second time.

DUIs can carry heavy monetary penalties and jail time. The first offense carries six to nine months jail time and fines and penalties between $500 and $2,000. The second offense carries a sentence of between nine months and one year in jail with fines and penalties between $1,000 and $4,000 and a license suspension of between one and five years. Finally, a third offense carries a jail sentence of up to one year and fines and penalties between $2,000 and $5,000. When a defendant has a prior DUI offense, courts can use a “lookback period” and consider prior offenses in ruling on sentences for the second or third offense. For a second offense, the lookback period is five years, while a third offense lookback period is 10 years.

If you or someone you know is facing criminal liability for driving under the influence, the experienced DUI defense lawyers at The Hoffman Firm can help. Our seasoned and dedicated team has helped many defendants throughout the South Florida region defend their cases and protect their rights. We know how stressful this situation can be for you and your family, and we can guide you through every step of the legal process. Call us now at (305) 249-0090 or contact us online to set up your free, no-obligation consultation today.

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Evan A. Hoffman

Evan A. Hoffman

Mr. Hoffman’s philosophy is "our knowledge and experience is your best defense." He has been a featured author on criminal law issues such as driving under the influence, domestic violence and illegal searches.

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