DUI – Be courteous but hold back your cooperation
There is never a good excuse to drink and drive. Even if you’ve only had one drink, the complications it can add to your life if you are stopped or detained at a DUI checkpoint are far greater than any enjoyment you may have gained from an alcoholic beverage. Even if your driving and demeanor are perfectly normal, it only takes a slightly suspicious police officer to make you jump the proverbial hoops of a roadside field sobriety test.
As I mentioned before, Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) are virtually impossible for anyone to pass. Although they are designed to test balance and coordination, you would have to be a gymnast, one who has not drunk, to have any hope of succeeding in following the instructions the police gave you for the FST. We have all seen these tests performed, if not through personal experience then at least we have seen this circus show performed on television. The police officer usually begins his evaluation by asking you to track something like a pen with your eyes. Then there are the other tasks, like standing on one foot or walking from heel to toe with your arms at your sides. These are not activities that we engage in every day, so very few of us would be able to do them to the satisfaction of the police officer seeking to make a DUI arrest.
Once you fail the FST, as you surely will, you will be asked to take a breathalyzer test. I disagree with this for a couple of reasons. First, it compromises the driver’s civil liberties. Second, breathalyzers are not as accurate as the powers you would like to think they are. Unfortunately, these tests that you probably won’t pass are required in the state of Florida. Your Florida driver’s license comes with the implied consent that you will follow all law enforcement directives and will be arrested if you refuse to comply. Therefore, it would seem absurd to me to recommend that you politely refuse to participate in these activities. For the FST, tell the officer you have a knee or back injury; For the breathalyzer, tell him that you are concerned about the cleanliness of the object that he suggests putting in his mouth. Keep in mind that failing these tests, as it likely will, will result in your arrest anyway. In the case of drinking and driving, if you are not disabled, there is no point in providing them with any evidence to use against you in court that might otherwise suggest that you are. Your best option is to call our office as soon as possible so we can advise you.
There are other, somewhat outlandish suggestions floating around. A popular belief that is emerging in various states due to a video that has been posted is that you should hold up a sign stating that you wish to remain silent, reject any records, and speak to your attorney. You are supposed to do this while holding your driver’s license and registration against the closed window with the doors locked. I am NOT advocating this. There is no legal precedent that indicates whether this is an appropriate means to protect your constitutional rights. Plus, with all the recent media buzz, cops are more nervous than ever. If you show any signs of resistance when they feel like a legal order has been issued, it may end up being just one more tragedy on the list of tragedies we’ve been seeing so much lately.
Another course of action that some who drink and drive may have considered buying their own breathalyzer for a couple hundred dollars in an effort to make sure your blood alcohol content (BAC) is not excessive. The problem with this is obvious. Devices vary in reliability and there is no guarantee that your reading will be the same as that of the arresting officer.
Concerns about drunk driving are often valid and, in general, enforcement of drunk driving laws is in the best interest of all who might be affected by a drunk driver. An example of this is an incident that occurred in South Florida. A Miami woman was recently indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter and a DUI that resulted in property damage or injury. These charges stem from a drunk driving incident that occurred several months ago.
On July 19, 2014, the young woman was arrested for driving in the wrong direction on I-95, resulting in a tragic frontal collision that killed a 42-year-old motorcyclist. The indiscretion of choosing to consume too much alcohol cost a man his life. In addition, his poor judgment has also irrevocably damaged his life, due to the criminal charges brought against him and the permanent disfigurement he suffered as a result of the accident.
This young woman’s BAC was more than double the legal limit and therefore she was indisputably drunk. If she had been detained or detained at a checkpoint, she would certainly have been arrested and a man’s life could have been saved. As lousy as it is to be arrested for a DUI, your life would be exponentially better if you had to endure that arrest rather than live with the consequences you now face.
It is situations like this that make enforcement of drunk driving laws a necessity. A single incident like this has a ripple effect that affects the lives of countless people. Unfortunately, these types of tragedies have caused police officers to view almost all drivers as potential drunk drivers, even if the driver is not drunk. Once a cop asks if you’ve been drinking and you try to be a cooperative citizen by saying, “Well, I had a glass of wine with dinner,” pretty much everything ends from there. You can expect the FST to be administered, and you will most likely go to jail; all a cop has to do is think he’s driving badly and then find out he’s had ANY amount of alcohol, and he drives off.
That is why we are here, to help those who are not really drunk, but who have had to bear all the negative consequences that come with putting the lives of others at risk from drunk driving. Yes, we also represent those who may also have been drunk, because our constitution entitles every citizen to a fair defense. The consequences of failing to defend your drunk driving charge are too great.
Hopefully, the suggestions I have made will offer you the best possible chance of having the DUI charge dropped. Because the penalties for a DUI conviction can be so harsh and carry an extensive list, the following address is for first-time offenders:
- The fine for a first conviction is at least $ 500, but not more than $ 1,000. If the driver’s BAC is 15 or more, or if there is a minor in the vehicle, the fine should not be less than $ 1,000, but not more than $ 2,000.
- The court requires 50 hours of mandatory community service or the additional fine of $ 10 for each hour of community service.
- Possible parole for up to one year.
- Prison no longer than 6 months, as long as there is no minor in the car and his BAC is less than. The court can order a drug or alcohol treatment program that is credited to the length of the sentence.
- If the family of the person convicted of DUI has more than one vehicle for transportation, the vehicle used in the DUI can be impounded or equipped with an immobilization device for up to 10 days.
- Revocation of the 180-day driver’s license, but not to exceed one year.
- You must attend DUI school and request a hearing to determine if the driver can receive a hardship reinstatement.
- Mandatory ignition interlock device for up to 6 months if BAC is 15 or more.
- A first DUI conviction causing injury or property damage will result in a first degree misdemeanor warranting a fine of no more than $ 1,000 or one year in prison. If serious bodily injury occurs, the driver can be convicted of a third degree felony and can face a $ 5,000 fine and / or 5 years in prison.
These are just some of the penalties that a person convicted of DUI for the first time may face. They are mandatory sanctions, so the judges have no discretionary power to change them. The penalties get significantly deeper, as they should, if someone dies as a result of drunk driving, as in the aforementioned incident.
Just don’t drink and drive. The devastation that can result from drunk driving is too great across the board. Even if you think you are sober, if you have another way home, it is always better to take it. Don’t forget that police cars have dash cameras and there is also a growing trend for police officers to use body cameras. Consequently, even the slightest imbalance or a hint of slurred speech gives the police officer all the motivation they need to arrest you. You can bet that you WILL PRESENT that video / audio in court as evidence of your guilt. (This is another good reason not to do an FST – they will make almost everyone look drunk.)