When law enforcement pulls a driver over on suspicion of a DUI, it is not an experience easily forgotten. The shock of the officer’s charges, the embarrassment of submitting to field sobriety tests and then the officer’s arrest are all painful. But that is just the beginning of a process in which the individual will have to fight for their rights, including the ability simply to drive to go to work, school or the grocery store.
Fortunately, there are a number of options when it comes to mounting a defense against drunk driving charges, depending on the situation. For residents of Bartow and throughout Polk County, it can help to find out how Florida law will affect their case and if it is possible to reduce or drop some charges.
Penalties for DUI in Florida
A DUI in Florida can be due to alcohol, chemical substances or drugs that impair the faculties of the driver and registers as a blood/breath alcohol level (BAL) of .08 or higher. The penalties even for a first offense are severe:
- fines of $500 to $1,000,
- driver’s license revocation for 180 days to a year,
- up to six months of jail time
- and impoundment of the vehicle for 10 days unless the family has no transportation,
becoming harsher with each repeat offense. These penalties are worse if the BAL was .15 or higher or if there was a minor in the car. A DUI charge can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.
Possible defenses against a DUI
Although attorneys have different approaches to handling a DUI case, most will involvement questioning the arresting officer’s credibility or actions, or the accuracy of the breath or blood test. Though not as common, some affirmative defenses include:
- that the individual was DUI of necessity and that the alternative would be worse
- that the individual was DUI under duress, in other words forced to driving while impaired
- that the officer entrapped the driver by somehow encouraging them to get drunk
- that the officer mistook impairment by prescription medication or health condition for a DUI
- that the driver was DUI without his knowledge or consent
More often, the defense will question if the officer had probable cause to stop the individual, if the officer properly administered breath or blood tests, or if the BAL was higher when the officer conducted the test than when the individual was driving, which is possible if recently consumed alcohol has not fully absorbed into the body until the BAL test.