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Florida Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is defined as driving or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while was under the influence of alcohol or a chemical/controlled substance to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired.
DUI in Florida may also be shown with proof that you had a blood or breath alcohol level of .08 or higher while driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle.
In Florida, a DUI can either be a felony or misdemeanor depending on various factors including how many times the person has been previously convicted of DUI in Florida or whether there was an accident involved and the extent of injuries to the individuals involved.

What’s important to remember is that unlike other criminal charges, Florida DUIs, even at the misdemeanor level, have mandatory minimum sentences. This means that if you are convicted of DUI in Florida, the Judge has no choice but to sentence you to certain conditions.

Under certain circumstances, you could be charged with a felony depending the facts and circumstances surrounding your individual case. For instance, if you cause serious bodily injury to a person, cause a death, or have had multiple Florida DUI convictions in the past, you will be facing felony charges for which the penalties vary greatly.

Penalties for a DUI Charge in Florida

Florida takes a very hard-line stance on DUI charges. Even for a first-time DUI in Florida, if convicted, you will be sentenced to a minimum of:
  1. Mandatory conviction on your record
  2. Mandatory 12 months of supervised probation
  3. A mandatory minimum fine of $500
  4. Mandatory 6 month driver's license suspension
  5. A mandatory minimum of at least 50 hours of community service
  6. Ordered to attend and complete a DUI Counter Attack Class
  7. Ordered to attend and complete a Victim Awareness Class
  8. Ordered to undergo a substance abuse evaluation and abide by any recommended treatment
  9. Your vehicle will be impounded/ immobilized for 10 days

You could also be facing jail time.

Depending on how high your breath/ blood test results are, whether there was an accident involved including whether anyone was physically injured, and whether you've ever been convicted of a DUI in the apst will cause the penalties of a Florida DUI conviction to increase.

Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will seek to suspend your driver's license and you can count on your insurance premiums increasing substantially.

Defenses to a DUI Charge in Florida

In addition to factual defenses that would be raised at trial to show reasonable doubt as to the crime alleged, some common defenses to a Florida DUI Charge include:

Were you pulled over for a legal reason? Did the Police violate your constitutional rights?
Law enforcement is not allowed to simply harass or otherwise disturb you if you are doing nothing wrong. In order for police to pull your vehicle over, they must have sufficient proof that you committed some traffic infraction, or be investigating a crash or checking on the well-being of a driver.

Furthermore, simply because you commit a traffic infraction does not give the officer the right to request you to submit to Field Sobriety Exercises or conclude that you were driving under the influence.

Remember, you should never assume that the officer went through the proper channels to arrest you.

If the officer violated your constitutional rights, it may be grounds to suppress all evidence in your case which may cause your charge to be dismissed by the Judge.

You were not in "actual physical control" of the vehicle as defined under Florida law
Florida law defines “actual physical control” as being physically in or on the vehicle with the capability to operate the vehicle. You do not have to be actually operating the vehicle at the time in order to be in actual physical control of it.
If you were not driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle, then you will have an affirmative defense to the Florida DUI charge.

Your "normal faculties" were not impaired as defined under Florida law
It is not illegal to consume alcohol and subsequently drive a car. Plenty of people consume alcohol while at a restaurant or happy hour. Just because you consume alcohol does not mean you were driving under the influence in Florida.
Even if the officer suspects that you are driving under the influence and requests that you submit to Field Sobriety Exercises, the State may still be unable to prove that you were driving under the influence to the extent your normal faculties were impaired.
The Florida definition of “normal faculties” is the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, make judgments, act in emergencies and, in general, to normally perform the many mental and physical acts of our daily lives.
In Florida, police use Field Sobriety Exercises to “test” your normal faculties but in reality, these “exercises” are a poor indicator of whether someone is actually under the influence.
You may have a defense if it cannot be shown that you were driving under the influence to the extent your normal faculties were impaired.

Was the breath or blood test administered properly?
Florida law is very specific on when, who, and how a blood, urine, or breath test can be administered. You should not assume that it was done correctly as many times, it is not. Furthermore, the results of the test may be challenged as being unreliable and untrustworthy.
If the proper channels were not followed in administering such a chemical test, they should not be admitted into evidence against you. This may prove the difference between whether or not the State can even prove their case.

Contact Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney Chris Kaigle if you’ve been charged with DUI in Florida!
(407) 545-6416