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DUI Laws In Florida: From Definition To Investigation - Winter Park, FL

In this article, you can discover:

How Are DUIs Legally Defined In Florida?

In Florida, DUI, which stands for Driving Under the Influence, is defined as operating a vehicle, or being in actual physical control of one, while under the influence of alcoholic beverages, controlled substance, or other intoxicating chemicals to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired; or that someone was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.

Does DUI Apply To More Than Just Alcohol?

DUI in Florida is not limited to alcohol; it can also apply to any controlled substance, even if legally prescribed by a doctor. The warning on medication labels that advises against operating heavy machinery includes vehicles, and it’s essential to heed this caution. Additionally, Florida statutes outline a list of chemicals, including controlled substances and harmful chemicals, which can lead to a DUI charge if a person is under their influence. These are detailed in Florida statute 877.111 and encompass substances like nitrous oxide and acetone, as well as common household chemicals that could impair someone if inhaled or ingested.

How Does A DUI Investigation Commonly Begin?

A typical DUI investigation in Florida often begins with a traffic stop after an officer observes a potential traffic violation, or notices a driving pattern that raises suspicion that the person may be under the influence or experiencing a medical emergency. It’s a common misconception that traffic stops can only occur for clear traffic law violations. In reality, if an officer observes erratic driving that suggests a driver may be sick, injured, or possibly driving under the influence, they can initiate a stop.

During the initial contact with the driver, officers often request a driver’s license and registration. They may engage in conversation to assess the driver’s condition, including asking questions about their current state and recent activities. Officers use this opportunity to listen for slurred speech or detect the odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath. They may also check the driver’s information against databases for warrants or license suspensions.

If an officer suspects someone is DUI, they will typically initiate a criminal investigation by asking questions about alcohol consumption, and may request the driver to perform field sobriety exercises. These exercises, although voluntary, can have implications for the duration of the driver’s license suspension if refused. Officers also use these exercises to gather evidence of impairment, even if they frame them as tests for the driver’s safety.

The field sobriety exercises are designed to challenge a person’s concentration, balance, and ability to follow instructions. Common exercises include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, one-leg stand, touching finger to nose, and the Romberg balance test. Officers may also request other tests like reciting the alphabet or counting seconds, even though these exercises often produce inconsistent results, making it challenging to assess impairment accurately.

If the officer determines there is probable cause of DUI, they will make an arrest, and the driver may be asked to provide a breath sample using a breathalyzer machine. While drivers cannot be physically forced to provide a breath sample, refusal can lead to extended license suspension, and subsequent refusals may result in additional criminal charges.

In some cases, officers may request a urine or blood sample, especially if a driver blows a 0.00 on the breathalyzer but is still suspected of impairment, or if the driver is in a medical facility following an accident and it is impossible or impractical for the officer to obtain a breath sample. The admissibility of field sobriety exercises in court can depend on the officer’s qualifications, with some requiring additional training to testify as experts.

In Florida, DUI investigations can be complex, involving various tests and assessments. While field sobriety exercises are commonly used, their admissibility in court may vary based on the officer’s expertise or level of experience.

It’s crucial for individuals to be aware of their rights and responsibilities during a DUI investigation, as well as the potential consequences of refusal or failed tests. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help navigate the legal aspects of a DUI case and ensure a fair defense.

For more information on Facing DUI Charges In Florida, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (407) 890-8472 today.

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