Brevard County DUI Lawyers
Are you facing a DUI charge in Brevard County? With over 100 years of combined experience in defending drunk driving and drugged driving cases, the attorneys at Musca Law are the experts in the field. Our extensive experience and unparalleled track record of success make our firm the choice for the defense of alcohol and drug-related driving offenses.
Florida DUI Laws
The basic laws relating to driving under the influence are set forth primarily in Fla. Stat. § 316.193. It first sets forth the elements of driving under the influence. Driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle is an offense if a person is
“under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired.”
The statute goes on to provide certain per se violations, which consist of having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more, or a breath alcohol level of 0.08 or more. What this means is that your alcohol level, measured by a breath test or a blood test, is above the legal limit, the law considers that you are under the influence of alcohol, and the state does not have to prove impairment of normal facilities. The law presumes impairment by virtue of the level of alcohol measured in your system. Under Fla. Stat. § 316.1934, presumptions of impairment vary depending upon one’s BAC:
- If your BAC is 0.05 or less, “it is presumed that the person was not under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired.” This does not necessarily mean that you are home free – it only means that your BAC will not in and of itself lead to a conviction.
- If your BAC is greater than 0.05 but less than 0.08, there is no presumption one way or another regarding impairment.
If your BAC is 0.08 or higher, “that fact is prima facie evidence that the person was under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired. Moreover, such person who has a blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher is guilty of driving, or being in actual physical control of, a motor vehicle, with an unlawful blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level.” [emphasis added]
If the prosecution is unable to establish the threshold BAC level (0.08 for an adult non-commercial driver), then the case will involve an attempt to prove impairment. This, in turn, will depend upon evidence obtained from field sobriety tests (see below), other observations by the police and perhaps other witnesses, and in some cases through admissions made by the suspect himself.
What About Operating Commercial Vehicles While Under the Influence?
If you hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), different, and more stringent, rules apply. A conviction for driving a commercial vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04 or greater, will result in a one-year suspension of your CDL, in addition to any other penalties provided by law. Not surprisingly, a conviction for driving a non-commercial vehicle while under the influence will likewise result in a one-year CDL suspension, although the 0.04 limit is not applicable to driving non-commercial vehicles.
In the event a commercial driver who is transporting hazardous materials is convicted of driving under the influence or of having a BAC of 0.04 or higher, the CDL suspension will be for three years.
What Is the Zero Tolerance Policy for Minors?
Florida has special rules for minors (under age 21) who drive with alcohol in their system. Under Fla. Stat. § 322.2616, “it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 who has a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of 0.02 or higher to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.” In the event an officer determines that a minor has been driving with a BAC of 0.02 or more, he has the authority to suspend the minor’s driver’s license on the spot and issue a notice of suspension to the driver, although a DMV review process will then determine whether the suspension should continue. If a hearing is not requested, or if the hearing results in the upholding of the suspension, it will result in the loss of driving privileges for six months (first time offense) or twelve months (second or subsequent offense). In the case of a person who is not yet eligible for a driver’s license due to their age, the offense may cause a delay in obtaining a license.
If it is determined that the minor’s BAC level is 0.05 or higher, the suspension will remain in effect until the completion of a substance abuse course, with the driver bearing the cost.
What Are the Penalties for DUI in Florida?
The level of the offense, and the potential penalties associated with it, depend upon a number of factors. For a first offense, in addition to loss of license for at least 180 days and an increase in insurance costs, the penalties include a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and imprisonment for up to six months. For a second conviction, the fine doubles ($1,000 to $2,000) and potential jail time is up to nine months. In addition, a second conviction will result in the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for a period of at least a year after the restoration of driving privileges. If the second conviction occurs within five years of the first, the license suspension period will be not less than five years. Penalties are higher where the BAC is 0.15 or greater.
While first and second time DUI convictions result in harsh penalties, a third or subsequent conviction leads to even greater consequences. A third conviction within ten years of a prior conviction is a third degree felony, and will lead to a license suspension for at least ten years, imprisonment for up to 12 months, increased fines, and the mandatory installation of an IID for at least two years. A fourth or subsequent conviction, no matter when they may have occurred, is also a felony, and will result in up to five years in prison, increased fines and the permanent revocation of one’s driver’s license.
Finally, the law sets forth the levels of the offense where, as a result of a DUI, the driver causes or contributes to property damage or injury to a person (first degree misdemeanor); serious bodily injury (third degree felony); DUI manslaughter (second degree felony with a minimum mandatory prison sentence of four years); and DUI manslaughter, coupled with the knowing failure to stop and render aid (first degree felony).
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, and Field Sobriety Tests
DUI in Florida is not limited to drunk driving. Section 316.193(1) expressly prohibits driving under the influence of any controlled substance or other harmful chemical substance to the extent it impairs a person’s “normal faculties.” The drug does not have to be an illegal substance such as cocaine or heroin; it can also involve medication for which the driver has a valid prescription from a doctor.
While blood tests may be able to identify specific drugs in someone’s system, the law does not provide any specific level of drugs that “proves” impairment. Because of this, a DUI drug case often involves the observations of police officers, and the result of Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST’s), such as the one-leg stand, the walk and turn, and others.
Defending DUI Charges
If you have been charged with driving under the influence, there may be breath or blood test results showing the presence of alcohol and/or drugs. These tests are not infallible, and can be challenged in court. Machines malfunction and in some cases are not calibrated; tests may be improperly administered; and the person administering the tests may be unqualified.
In addition, SFST’s are, at best, an indirect measurement of impairment. They actually measure coordination, and the fact that you cannot perform one or more of the tests satisfactorily does not always mean you are impaired. Moreover, all the SFST’s rely, in the final analysis, upon the subjective determination of the officer administering the tests.
Criminal Defense Lawyers in Brevard County
As experienced criminal defense attorneys specializing in drunk driving and drugged driving cases, our lawyers are experts in defending clients charged with these offenses. We understand how to spot weaknesses in the state’s case and how to develop defenses for our clients.
Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. No matter what the apparent evidence against you, whether it involves drugs, alcohol or a combination of the two, the attorneys at Musca Law will fight for your rights from beginning to end. We know the law, we know the legal system, and we know what it takes to defend these charges. Our record of success speaks for itself.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence, call us today for a free consultation.