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Florida DUI Law

Many people being investigated for crimes or who have been charged with crimes fail to exercise the rights that they have under the United States and Florida Constitutions.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects us from unreasonable search and seizure. Often the police make traffic stop and ask "Do you have any drugs or guns in the car?" Of course, most people respond, "No". The officer then asks, "May I search the car?" This often leads to evidence that results in the arrest of the individual. Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, you may refuse to allow the vehicle search and unless he has probable cause or a search warrant, the officer may not search the vehicle.

The Fifth Amendment provides all of us with the right against self-incrimination. This is where the term "taking the Fifth" originates. It is also the reason that police are required to inform people of their right to remain silent before they custodially interrogate them. Many people fail to exercise their right to remain silent and often become their own worst enemy by giving statements to the police. To invoke this right, an individual must only tell the police that they do not wish to make a statement. Additionally, they should ask for their attorney, as this will prevent the police from being able to question them at a later time on another matter.

The right to an attorney comes from the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and it is commonly known as our "right to counsel". If the police question someone, they may invoke this right by simply stating they want to speak to their attorney and do not wish to talk to the police without their attorney.


In Florida, driving under the influence can be proved against an individual by proving that the person drove while their normal faculties were impaired or that they had an unlawful blood or breath alcohol level of .08 or above.

The penalties upon conviction are the same regardless of the manner in which the offense is proven. The penalties for a first DUI are a fine between $250.00 to $500.00, plus court costs. A person with a blood or breath alcohol level of .20 or higher or accompanied in the vehicle by a person under the age of 18 years is $500.00 to $1,000.00, plus all mandatory fees and court costs. Additionally, a person is placed on probation not to exceed one year. While on probation, the law requires a person perform 50 hours of community service, a six month to one year driver's license revocation, a 10-day impoundment of the motor vehicle, and DUI school. Additionally, the driver can be sentenced up to six months in jail. With a blood or breath alcohol level of .20 or higher or if accompanied in the vehicle by a person under the age of 18 years, a nine-month jail sentence may be imposed.

The State's case against the driver begins when the police officer stops the driver. Often the police have noticed some traffic infraction such as speeding, weaving in the lane, or violating a traffic control device that gives them a reason to stop the individual. Once the stop is made, the officer observes how the person exits the car, how the person produces their driver's license, and whether or not they smell an odor of alcohol.

If the officer suspects impairment, he asks the individual to perform a field sobriety test. These are a series of physical agility exercises that ask an individual to do more than one thing at a time so that the officer can observe how the individual responds to such instruction. There is nothing in the law that says that a driver has to take these tests.

If the officer suspects impairment, he normally places the person under arrest and takes them downtown to the jail for an opportunity to take a Breathalyzer exam. The breath test measures a person's breath or blood alcohol level. Even if the driver blows below the limit of .08, they are placed in jail.

If a person does blow below .08, they are also asked to take a urine test to determine whether or not they have any controlled substance in their system. If a person refuses a breath, blood, or urine test, their license is suspended for one year for the first refusal. If the person has refused one of these tests in the past, their license is suspended for 18 months. This suspension is by the Division of Highway and Safety and Motor Vehicles and is separate from the suspension that the person faces if they are convicted for a DUI in court. A person has 10 days to set a hearing to contest the Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles suspension. Once 10 days have run, the individual is barred from challenging the suspension.

Many people assume that if an individual has never been in trouble before that the State of Florida will allow them to plead to a lower charge. The Fourth Judicial Circuit (Duval, Clay, and Nassau Counties) led the state in DUI convictions.


A person who has been arrested is entitled to a reasonable bond for most crimes. The purpose of bond is to assure that the individual will return to court. Many times an attorney can assist in having a reasonable bond set.

Copyright ©1999 by Hardesty & Tyde, P.A.. All rights reserved.
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