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It’s the holiday season and festivities abound. You may have extra time off work and look forward to relaxing, eating tasty fare, unwrapping new gifts, and bonding with loved ones over holiday spirits.

People are more likely to drink beyond their limits during the holidays—this is dangerous behavior for various reasons. If you drink excessively and have impaired cognition as a result, you can harm yourself and others, even fatally.

After nearly two years living in the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals are experiencing “pandemic fatigue”—tired of being cooped up at home and deprived of social interaction, they’re more apt to throw caution to the wind and engage in risky behavior, such as drinking too much alcohol.

It would be wise to devise a plan before festivities to ensure that you do not drive while intoxicated this holiday season. During this time, law enforcement departments throughout the state set up numerous DUI checkpoints to arrest anyone suspected of driving while under the influence. The last thing you want is to celebrate a holiday behind bars and face the severe consequences of a criminal conviction.

Practical Ways to Avoid a DUI

  • Arrange a ride with Uber or Lyft: It’s simple to request a ride with either of these popular services using an app on your phone. With Uber, you can schedule a ride up to thirty days in advance; with Lyft, you can schedule a ride up to seven days in advance. It’s also advisable to check that your assigned driver’s license plate matches the information provided on the app once you’re picked up.
  • Secure a designated driver: If you know someone attending the same festivities as you, ask them to be your designated driver for the night.
  • Arrange accommodations: Ask a friend who lives close to the festivities you’re attending if you can sleep at their place—this way, you don’t have to worry about driving home after drinking.
  • Host a party: If you host an event at your place, you don’t have to worry about driving home once it ends.
  • Abstain from drinking: If you tend to drink excessively, it’s best to eliminate the temptation altogether. You can enjoy a non-alcoholic beverage, such as a mocktail.

Aggravating Factors in a Florida DUI

A first-time DUI offense is considered a misdemeanor in Florida; it carries the punishment of up to six months in jail, up to one year of driver’s license suspension, and a fine no greater than $1,000.

Certain factors, however, can render the penalties of a first-time DUI more severe—they are known as “aggravating factors.”

  • High blood alcohol content (BAC): In Florida, a BAC of 0.08% is considered the legal limit. If your BAC is at least 0.15%, you can be charged with aggravated misdemeanor DUI. The penalties of this charge include:
    • Jail sentence of up to nine months
    • Driver’s license suspension for up to a year
    • Maximum fine of $2,000
  • Child passenger: If a child under the age of 18 is present in your vehicle when you are arrested for a first-time DUI, you may be charged with an aggravated misdemeanor DUI and other penalties.
    • Jail sentence of up to nine months
    • A fine ranging from $1,000–$2,000
    • Ignition interlock device (IID) for six months
      • This device is a small, handheld breathalyzer for car ignitions. If you have an IID in your car, you blow into the mouthpiece—you can start (or continue operating) your vehicle only if your breath sample passes. With an IID, the driver must also provide breath samples while driving.
  • Serious injury: You can face harsh penalties if someone else is injured while you were driving under the influence. It is considered a third-degree felony.
    • Prison sentence of up to five years
    • Maximum fine of $5,000
    • Victim restitution
      • A judge may order you to pay restitution (or compensation) to the injured party as part of the sentence of your crime.
  • Fatalities: You can be charged with a second-degree felony if someone died because you were driving under the influence. In this scenario, the consequences are more severe than that of other aggravating factors.
    • Prison sentence of up to 15 years
    • Maximum fine of $10,000
    • Victim restitution

It’s also important to consider your record—if you’ve been arrested for a DUI in the past and are arrested for DUI a second time, you will face worse penalties. For example, if you’re arrested for a second conviction of DUI with a child passenger, you can be subject to the following consequences:

  • Jail sentence of up to 12 months
  • A fine ranging from $2,000–$4,000
  • Ignition interlock device (IID) for two months

Additionally, if your BAC is higher than 0.15% at the time of your arrest, you may have to comply with more requirements.

  • Probation
  • Community service hours
  • Vehicle immobilization or compound
  • DUI school
  • DUI evaluation and treatment
  • Fees and court costs

What if I’m Pulled Over for a DUI?

If you’re pulled over for a DUI in Florida, it’s important you know your rights and how to compose yourself. You do not want to give the police or prosecutors reason to build a case against you.

  1. Exit the car if asked: Once you see the police car’s flashing lights, choose a safe area to pull over. Keep your hands on the steering wheel, so that the officer does not perceive a threat. Remain still—otherwise, the officer may assume you are trying to hide something, such as bottles of alcohol. Provide the officer with all requested documentation including your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of auto insurance.

    According to your Miranda rights (a constitutional requirement deriving from the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel), you have the rights to remain silent and have a lawyer present. You don’t have to provide any information to the officer besides the documentation previously mentioned, and you can wait until you’ve secured the representation of an attorney to answer questions.

    Ultimately, be polite to the officer but remain firm by invoking your Miranda rights.
  2. Do not submit to a standardized field sobriety test (SFST): If an officer asks you to submit to a SFST, they have reason to believe you’re intoxicated. Several factors can skew this test’s results, such as certain medical conditions and medication. You can politely tell the officer that you decline to take the test; there is no Florida law requiring that you take it.

    You can still get arrested, however, if the officer has other reasons to believe you’re drunk, e.g., if your breath smells of alcohol or your eyes appear bloodshot.
  3. Do not take a breathalyzer test: Once pulled over, an officer can request that you take a breathalyzer or chemical test. When you are issued your Florida driver’s license, you automatically consent to breath or blood testing if you are suspected of DUI. This is called the Florida Implied Consent Warning.

    Like the SFST, it’s advisable that you decline taking the breathalyzer and chemical tests because you would be giving the police and prosecutors material to build a case against you.

    There are consequences, however, if you decline either test. Your noncompliance can be evidence of “consciousness of guilt” if the state charges you with a DUI. You will also lose your driving privileges.

    You will lose driving privileges for the following amounts of time, depending on if this is your first or second DUI offense.
  • First offense: You lose your license for one year.
  • Second offense: You lose your license for 18 months and are charged with a “refusal to submit to testing” misdemeanor offense.

    While this is a catch-22 situation (as you are facing undesirable outcomes with either choice), your chances of getting charges reduced are much higher if you’re represented by an attorney experienced in handling DUI cases.

Can I Get My DUI Charges Reduced?

If you’ve been arrested for DUI, a seasoned attorney can get your charges reduced or dismissed in certain circumstances.

  • Failure to read Miranda warnings: If the police failed to read you your Miranda warnings and you made statements to them while under custody, then you can possibly have those statements thrown out (in other words, it’s possible your words can’t be held against you).
  • DUI checkpoint issues: If you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint and the police improperly set up the checkpoint or did not follow procedure, you may avoid a conviction.
  • Negotiations: An attorney can negotiate your charges with prosecutors in light of various factors.
    • Criminal history: If this is your first DUI or offense, your relatively clean record can be in your favor.
    • BAC: If your BAC level was only slightly above the legal limit of 0.08% at the time of your arrest, the prosecutor is more likely to negotiate with your attorney.
    • Decorum: If you were polite and cooperative toward law enforcement, this respectful attitude can be in your favor.
    • Clear speech: If you conduct yourself with clear (rather than slurred) speech, this can be in your favor.
    • Refusal to take SFST, breathalyzer, and chemical tests: Prosecutors have less evidence against you without the data gleaned from these tests (which, by the way, are not 100% foolproof—for example, the police sometimes fail to calibrate the breathalyzer properly).

Call Us Today

Armando J. Hernandez, P.A. has overs 19 years’ experience as both a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. He has successfully handled thousands of cases, ranging from misdemeanors to severe felonies in Miami.

He boasts several accolades and belongs to the following elite groups:

  • The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers from 2014–2021
  • America’s Top 100 Criminal Defense Attorneys

Our boutique law firm offers an unparalleled, personalized approach when reviewing each client’s case. When we take on a case, we devote 100% of our effort, time, and resources to help you understand your legal options, whatever charges you may be facing.

Call us today at (305) 400-0074 or submit your information here to schedule your free consultation.
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