Florida DUI Laws
A person in control of a motor vehicle in the State of Florida can be arrested for a DUI if driving his or her motor vehicle in an impaired manner and has alcohol or drugs of any amount in his or her system. A person in control of a motor vehicle in Florida can also be arrested if a police officer, or another officer who radios arresting officer, observes the driver driving in a manner that would raise suspicion of driving while impaired and then the driver tests .08% BAC or higher on a blood, urine or breath test. If the police officer determines that the person suspected of driving under the influence is a danger to the other persons on the road, the police officer is entitled to arrest the individual. The police officer can pull over a person for a traffic violation such as running a red light, running a stop sign, etc. Additionally, a police officer may pull over someone for not necessarily violating the law, but exhibiting signs of impairment. This includes, but is not limited to; hesitating before proceeding through a green light, driving very fast and then very slow, etc. The police officer can determine the person to be such danger if person is exhibiting such signs as slurred speech, drowsiness, and/or other signs that would indicate that the driver is too impaired to be on the road. In the State of Florida, probable cause is the standard used for DUI arrests. Either the arresting officer or one of his or her fellow officers must have probable cause that the driver is impaired before making the arrest. Probable cause, or a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime or a reasonable amount of suspicion that a person committed a crime supported by circumstances sufficiently strong enough to satisfy a prudent and cautious person, is a higher standard of evidence than reasonable belief. In essence, the evidence must be such that a reasonable person would belief that the driver has committed the offense and that the defendant driver is the one who committed the crime.
Florida has a zero-tolerance law for underage drinking and in many cases will suspend an underage DUI recipient’s license until the recipient turns 21.
Usually however, DUI’s in the State of Florida are charged as misdemeanors. DUI charges of the first and second offense are charged as such unless the BAC is .15 or higher or there was a child under the age of 18 in the car, in which case the offense is a felony. If any damage to property results from a person driving a motor vehicle under the influence, a misdemeanor in the first degree is awarded.
A third DUI conviction that occurs within ten years of the most recent previous offense is considered to be a third degree felony by the state of Florida. A driver’s fourth DUI conviction is also considered a third degree felony. In this case it does not matter when the driver’s previous offenses took place. If a serious bodily injury (meaning an injury to anyone involved, including the driver, which manifests a physical condition creating a substantial risk of death, serious personal bodily disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. Any person who commits a DUI in the State of Florida that results in serious bodily injury commits a felony in the third degree.
The first element to all DUI offenses is that the suspect must be in control of a motor vehicle at the time that the police officer initiates the traffic stop. Being in control of a motor vehicle does not necessarily mean that the individual must be driving the car. Persons can be arrested for DUI’s who, at the time of the traffic stop, are in the backseat of a vehicle and are unconscious or sleeping. The police officer making the traffic stop must have either seen the motor vehicle exhibit signs of being driven by an impaired person or the police officer making the traffic stop must have had the information relayed to him or her from another police officer that witnessed the vehicle being driven in an impaired manner.
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