More people are wrongly accused of DUI every year than every other crime on the books. Why do you suppose that is?
There’s a couple of reasons.
One is, in Florida, we don’t have any pre-arrest chemical testing. We don’t have pre-arrest breath-testing. So, when a police officer decides to make an arrest, he doesn’t have any idea what your actual blood-alcohol level is. He’s basing his arrest decision on whether he thinks your normal faculties are impaired.
What does Florida Law say normal faculties are?
Normal faculties are your ability normally to see, hear, walk, talk, make judgments, judge distances, operate a vehicle, act in emergencies and to generally carry out the many mental and physical tasks of daily life.
That specific list is set in the law. The roadside exercises that the officer asks you to do don’t have anything to do with anything on that list.
Nowhere on that list is standing on one foot, walking heel to toe, following a pen without turning your head. Can you imagine driving without turning your head?
These exercises are dangerous. They cause more harm than good. They’re the main reason why more people are wrongly arrested for DUI than any other crime on the books.
It is not against the law to drink and drive. It’s against the law to drink too much and drive. How much is too much?
In Florida, it’s against the law to drive if your breath or blood-alcohol level is .08 or higher, or if you are under the influence of alcohol to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired. But it is not against the law to drink and drive. Responsible, social drinking is not a crime. That’s why bars have parking lots.
People often ask me, “Do I really need a lawyer to handle my DUI case?”
That’s a tough question. You can certainly represent yourself. The law doesn’t require that you have a lawyer. You can lose your license without a lawyer, You can get on probation, maybe even go to jail, all by yourself.
If you really want to fight your case, if you really want somebody who’s going to give you good advice, protect your rights and defend you, then you need to talk to a real DUI lawyer.
One of the things that a DUI lawyer can do for you is to raise challenges to the way in which police gathered the evidence that they want to use against you.
Just as an example, in one case I defended, a man was stopped by a police officer based on an anonymous tip. Somebody, we don’t know who, had called the police and reported this man as a drunk driver. The officer spotted the car, followed him for a while, saw absolutely no bad driving, no traffic violations, not even a little bit of speeding, but the officer stopped him, anyway.
As a result of what the officer saw and heard after that traffic stop, the officer arrested this man for DUI.
We filed a motion to suppress the evidence, that means that we asked a judge pre-trial to make a finding that the police officer was acting beyond his legal authority when he stopped my client’s car.
The judge agreed, and excluded from evidence every single thing that the officer found as a result of that traffic stop.
This is the kind of thing that a real DUI defender can do for you.
By the way, all charges against that driver were dismissed.
A lot of lawyers handle DUI cases, but very few lawyers actually defend them. Here’s how to find out which kind of lawyer you’re talking to.
Ask the lawyer, “When’s the last time you actually tried a DUI case? When’s the last time you actually went to a seminar on DUI law?”
If the answer is “once a year” for either of those questions, you’ve got a handler, not a defender.
Just as an example, I attend approximately ten DUI defense seminars every single year, almost one every month. I try DUI cases all the time. I don’t just walk into court with people and plead them guilty; I actually fight for them and I defend them.
If you’re talking to a lawyer who only goes to trial once every year or so, you don’t have a real defender. You’ve got a handler.
DUI cases frequently take three to six months from the date of arrest until we’re finished in court. There are things we can do to make your case go faster, if that’s a good idea for you. But there also are sometimes things we need to do for you that will make the case take longer.
The most important thing is getting the best possible result, not the fastest.
If you or someone you know has questions about DUI in Florida, please reach out and connect with us.