Motorists in Florida are considered too impaired to drive when they get behind the wheel with blood alcohol concentrations of .08% or higher, and DUI charges can also be filed against individuals who drive after taking illegal drugs, prescription medications or even some over-the-counter products. Scientists have yet to develop a breath test that can reliably detect drug levels in a motorist’s blood, but law enforcement officers in the Sunshine State are trained to notice signs of impairment. These signs include slower than usual reaction times, problems remembering recent events, poor concentration and reduced hand-eye coordination.
The penalties for drunk or drugged driving can be severe in Florida. In addition to losing their driving privileges for at least 180 days, individuals convicted of DUI can be ordered to pay fines of between $500 and $5,000 and may be sent to jail. Drunk drivers are also required to attend substance abuse counseling and have ignition interlock devices fitted to their vehicles. Some drivers believe that refusing to submit to a breath test is a way to avoid drunk driving penalties, but doing this will lead to a one-year mandatory license suspension.
The penalties become even harsher when motorists impaired by drugs or alcohol are involved in accident that causes death or serious injuries. In these situations, drivers can be charged with vehicular manslaughter, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of up to 10 years in a state prison.
Criminal defense attorneys with experience in DUI cases may seek to reduce drunk driving penalties by negotiating with prosecutors. They could also challenge the reliability of the breath and blood test results when police officers failed to follow strict procedures or the equipment used to generate toxicology evidence was not properly calibrated or adequately maintained. In some situations, attorneys may mount an affirmative defense, such as involuntary intoxication or necessity, to DUI charges.