DUI Fort Lauderdale
You probably know someone whose life has been affected by DUI. Perhaps a friend or family member has spent a night in jail because of a DUI. Or maybe a friend's problem with drugs or alcohol has led to multiple arrests behind the wheel of a car. Whatever your individual experience, DUI affects everyone.
- You were sure that you waited long enough after that last drink before starting home.
- You were pretty sure you only had two beers, or was it three.
- You were only going ten blocks from the restaurant to your home.
- You were sure that you were driving in a safe manner despite having drinks.
Call Today! 954-330-8994
The Arrest for DUI in Fort Lauderdale
If you get pulled over for a DUI in Fort Lauderdale or other Florida cities, the officer is going to put you through a routine that has been practiced many times before. In Florida, it is not illegal to consume an alcoholic beverage and get behind the wheel of a car. In order to prove that an individual is guilty of the crime of DUI in Florida, the state must prove that a person consumed alcohol to the extent that their "normal faculties" are impaired. Sadly, many officers will conclude that you are guilty of DUI simply because the odor of alcohol is present on your breath, and simply build their case from there based on roadside exercises that are nearly impossible to perform perfectly, even for a completely sober person.
The roadside exercises that an officer will ask you to perform are a loaded game. You will be provided with a list of instructions, usually just one time, in an extremely stressful situation. While the officer has practiced these exercises hundreds if not thousands of times, you will be doing these unusual acts not present elsewhere in life for the very first time, and graded on a very harsh scale. While in school for instance, if you complete something with an 80 or 90 percent accuracy rate, your performance will generally be thought of as passable, pretty good even. Not here however, as every single mistake you make (and you can make dozens of mistakes in each exercise) will be used as evidence that you are in fact intoxicated to a level that your normal faculties are impaired.
When an officer performs a traffic stop in Florida, he or she will first ask you for your driver's license, vehicle registration, and insurance. You may also immediately be asked if you have had anything to drink. Depending on the officer's observations of how you retrieve your documents, your odor and appearance, and how you answer the questions, a determination will be made of whether to engage in a DUI investigation.
The officer during this time will be noting how readily you provide the requested documents and also be looking for the usual signs of alcohol consumption, including bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and also any unsteadiness on your feet in the event you are asked to exit the vehicle. If you are showing signs of intoxication, any observations by the officer will be noted in a report for use against you at any future proceeding.
Assuming the officer suspects you of consuming alcohol or other intoxicants, you will then be asked to perform some roadside sobriety "exercises" on the side of the road. These procedures, which are essentially tools for law enforcement to gather evidence against you, will typically include Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the walk and turn exercise, an exercise that involves raising one leg for thirty seconds with your eyes closed and head back, and finger to nose exercises with your eyes closed. The officer will give you lots and lots of exact instructions of how you are to perform and any deviation at all from these instructions, whether innocent or due to intoxication, will be noted as evidence of your impairment. Everything you do, short of perfection will be noted as evidence against you. The exercises may or may not be videotaped.
Assuming you do not do the roadside sobriety exercises perfectly, the officer will in most cases now present you with a request that you submit to a breathalyzer test. If you submit to the test, any results will be used against you as physical evidence of the alcohol levels present in your body. If you refuse, the officer will explain to you that you will be losing your driving privileges for one year. The choices you make in this extremely stressful situation have far reaching consequences.
It is important to note that both the roadside sobriety exercises and the breathalyzer test are VOLUNTARY. No matter what any officer tells you or tries to convince you of, you DO NOT ever have to submit to roadside exercises or a breath test. Yes, if you are involved in an accident with injuries, the state can take an involuntary blood test from you. Yes, it is also true that if you refuse the breath test, you will lose your driver's license for one year on a first refusal. The state may also elect to pursue a misdemeanor criminal violation against you for your refusal to blow. With these facts aside however, the choice of whether to engage in these exercises and the corresponding breath test is entirely yours.
In many cases, it is in your interests to refuse both the exercises and the breath test. While you are likely to be arrested, the state's entire DUI case against you will be based on your driving pattern (if any) and the officer's observations of you. If you compare this to the very same case, where the state will claim that you did poorly on the exercises, and/or worse, failed a scientific breath test establishing that you were in fact intoxicated, it is easy to see why an accused person would rather have the case entirely based on driving pattern and officer observations.
There will not be any additional charges against you for refusing the roadside sobriety exercises. If you know you are drunk, you will gain nothing by performing these routines, unless you have some amazing ability to do them perfectly and they are in fact being recorded on video. While performing them well could derail a DUI investigation and result in the avoidance of an arrest, they are more likely to simply add evidence against you for later use in court.
The decision whether to submit to a breath test is a little more difficult. While there are exceptions, most breathalizers are calibrated properly and will not provide a false reading if the proper procedures are followed. It is important to note that in Florida, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level greater than .08. If you have had a drink or two, it is extremely unlikely that you will reach a level of .08 or greater, and so in this way, complying with the breath test may indeed provide a means for you to avoid arrest. Keep in mind however, that if you pass the breath test with a reading under .08, or even a reading of .000 (no alcohol in your system), the officer may then request that you submit to a urine test so that they may engage in a fishing expedition to see if you have marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or prescription pills in your system, any of which could also lead to a DUI conviction. If you've had nothing to drink or very little to drink, and drugs are not a concern, you might prefer to submit to the test however, as this will indeed be evidence that you are not guilty of DUI.
If you refuse to submit to breath or urine testing, your license will be taken by the officer and suspended for one year. However, you may appeal this suspension at a Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles office within 10 days of your arrest. You will typically be issued a hardship license while this appeal is pending. If your appeal is successful, your license will be returned pending final disposition of your DUI case. As you only have ten days following your arrest before you lose these rights of appeal, it is imperative that you contact an attorney immediately following your arrest.
The Defense for a DUI in Fort Lauderdale
The officer is going to use multiple pieces of evidence in an attempt to convince a jury that you were driving under the influence to the extent that your normal faculties were impaired. The mere fact that you were weaving or driving too slowly is not usually going to be enough for a conviction. Therefore the officer will typically bolster the case by claiming that you had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and difficulty standing. Any videos of your driving may be introduced. There may also be video introduced relating to your encounter with the officer, including any questioning, roadside sobriety exercises, or conversations with you while you are being transported to the station.
While you can legally defend a DUI without an attorney, there are many reasons that you typically should not. The officer involved in your arrest has typically arrested dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of defendants for DUI. It is not a fair fight to go against that kind of experience for the first time with your liberty at stake. A skilled defense attorney has seen the common practices and tricks employed by law enforcement with regard to DUI arrests and stands in a unique position to unravel them where possible. This could include questioning the credibility of the officer, showing to the jury that any sober person would have still been arrested, based on the particular routine and actions of the officer involved. Even if you submitted to the breath test and failed, there are many defenses available that are not known to the average person.
The single most important reason to hire an attorney in your DUI case is to protect your rights. This includes an analysis of whether your constitutional rights were violated by the mere fact that you were stopped in the first place. In certain cases, an attorney may successfully call into question the very basis for the traffic stop in what is known as a Motion to Suppress. An officer may not stop any motorist, anytime, and engage in a DUI investigation unless certain prerequisite facts are met. If the court finds that the officer did not have a legitimate basis for performing a traffic stop, or a legitimate basis for conducting a DUI investigation during a traffic stop, all the evidence collected must be suppressed as a matter of law and the case is dismissed. Without an attorney, you may be giving up a right to have your case dismissed, no matter how bad the facts are.
When you have an experienced DUI attorney working with you, these and many other advantages can be used to reduce or beat the charges against you. We actively negotiate with the prosecutor involved to determine if a reduced charge such as reckless driving is appropriate based on the facts of your case. If the facts are such that a trial seems like the best solution, you are in good hands using The Law Offices of Eric A. Kay. We have handled hundreds of DUI cases throughout South Florida and utilize our experience to level the playing field for you.
Call Today! 954-330-8994
Don't Delay! Call The Law Offices of Eric A. Kay, P.A., for a free evaluation of your case. Don't settle for an attorney who has little or no experience in DUI. DUI is a complicated area of the law with many potential ways that your charges may be reduced or eliminated entirely, based on the facts of your arrest. With the possibility of jailtime, probation, fines, license suspensions, and other penalties, you owe it to yourself to protect your rights.