4 Facts Every Driver Should Know About DUI
To begin with, it should go without saying that if you plan on drinking, you absolutely should not be driving. Arrange a designated driver, get an Uber, or find some other way home after you’ve been drinking. If you’re just out for a beer or two, though, you may not think that you have anything to worry about when it comes to a DUI. The truth of the matter is that drivers find themselves in tricky situations where they have to defend themselves from a DUI charge even though they were not under the influence.
#1: You Have the Option to Remain Silent
If you’re stopped by the police after you’ve been drinking, even if you only had a single beer, it’s likely that the police are going to smell the odor of alcohol on your breath and begin to suspect that you are driving under the influence. Often, the odor of alcohol only indicates the recency of consumption of alcohol, not the amount. Therefore, the police officer may honestly believe that you had consumed much more alcohol than based on this strong smell of alcohol coming off of your breath even though you may have only had a slight amount. The officer will likely ask you if you had anything to drink and at this moment if you haven’t been drinking you should absolutely tell the officer this. If you have been drinking, though, you do not have to reveal this information to the officer. You have the option to remain silent and politely inform the officer that you do not wish to answer any questions. At this point, the officer may push back and insist you have to answer. Once again it is critical that you remain calm and polite. You have the option to advise the officer that you do not wish to speak with him without an attorney present and that he or she may arrest you or allow you to proceed on your way.
#2: You have the option to Refuse to Perform Field Sobriety Exercises
If you admit to drinking, the police may ask you to perform field sobriety exercises. Even if you don’t admit to drinking, there’s a strong chance they will still ask you. Although the police are supposed to make it clear that the choice to perform these exercises is yours, they will often pose the question in ways that make it seem more like an order or like they’re just doing a quick check. Sometimes they may not even phrase them as exercises and say things like “I just want to check your eyes.” It is essential that you know that for anything besides asking basic identifying information, some Florida courts have held that the police need your consent to carry on their investigation.
The field sobriety exercises are often the make or break moment in a DUI conviction. Many drivers feel that they haven’t had much to drink and are perfectly capable of completing the exercises. What most people don’t realize, though, is that field sobriety exercises are designed to be extremely difficult and people who haven’t had a drop of alcohol to drink often can’t perform them perfectly. If you do refuse to perform exercises, the officer will inform you that he or she will have to make a determination of whether to arrest you or not with only the information they have collected.
It is essential to note, though, that your refusal to take field sobriety exercises is information that may be presented in court, should your case actually go to trial. The negative effects of refusing to take the exercises versus the negative effects of a poor performance on the field sobriety exercises are something that varies case by case and the decision is ultimately yours.
#3: You have the option to Refuse to Submit to a Breath Test
If you have been placed under arrest for DUI, you will first be taken back to the police station where the officers will ask you to provide a breath sample so they can get an accurate reading of how much alcohol is in your system. Once again, you have the option to refuse. This refusal, however, contains much stronger consequences Florida has what is called an implied consent law. This means that by getting a driver’s license in the state you are consenting to the police requiting you to perform a breath test if they have probable cause to believe you have been driving under the influence. Because of this, if you refuse to give a breath sample, your license will be suspended for a year. If this is your second refusal, your license will be suspended for 18 months. In addition to the suspension of your license, your refusal can also be used against you in court. Although this suspension can be challenged and first-time offenders may be entitled to a hardship license the entirety of the one-year suspension, it is important that you are aware of the potential consequences. If you haven’t been drinking or haven’t had much at all it may be wise to take the breath test.
#4: You Have the Option to Remain Silent
Although this was said before, it is so important that it is worth repeating. If a police officer has pulled you over and begins to ask you questions about you drinking, and especially if they ask you to step out of your car, they may have already made up their mind about whether or not you are driving under the influence. The microphone the officer is wearing is recording everything you say from that point on and any of it can be used against you in court. You may remain silent and politely refuse to perform exercises, submit to breath tests, or answer questions.
Being pulled over and having the police suspect that you are driving under the influence is a very stressful occasion. Do your best to remain calm and remember your rights. If you are arrested for DUI, it is important that you hire an attorney promptly so that he or she may begin investigating all the details of your case and find evidence to help you. The attorneys at Meldon Law have years of experience defending DUI cases and can help you in fighting your charges. Contact Meldon Law at 800-373-8000.
703 North Main Street Suite A
Gainesville, FL 32601