When most people think of a driving under the influence (DUI) arrest or conviction, they associate it with drinking and driving. Alcohol-related DUI arrests occur far more frequently than other types, but drug use can also result in a DUI arrest and conviction. With the social stigma surrounding marijuana slowly disappearing due to its continued legalization across the United States, Florida has taken special measures to monitor those who smoke and drive with the state’s Drive Baked, Get Busted campaign.
If you were arrested for DUI after smoking marijuana or using any other drugs, including prescription medication, you may face harsh penalties under Florida law. Whether you are still in custody, have been released, or are looking for a qualified attorney to help a family member, contact the experienced legal team at Meldon Law as soon as possible. Our skilled drug DUI criminal defense lawyers fight hard to protect criminal defendants’ rights. Call us at 800-373-8000 to schedule a free consultation with our team.
Florida’s Definition of DUI
Florida law states that a person guilty of driving under the influence must be driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of any chemical substance mentioned in Florida Statutes § 877.111 or any substance controlled under Florida Statutes § 893 that has impaired a person’s normal faculties.
Whereas alcohol-related DUIs have specific thresholds for impairment that take some of the guesswork out of a law enforcement officer’s decision to issue a DUI citation, law enforcement officers have no standard threshold for drugs if they test breath, blood, urine, or saliva. This makes for a broad definition of DUIs involving drugs (“drug DUI”) in Florida, and in other states as well. Whether an officer arrests and charges someone for a drug DUI hinges on the officer’s observations of the driver and the results of any field sobriety tests.
Which Drugs Might Result in a Drugged Driving Arrest in Florida?
Florida law specifically deals with the abuse of harmful drugs that can be inhaled or ingested in a liquid form. The law specifically names the following chemicals:
- Hexane trichloroethylene
- Ethyl acetate
- Methyl ethyl ketone and methyl isobutyl ketone
- Ethylene glycol monomethyl ether acetate
- Nitrous oxide
- Diethyl ether
- Alkyl nitrites (butyl nitrite)
- Any similar substance that distorts the auditory, visual, or mental functions
Florida law also provides multiple lists of controlled substances that might result in a drugged driving charge. Florida divides drugs into five schedules. Schedule I substances, like heroin, are highly addictive and have no recognized medical use in the United States; Schedule V substances, like codeine, are very addictive but have broad medical applications. Some of the most common drugs involved in drug DUI cases are:
Penalties for a Drug DUI Conviction in South Florida
Without a threshold of impairment for a drug DUI arrest or conviction, Florida courts tend to rely on the circumstances of the arrest and the defendant’s previous criminal history, especially any previous DUI convictions. The following include general guidelines for potential penalties after a drugged driving conviction:
- First offense. A first-time drug DUI conviction might result in up to six months in jail, a minimum fine of $500, and 50 or more hours of mandatory community service. If the court orders a drug screening or treatment program, the offender will also be responsible for the associated costs and fees. Those who are convicted can expect to face a license revocation period from six months to one year.
- Second offense. A repeat offender who gets a conviction within five years of his or her first DUI conviction will spend a minimum of 10 days in jail, but the court may impose a sentence of up to nine months. Fines range from $1,000 to $2,000, with a mandatory five-year license revocation period.
- Third offense. A driver who is convicted of a third DUI within 10 years of his or her second conviction faces a felony offense with a minimum of one month in jail. In some cases, a judge may sentence a repeat offender to up to five years in prison. The minimum fine is $2,000 but can climb as high as $5,000, and the offender will lose his or her license for ten years.
Other situations increase potential penalties. If drugged driving resulted in property damage, personal injury, or fatality, the offender can expect increased penalties. Under Florida law, having a minor in the car while driving under the influence of a controlled substance also gives the court the ability to impose a harsher sentence.
Defense Strategies for Drug DUI in Miami-Dade
The circumstances around your arrest provide potential defense strategies for your case. Some common strategies include:
- Reasonable suspicion. Under Florida law, officers must have a reason to pull you over, such as swerving, speeding, a mechanical malfunction, etc. Without reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop, the officers have no probable cause to arrest you for DUI, and your attorney may be able to have your charges dismissed entirely.
- Lack of evidence. When law enforcement officers legally pull over a driver, they look for signs of drug use in a driver’s speech, eyes, and coordination; they may ask the driver to participate in field sobriety tests. If you took and passed these tests, and you didn’t take a blood or urine test that indicated drugs in your system, the court might not have enough evidence to convict you.
- Blood sample issues. When law enforcement officers test for drugs, they must follow specific practices and procedures. When they fail to follow these rules, your attorney may be able to challenge the tests and their results.
Contact an Experienced DUI Defense Attorney Today
Individuals convicted of a drug DUI will likely face both personal and professional struggles. In addition to the financial hardship that comes with court fines and legal fees, convicted individuals may lose their jobs, their kids, and their good reputations. A skilled DUI defense lawyer can often mitigate these losses by fighting to have your charges reduced, case dismissed, or penalties decreased.
If you are charged with a drug DUI in South Florida, let one of our qualified defense attorneys assist you. Call Meldon Law at 800-373-8000, or contact us online, for a free case evaluation today.
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Founder of the Meldon Law FirmEmail Jeffrey Meldon