Today's Miami Herald reports that several South Florida law enforcement agencies will be cracking down on DUI enforcement this holiday season.
In fact, just last night, Miami Police officers participated in a multi-agency DUI checkpoint on the 1000 block of MacArthur Causeway.
The checkpoint is part of a national initiative called the National Holiday Season Impaired Driving Enforcement Wave.
Authorities say December is one of the deadliest and most dangerous times on roadways nationwide due to an increase in drunk driving.
A DUI can happen even if you are not impaired. So long as the officer believes that you are under the influence, you can be arrested for DUI.
Officers typically look for "signs of impairment" when they pull over a suspected drunk driver. Signs of impairment include bloodshot, watery eyes, flushed face, odor of alcohol, and slurred speech.
A DUI is a big deal. The penalties, even for first time offenders, are harsh. Moreover, these penalties are mandatory, meaning that the judges cannot deviate from them and must impose them if you are found guilty or plead no contest.
The State Attorney will not negotiate when you are charged with a DUI. They will always seek mandatory penalties.
Click here to learn more about the mandatory penalties for your first DUI.
In addition to criminal penalties (including a mandatory conviction), you risk losing your driver's license. If you blow over a .08, you will lose your license for 6 months for your first DUI. If you refuse to submit to the breath test, you will lose your license for 1 year.
If you have a prior license suspension for refusing a breath test, you will be charged with a misdemeanor.
It may be possible to keep your driving privilege by having your criminal defense attorney set a DUI administrative hearing. During these hearings, a DHSMV hearing officer will listen to testimony from officers involved in the arrest. If they find no probable cause, the DHSMV will allow you to keep your driving privilege.
While it is always better to avoid drinking and driving, you should remember that drinking alcohol and driving a car (if you are over 21) is not a crime by itself. It is only a crime to be impaired while operating your car.
The problem is, most DUI cops don't realize that. It is my experience that if the cop smells alcohol on your breath, you will likely be arrested for DUI.
Be careful this holiday season, but be vigilant as well. If you are arrested for DUI, contact me to discuss your case. The State of Florida does not take DUIs lightly, and neither should you. You have a lot to lose. You should retain an attorney who will fight your DUI.
I represent clients in the Miami-Dade and Broward areas.