You're halfway home when those blue and red lights creep up in your rearview. They are quickly approaching and your stomach starts to turn. The siren grows louder. You hope it's not for you, but it is.
Getting pulled over for a speeding ticket is alarming. Imagine if you had a glass of wine at that restaurant you've just left. There's an odor of alcohol on your breath, but you're not drunk. No way. You know your limits.
That scenario is far too common in Miami-Dade and Broward County. When you think of driving under the influence, you think of someone three sheets to the wind, weaving in and out of their lane, taking long pulls on a bottle of whiskey. That's hardly the case. More common is the scenario above - the doctor who has a glass of wine with some colleagues after work and swerves to miss a pothole. An officer lights him up, smells the alcohol, and jumps to a drastic conclusion.
When I was a prosecutor in Miami-Dade County
, I spent the early portion of my career prosecuting DUIs. One of the things I learned is that the strength of a DUI case from a prosecution standpoint depends largely on the observations of a police officer. If there is no breath evidence (remember, you have a right to refuse the breath test), and no field sobriety tests (you have the right to refuse those, too) - then how can the State proceed on a DUI prosecution?
It's very easy. Under Florida law, the State Attorney's Office may prosecute for the crime of DUI based on two theories. One theory is a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit of .08. The other is called the "impairment theory." In other words, a police officer testifying about your physical condition may be enough to convict you of a DUI. I'm not kidding. A police officer can get up on the witness stand, and testify about your alleged odor of alcohol, flushed face, and bloodshot, watery eyes. If a jury finds his or her testimony to be credible, and they believe that you were in a state of impairment when you were behind the wheel of your car; they can find you guilty of DUI.
While a noble organization, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is a powerful lobby. They have pressured the State of Florida to implement some of the toughest DUI penalties in the nation, including a MANDATORY conviction on your first offense.
As you can see, it doesn't take a breathalyzer reading of three times the legal limit to convict you of DUI
. You don't have to be incoherant, falling-down drunk to get arrested. All it takes is the observation of a police officer. Even if they are wrong.
If you are arrested for a DUI, don't simply plead guilty without a fight. The longterm effects of a guilty plea can haunt you for years. You will have a conviction on your record. You will lose your license for at least 6 months. Your car insurance rates will skyrocket...and that's even if your insurer will keep you.
You can fight these charges. Even if you blow and the reading is high, DUI law is full of technicalities. Don't give up hope without speaking to an attorney first. Contact me to discuss your case.