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 South Florida. 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
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 incoherent,
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.
to discuss your case.