Florida’s Legal Limit Laws: It’s Not Just About Your BAC
As you head out for drinks this holiday season in Tampa Bay, you need to exercise caution. You may think that as long as your breath alcohol content stays under Florida’s legal limit of 0.08, you’ll avoid getting arrested for driving under the influence. However, the truth is that Florida’s DUI laws provide leeway for law enforcement to make an arrest even if your breath test registers below the legal threshold. Your breath alcohol content can fluctuate within a range, and police officers can consider other signs of impairment.
So while you may blow under 0.08 at the time of testing, your breath alcohol content could have spiked over the legal limit earlier while driving. Exhibiting poor coordination, slurred speech or other intoxicated behaviors may be enough evidence for an officer to make an arrest. In this case your breath test results won’t even matter. Therefore, don’t assume you’re in the clear to drive after only one or two drinks. If you blow under 0.08, you could still end up facing DUI charges.
Florida’s Implied Consent Law
Florida has an “implied consent” law, meaning that by operating a vehicle in the state, you consent to submit to a blood alcohol content (BAC) test. This allows law enforcement to test your BAC if they have reasonable suspicion that you are driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs.
Even if your BAC measures below 0.08%, the legal limit in Florida, you can still face DUI charges. Officers may determine you are impaired based on other signs like slurred speech, bloodshot eyes or the smell of alcohol. They can use field sobriety tests, like walking heel-to-toe or balancing on one leg, to gauge your impairment. If they believe you are impaired, they can arrest you for DUI regardless of your BAC.
Some factors like the time elapsed between your last drink and the breathalyzer test can impact your BAC reading. Additionally, certain medical conditions or medications may mimic signs of intoxication, leading to a false positive result during field sobriety tests. However, in the eyes of the law, there are no excuses for driving while impaired.
The penalties for DUI in Florida depend on the details of your case, including your BAC, number of prior offenses, and whether there were any aggravating circumstances. Even a first offense DUI with a BAC below 0.08% carries penalties like license suspension, huge fines, DUI school, and potentially even jail time. The costs and consequences increase significantly for repeat offenders.
The bottom line is if you’ve been drinking, don’t drive. Call a taxi, rideshare, or friend instead. Your safety and the safety of others on the road should be the top priority. No one ever regrets not drinking and driving.
Evidence of Impairment Beyond Breath Tests And The Legal Limit
In Florida, law enforcement officers can arrest you for DUI even if your breath alcohol content is below the legal limit of 0.08. They may consider other signs that indicate you are impaired and unable to safely operate a vehicle.
Field sobriety tests check things like your balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions. Failing certain portions of these tests could warrant an arrest regardless of your breath test results. Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, the odor of alcohol and difficulty performing simple tasks are also clues that you may be impaired.
Your driving pattern and behavior are also assessed. Weaving between lanes, drifting, braking erratically or frequently and inconsistent speed are indicators of impaired driving that officers look for during traffic stops and when responding to calls about suspected drunk drivers.
Additionally, blood and urine tests can also be used to determine your level of intoxication. These tests may detect substances in your system that a breathalyzer would miss and provide results that more accurately reflect when you were drinking in relation to operating a vehicle. If any of these tests show that your ability to drive was impaired, you can face DUI charges.
The totality of evidence is considered when officers make an arrest decision in Florida. Your breath alcohol content is not the only factor and in some cases may not even be necessary for an officer to determine that you should not be driving. It is important to understand how Florida’s DUI laws work to avoid finding yourself under arrest this holiday season.
Protect Your Rights With an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney such as The Law Office of William B. Bennett is critical to protecting your rights if arrested for DUI in Florida, even if your breath alcohol content is under the legal limit of 0.08.
Field Sobriety Tests
Law enforcement officers may conduct field sobriety tests to look for signs of impairment. These include walking a straight line, standing on one leg and turning, and touching your finger to your nose. Failing these tests could lead to arrest for DUI.
Officers may also consider other evidence like the odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech or reckless driving. Your behavior and statements made to the officer can also be used against you. Remaining silent and cooperating fully with the officer without admitting guilt is often advisable. If you are arrested, you’ll have a chance to speak to an experienced DUI lawyer about your case.
Challenging the Charges
A DUI attorney can review the evidence against you and determine if the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle or probable cause to make an arrest. They may be able to negotiate reduced charges or a dismissal of the case. If the case proceeds to trial, an attorney can challenge the validity and reliability of field sobriety and chemical tests and question the officer’s observations and decisions.
Even a first offense DUI with a BAC under 0.08 carries penalties like license suspension, fines, DUI school and possible ignition interlock device. Jail time is unlikely but possible. Second and subsequent offenses have even harsher mandatory penalties.
Consulting with a DUI attorney as soon as possible after an arrest can help minimize the damage to your legal and financial situation. The Law Office of William B. Bennett has the experience and expertise to help defend your rights at every stage of the DUI process.
If You Have Been Arrested, Call The Law Office Of William Bennett Now For Help With A DUI Charge
In conclusion, if you are planning to drink this holiday season in Tampa Bay, be careful. Know that in Florida you can face legal consequences for driving with a blood alcohol content even below the legal limit of .08. Understand how breathalyzers work and the margin of error they allow. More importantly, recognize that law enforcement officers consider the totality of the circumstances. Your balance, coordination, speech, and other factors are evaluated to determine if you are fit to drive. Don’t assume you are in the clear just because you are under the legal limit. The safest approach is to avoid drinking and driving altogether. Have a plan in place for a rideshare or designated driver instead. Your life and the lives of others on the road depend on it. Be smart and stay safe this season.
If you are arrested for a DUI charge, The Law Offices of William B. Bennett can help guide you through the process. Depending on your case, we may help have your charges reduced. In special circumstances, we might get your charges dismissed altogether depending on your case. Contact us here or call us today at (727) 421-8000 for a free consultation with our expert DUI lawyer criminal defense legal team.
Please visit the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for additional information on DUI charges and their consequences.