There are dozens of misunderstandings and myths about DUIs in Florida. We highly advise anyone who is facing a DUI charge in Florida to read our guide to understand what’s true and what’s not. Knowing these top 10 Florida DUI myths may allow you to realize that you can challenge the arrest, or avoid making a costly and life-changing mistake.
Our Florida DUI defense lawyers also welcome you to call us for a free consultation today.
Myths About DUIs in Florida You Need to Know
DUI Myth 1: You Can ‘Sober Up’ In Your Car
Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t sober up in your vehicle after getting drunk. This is because Florida’s DUI definition covers when a person is ‘driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle’.
The police won’t care that you were sleeping in your seat; if the keys were within reach, or in the ignition then it would be determined that you had actual physical control of the vehicle. This is a crime.
Instead, you should take steps to get home safely in alternative ways, such as via an Uber, Taxi or sober friend.
If you are arrested for a DUI while sleeping in Florida or resting in your car, there may be possible defenses such as ‘parking on private property’ or ‘protecting yourself from the elements’.
DUI Myth 2: You Can’t Be Convicted If You Refuse a Breath Test
Wrong. You can still be convicted of a DUI if there is supporting evidence of driving under the influence, even if you refused the breath test. For example, your driving may have been erratic or dangerous, your speech slurred and movements indicating a drunk condition.
Refusal to perform a breath test is also a violation of the ‘implied consent law’
This law means that by owning a driver’s license in Florida, you give consent to take an approved breath test upon request.
You can refuse the test. But there are consequences – your license will be suspended immediately.
However, a refusal of a breath test may be a wiser choice if you know you’ve drunk over the legal limit. This way, the police won’t have evidence of your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and you may be able to argue you had an excuse as to why you didn’t perform the test.
DUI Myth 3: Blowing Higher Than .08 BAC Guarantees a Conviction
Blowing higher than the legal BAC limit of .08 is a crime and will result in an immediate arrest. However, with the support of a DUI defense lawyer, you may still be able to prevent a conviction.
There may be factors that invalidate the evidence. For example:
- Was the breathalyzer equipment faulty or incorrectly calibrated??
- Was the test performed improperly?
- Were test instructions given correctly?
- Was the arrest lawful?
- Were you reading your Miranda rights?
Without the defense of a Florida criminal defense lawyer, you will likely be convicted.
DUI Myth 4: You Can Only Get Arrested If You Blow Over the Legal Limit
A DUI crime is for driving ‘under the influence’. That means you can be determined as under the influence, even if your BAC was under 0.08.
For example, a police officer may note and record that you were clearly under the influence because you:
- Drove erratically
- Smelled of alcohol or drugs
- Had slurred speech.
- Spoke incoherently and couldn’t follow instructions.
- Couldn’t perform a sobriety test correctly
DUI Myth 5: DUI Lawyers Can’t Dismiss DUI Charges
Wrong. Our Florida DUI lawyers have successfully defended many DUI defendants from life-changing charges.
If we can provide evidence that your arrest was unlawful, or that the evidence against you should be thrown out then your charges may be dropped.
These are not always black-and-white cases, even if you blow over .08.
DUI Myth 6: It’s Cheaper to Pay Fines Than Hire a Lawyer
The fines for a DUI conviction are far-reaching. From court fines and probation fees, to alcohol education fees and license fees they add up fast. That’s not to mention the costs that you may incur from a loss of employment, transportation costs, relationships, insurance premiums, apartment rentals, bank loans and more.
The costs of a DUI defense lawyer are almost always worth it. You are playing a dangerous game otherwise, that risks your long-term future.
DUI Myth 7: You Have to Perform Sobriety Tests
In Florida, you are not legally required to perform a field sobriety test when you’re stopped for a DUI
Field sobriety tests are typically tests such as walking in a straight line, counting down from a number, or following the law enforcement officer’s finger with your eyes.
If you’ve had more than a couple of drinks, it’s usually wise to refuse a test rather than perform it poorly. You don’t need to give a reason for your refusal. Although the officer will almost certainly react with annoyance and confusion to that. Always remain calm and polite.
But if you know you’ve had nothing or are fully in control of your faculties, then there’s no reason to not perform the test.
DUI Myth 8: You Cannot Lower Your Penalties or Charges
With the help of a Florida criminal defense lawyer, you have a chance of lowering your penalties to a less serious conviction.
For example, we have helped DUI defendants reduce their charges to Reckless Driving charges, which come with less severe penalties.
For first-time DUI offenders in Pinellas County, you can take advantage of the Pinellas County Drop Program which fast-tracked first-time DUI offenders to lower their charge to a reckless driving charge.
DUI Myth 9: You Can’t Get a DUI as a Passenger
Many Floridians are unaware that they can get a DUI in Florida, even if they’re not the driver.
This is unusual but comes down to the ‘Actual Physical Control’ law. For example, if you were a passenger under the influence or holding a beer, and you touched the wheel or keys, then you could be deemed as being in actual physical control of the vehicle.
Passengers are more commonly charged with ‘open container’ offenses for incidents where:
- The passenger possesses an open container of an alcoholic beverage or drinks it while in the vehicle (even if the vehicle is parked or stopped on a road).
Open container offenses are misdemeanors in Florida.
DUI Myth 10: You Can’t Get a Temporary License After a DUI
After a DUI arrest in Florida, your license will be suspended immediately. But it’s a Florida DUI myth to suggest you have no options.
- You can challenge your license suspension with a criminal defense lawyer’s help – but you must do so within 10 days of the date of your arrest.
If you lose your license from a DUI in Florida, you can request a ‘hardship’ reinstatement.
Hardship licenses are awarded to people who need to drive to get to work or other critical needs. They will require the completion of a DUI school. If your BAC level was .15 or more, you’ll need an Interlock Ignition Device installed on your vehicle.
DUI Defense Attorney in Pinellas County, FL
If you’ve been arrested for a DUI in Pinellas County, our DUI defense lawyers can help by providing a swift and aggressive defense. We regularly help people like you to get their charges dropped or penalties reduced.
Our Pinellas County criminal defense attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., are part of one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms. We have the reputation and connections to make things happen.
Contact us today for a free consultation to get started or CALL (727) 381-2300