If you get pulled over for a DUI traffic stop in Florida, a conviction could be determined by what you do next. For that reason, it’s important to be prepared for any questions and tasks a police officer may ask from you and to know your rights.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a criminal offense in Florida. If you are found to be impaired of ‘normal faculties’ or with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or above, you will face a conviction and severe penalties.
However, there are many possible routes to a defense with the help of a DUI attorney. For example, was the Florida DUI traffic stop justified?
What Happens When You Get Pulled Over for a DUI in Florida?
In this guide, we’ll explain what happens and what to do after blue flashing lights appear in your rear-view mirror:
How You Could Be Pulled Over for a DUI
Law enforcement can stop any vehicle if there is a reason to do so. They can’t just stop you because they feel like it. But if you’re driving erratically, dangerously or speeding, they can. Similarly, they can if you miss a traffic signal or have a missing tail light.
When a police officer signals for you to pull over, you must do so safely as soon as possible. Turn on your signal lights, turn off the engine, roll down the window and remain calm.
Do not make any sudden movements and don’t leave the vehicle or turn around unless asked. Keep your hands where the officer can see them and be prepared to answer questions.
What Questions Will You Be Asked in a DUI Traffic Stop?
Once the police officer arrives at your window, they will likely ask you to step out of the vehicle and begin questioning you. Their objective here is to determine whether you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Failure to leave the vehicle will lead to immediate arrest and a resisting arrest charge.
They will ask you for your ID, registration and insurance card. These items should be easy to locate or not require the officer to ask you to locate them. If you can’t find them or fumble, it will likely be used against you in the police report. Any problem will be thrown into their reports. Don’t give them the chance.
Next, you will be asked if you had anything to drink recently and possibly how many drinks you’ve had.
You have the right to remain silent at all times, including to incriminating questions such as these. Doing so will likely irritate the police officer, so remain calm.
Many people think that being honest will win them leniency, but the cops don’t care about you acting like a good guy. They care about whether a criminal offense has occurred.
If in doubt, you can say “Sorry officer, but I’ve been advised not to answer”.
However, never lie. Lying can be used against you in court. Lying and remaining silent is not the same.
Can I Speak to a Lawyer During a DUI Traffic Stop?
During a Florida DUI traffic stop, you do not have the right to a lawyer. But once you ask for one, the law enforcement officer can no longer question you. If taken to the station or jail later, you can then receive the legal support of a criminal defense attorney.
What Tests Can You Be Asked to Perform in a Florida DUI Traffic Stop?
The police officer will next conduct field sobriety tests. They will ask you to perform these tests to determine your ability to see, walk and respond as required to drive safely and to discover your blood alcohol level (BAC).
Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) Test
You will be asked to perform a BAC test, where you blow into a machine to reveal how much alcohol is present in your body.
If you’ve had nothing to drink, you should always blow the test as it will result in .000.
However, if you’re concerned the BAC level will be over 0.08, it is always better to refuse the test – which you are allowed to do. Law enforcement officers cannot force you to take a test.
However, if you refuse, you will receive a license suspension immediately and be arrested. This is obviously less than ideal but can protect you and open the doors to defense rather than proving you were drunk driving.
If in doubt, refuse the test.
Field Sobriety Tests
There are also various field sobriety tests that you may be asked to perform during a Florida DUI traffic stop. These will reveal if you’re able to control your body appropriately and can be used in cases where the BAC level is around 0.05-0.008.
- HGN Field Sobriety Test: Horizontal Gaze Tests have the officer hold a pen or finger up to your eye level, and ask you to follow the pen with your eyes. If you are unable to move your eyes slowly and smoothly, then it suggests alcohol is present in the body. However, these tests are rarely used in courts as most officers are not drug recognition experts.
- Walk and Turn Tests: Walk and turn tests see officers observe your ability to follow simple instructions, such as walking in a line with heel-to-toe steps and then turn. If you appear to struggle with balance or to perform the task, it can suggest you’re drunk. However, these tests only have a 68% accuracy rate and can often be challenged.
- One-Leg Stand Test: In this test, you will be asked to raise a leg off the ground and to hold your balance while counting to thirty. Failure to complete the task may be used against you.
What Happens After a Florida DUI Traffic Stop?
If the officer believes you have committed a DUI offense, you will be arrested.
You will then be taken into custody, where you can request to speak to a lawyer. It is highly advised that you do not make any statements, either in person or online. Once in custody, you have the right to an attorney who can act fast and aggressively to protect your future and get the charges dropped.
- Do not make any statements.
- Do not resist arrest – it will only make things worse.
- Comply with the officer to avoid them causing injury or you committing another crime.
What Police Look for in DUI Traffic Stops in Florida:
Police officers in Florida will usually look for the following signs when assuming drunk driving:
- Erratic driving
- Driving too slowly
- The smell of alcohol
- Slurred speech
- ‘Glassy eyes’
- Bloodshot eyes
- Slow response time
- Impaired cognitive function
Contact a DUI Defense Attorney
If you’ve been arrested for DUI, then our Florida criminal defense lawyers can help.
We regularly get DUIs dropped or reduced to lesser charges. Pinellas County also now offers a DROP program for first-time DUI offenders that guarantees that your charge can be reduced to a reckless one.
Sean McQuaid is a top-rated criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County. He has handled countless Florida DUI and DWI charges in his career. He is the president at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms with the reputation and connections to make things happen.
With decades of experience helping people like you, we believe there is no better place to help you fight a DUI charge in Florida.
Contact us today for a free consultation to get started or CALL (727) 381-2300