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Fort Myers DUI/DWI Law Blog

Can underage drinking offenses be expunged?

Your kids may clearly understand that the legal drinking age in Florida in 21. That does not necessarily mean, however, that they will refuse to experiment with alcohol or have a drink while at a party in Fort Myers. If one of your kids face legal consequences for doing so, there may be nothing that can be done in the moment other than to accept responsibility for it and move on. Should such a decision, however, haunt him or her forever? 

Haunting is, of course, a relative term. He or she may not necessarily regret the choice to drink before turning 21; what he or she will regret is having an arrest on his or her record. Such a mark can impede him or her from getting into the college of his or her choice, landing a job, or even qualifying for housing. Is there a way, then, to get an arrest removed from your kid's record? 

Factors that raise misdemeanor DUI to a felony

Florida and all other states, plus the District of Columbia, have enacted laws that make driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol a crime. According to FindLaw, a standard DUI is a misdemeanor that typically carries a jail sentence at an area county facility. Misdemeanors are usually divided into three degrees, depending on their seriousness. Less serious than a misdemeanor is an Infraction, which does not include jail time. A felony is more serious than a misdemeanor and it carries stiffer penalties, which typically involves a fine and prison sentence.

So when does a standard DUI become a felony charge instead? FindLaw notes that there are several conditions that can elevate a misdemeanor.

  • Bodily harm: States and sometimes prosecutors may choose to increase DUI charges to a felony in cases where another person is hurt.
  • Children involved: Many states have statutes that attach enhanced penalties if children are riding in a vehicle whose driver is charged with DUI.
  • Elevated BAC level: Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher are considered intoxicated and can be charged with DUI. If a driver has a BAC of .15 or more, Florida may raise the charge to a felony.
  • Prior convictions: Felony DUI may also be charged when a driver has previous convictions for DUI offenses within a specific period of time.
  • License restrictions: If a driver is charged with DUI while using a license that has been suspended, restricted or revoked, states may raise the offense to a felony.

DUI troubles find 3 Brevard County corrections officers

The are plenty of stories out there detailing the arrests of people in Fort Myers on drunk driving charges. One might think that those tales alone (along with the details of the potential criminal penalties those accused of these offenses may face) would be sufficient to deter anyone from even the thought of driving after drinking alcohol. Yet DUI arrests continue to occur. This fact may serve to illustrate just how easily one might allow a supposed momentary lapse in judgment to prompt him or her to engage in activity that, at any other time (and in any other setting), he or she would not. 

This certainly might seem to be the case with three Brevard County corrections officers who were all recently arrested and suspended from their jobs following DUI arrests. All three officers ended up being in accidents that resulted in property damage (one reportedly also sustained injuries that required hospitalization). Two of the officers also refused to submit to blood-alcohol testing (no indication was given whether they refused breathalyzer tests or actual chemical screenings). The other had a BAC measurement of .235, which not only was three times the legal limit, but also in the range where alcohol poisoning is a possibility. 

What happens when you refuse a breath test in florida?

As much as drunk driving checkpoints and other safety measures are intended to protect a community, they seem to evoke an equal amount of fear into Florida's drivers. More so, those who have only had a minimum amount of alcohol worry that a breathalyzer test could fall just slightly over the legal drinking limit, throwing them into a vicious cycle of paperwork, court fees and revoked licenses. Although these tests can take dangerous drivers off the road, they can also place many limitations on the state's residents.

Those who express frustration over tight drinking laws are not alone. Last June, ABC News reported that Florida was number one in the nation when it came to drivers refusing breathalyzer tests. Drawing from statistics provided by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, ABC goes on to share that almost 40 percent of drivers who are pulled over with suspicions of drunk driving refuse to take the breath test. Experts highlighted in the article stated that drunk driving was especially widespread in the Tampa Bay area. Lawmakers had proposed a bill in 2016 that would have strengthened penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test, but to no avail.

How does a suspended license impact your life?

In Florida, drivers who are accused of DUI-related crimes can face the very real possibility of having their license suspended. In some extreme cases, it may even be revoked. Steven Wetter, Attorney at Law, will help you protect your ability to drive when it's being threatened.

But it's more than just your ability to drive that's at risk here. Every area of your life can be impacted by a suspended or revoked license. For example, have you considered your work commute? If you live far away from your job, it might be nearly impossible to get there via public transportation instead of car. Even if it is possible, you could be looking at adding hours on to your daily commuting time.

Putting life back together after a license suspension

The reason may have been insignificant, but the effects of a suspended license could present challenges to one's daily routine. No matter what type of drunk driving charge occurred, losing a license can threaten one's career and even quality of life. Floridians in these tricky situations may benefit from learning more about the state's administrative suspension laws and the ways they can manage the problem as best as possible.

Whether a driver faces serious consequences after an offense or simply wants to expand knowledge on state laws, it can prove advantageous to learn what offenses, exactly, lead to license suspension. The Sun Sentinel shared in February that a plethora of offenses fit under the umbrella of license revocation, including:

  • Failure to pay child support
  • Skipping traffic school
  • Missing a court date
  • Alcohol possession (for those under 18)

The penalties accompanying subsequent DUIs

Many often will attribute your first DUI in Fort Myers to a simple lapse in judgment, especially in cases where you are the only one that is affected. The same might be said about a second conviction. However, once you reach three DUI convictions and beyond, the penalties that you may face tend to get more severe. Our team at Steven Wetter Attorney at Law, P.A. has worked with clients facing subsequent DUI convictions, and their concerns are typically the same: at what point are they facing felony DUI charges? 

Your first two DUI convictions within a 10-year period will likely only result in misdemeanor charges. The exception to this would be if your driving under the influence caused accidents which resulted in property damage or serious injuries to others. Any subsequent DUI arrests within that same time period will likely result in felony charges. What exactly are potential criminal penalties you could face if convicted? The Florida High Safety and Motor Vehicles division lists them as being a prison sentence between 30 days to up to five years. That sentence could be extended even further if it is determined you meet the criteria for being a habitual felony offender. 

Are drinking laws in america too strict?

Underage drinking is an age-old subject that receives a great deal of debate. Many Floridians might agree that the current age of 21 is fitting for drinking laws, but others argue that it should be lowered. There are a plethora of arguments to each side of this topic, but the issue remains clear: thousands of Americans face severe penalties for a drinking decision made long ago. 

In most states, there is a set legal drinking age, but also a number of exceptions. Nonprofit charity ProCon takes an objective look at underage drinking in America, quickly identifying alcohol as the number one drug of choice among younger generations. A major concern involves binge drinking, which can lead to harmful situations. ProCon lists some of the advantages, however, to lowering the drinking age in the country, including the chance of ending abuse. Some claim that bars could become "safe spaces" for college students, resulting in a culture that reflects responsible drinking. Among the cons were the chances of increased car accidents. ProCon cites experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection to show that raising the drinking age to 21 resulted in a 16 percent drop in car crashes.

Why measure your breath to get your blood alcohol concentration?

The implications of you refusing to submit to a breath test in Fort Myers have been detailed on this blog in the past. While refusing a chemical breath test is a violation of the state's implied consent law, refusing a preliminary alcohol screening (like a Breathlyzer test) is not. Yet despite the setting or the circumstances, you might wonder why your breath is even measured when your level of impairment is determined by the alcohol concentration in your blood. How does your breath offer a measurement of the content of your blood? 

The Alcohol Pharmacology Education Partnership explains how. Ethanol is the chemical form of alcohol found in beer, wine and liquor. It is used in such drinks because it is water soluble. This is the pathway ethanol travels upon entering your body: 

  • After being ingested, it passes through the membranes of your stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream via passive diffusion.
  • Once in the blood, capillaries carry it to the veins, which then carry it to the heart, which then pumps the venous blood (which is oxygenated) to the lungs.
  • In the lungs, some of the ethanol vaporizes into a gas via exhalation, while the rest returns to the heart and is sent in the blood to the rest of the body via the arteries running from the left ventricle.
  • Ethanol gas built up in the lungs (more specifically, the alveolar sac) escapes when you exhale. 
  • As ethanol gas escapes, more is vaporized from the bloodstream to achieve an equilibrium. 

With so many warnings about DUI, why do people still do it?

You cannot avoid hearing about the dangers of DUI driving in Florida. There are warnings online, on TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards and signs everywhere you look. You may even see them in your mailbox as part of the latest public information campaign. So why do people continue to drive while intoxicated? It may have something to do with what psychologists call desensitization.

Dr. Lindsay Bira, a clinical health psychologist, describes desensitization as a loss of emotional reaction following repetitive contact with a stimulus. Therapists use it to treat people with disorders such as PTSD or phobias. By gradually exposing them to the situation or event that causes fear, their brain learns that it not dangerous after all and the body's fearful reactions calms.

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