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Fort Myers DUI/DWI Law Blog

The reality of refusing a breathalyzer test in florida

Sometimes, just one short drive home can become the start of a long, drawn out process of legal fees and court dates. Like most states, Florida strictly enforces its breathalyzer laws, but not every driver who rolls down their window to a test is guilty of driving while under the influence. Just a small drink or two can result in months, and even years, of repercussions. With these potentially crucial penalties, what are drivers' rights in the case they are presented with a breathalyzer test in the state?

In the wake of the horrific Parkland shooting earlier this month, Business Insider takes a look at the ways the state has grappled to reduce preventable death. Taking an interesting turn, Insider examines traffic safety and substance abuse, pointing out that they claim countless lives each year. Some states have taken steps toward making breathalyzer tests even more effective, such as South Dakota's "the great promise of 24/7 sober," a policy that holds DUI offenders accountable with twice daily breathalyzer tests -- if drivers blow above a 0.0, they could land in jail for one night. Business Insider lauds these recent preventative methods, claiming that they not only help reduce drunk driving, but can also cut domestic violence and reduce deaths. 

Is underage drinking really a serious issue?

Regardless of the setting, the law states that underage drinking at any level is unacceptable. Yet countless young Floridians face serious penalties each year for just one misstep -- a misstep that could result in major fines and even jail time. It is easy to feel overwhelmed in such a situation, but many may wonder, is underage drinking really a pervasive problem among today's younger generations?

A 2016 article from CNN appears to ask a similar question, bringing to attention the fact that parents can have varying views of their childrens' maturity. Some parents agree to underage drinking only in certain, supervised situations, such as family holidays or special occasions. However, U.S. law does not take these decisions lightly, arguing that kids may get a misguided message on drinking responsibly. Some parents counter this argument by noting that giving children room to experiment before leaving for college can allow them to make better decisions when alone. Health experts highlighted in the CNN report add that children who drink at earlier ages have higher chances of developing addictions later in life, and that underage drinking can also negatively affect the developing brain.

The truth about underage drinking in florida

Many Florida college students realize the seriousness of underage drinking penalties, but such penalties can create problems for far too long. Just one citation is enough to inflict damage on one's academic success, career options and personal reputation. Some have a tendency to criticize younger crowds for being reckless with alcohol; however, according to some recent sources on underage drinking problems in the state, there are many other factors at play.   

One problem that has recently gained public attention is the financial effects of jailing small-time offenders. According to the Sun Sentinel, South Florida spends millions every year on these offenders alone -- many of whom face arrests for reasons such as public drinking or panhandling. Because it costs the state roughly $50,000 a year to house each offender, commissioners in the area are reconsidering penalties for the following crimes:

  • Petit theft
  • Disorderly conduct and littering
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia 
  • Possession of alcohol by a person under 21 

How accurate are field sobriety tests?

If you are one of the many people in Florida who has been arrested for and charged with a drunk driving offense, you should learn about the options that may be available to you so that you can defend yourself appropriately. One thing that you should investigate is the tests that you might have been asked to take before you were arrested. Generally called field sobriety tests, these tests are not able to prove that you are intoxicated.

As explained by FieldSobrietyTests.org, these tests instead are only able to suggest that there is a possibility that you might be under the influence of alcohol. This possibility is what a law enforcement officer needs in order to lawfully place you under arrest. Only chemical tests can prove intoxication.

The basics of florida's breathalyzer laws

For many Floridians, driving home after having a drink could come with larger consequences than expected. While a drink or two may seem benign, driving afterwards and refusing a breathalyzer test is no light matter. However, every incident is deserving of fair consideration, and drivers who feel those rights have been violated may choose to take legal steps forward.

As the Sun Sentinel shared in 2015, concern over changing breathalyzer test laws are no new occurrence. While hardly any drinking and driving violation is a black and white situation, there is one aspect that is for certain: the strictness of penalties for refusing breathalyzer tests seem to be here to stay. At the time of the article, Sun Sentinel pointed out that Floridians suspected of drinking and driving but refuse these tests face a one-year license suspension. The bill on breathalyzer penalties, which failed to pass the next year, had sought to tighten those laws by adding up to a $1,000 fee, probation and the loss of points on a driver's license. 

Woman under legal limit charged with DUI

Most people in Florida have heard that the laws identify a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent to be the threshold at which a person may be considered legally intoxicated. Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC at or above 0.08 percent may lead to a person being arrested and charged with a driving under the influence offense. However, it is important for drivers to know that law enforcement officers may be able to arrest them even if their breath test returns a BAC lower than 0.08 percent.

This is precisely what happened to one woman recently in Indian Rocks Beach. She is today facing criminal charges for drunk driving even though her breath test showed a blood alcohol content of 0.076 percent. Reports indicate that the condition and appearance of her eyes may have been used by officers to suggest that she was impaired. Her eyes are said to have been watering, red and have a glassy appearance.

Dealing with drunk driving charges

One cannot deny that drunk driving can create issues on the road. However, there are those instances in which drivers have hardly any substances in their systems, but nevertheless face crippling charges. Floridians who face such penalties can feel lost and overwhelmed as a result of demanding legal procedures -- not to mention the potential of having a suspended license and even jail time. 

Oftentimes, there can be deeper issues with drinking and driving that go unaddressed. A minor but pesky problem with drinking and driving can go unnoticed for years, long after a driver has dealt with multiple drunk driving offenses. Even if it is not an ongoing problem, social pressure and other situational influences can have long term effects on an individual. There are basic facts to know and other precautionary steps one can take to avoid the nuisance of drunk driving charges. 

What police look for in a DUI driver

Despite roughly 30 years of DUI checkpoints in Florida, questions continue about whether they are legal, and whether motorists must comply with police if they are waved aside. Both answers are “yes.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of sobriety checkpoints as a valid means of deterring drunk driving in a 1990 ruling. The court viewed the use of them as important to states’ abilities to protect its citizens.

The one-leg stand field sobriety test

Like many people in Florida, you have probably heard that during a drunk driving stop, an officer can ask you to perform certain tests before deciding whether or not to place you under arrest. These are commonly called field sobriety tests as they are administered in the field where you were originally stopped. It is important for you to understand each of these tests including the fact that none of them are completely accurate.

One of the tests used is called the one-leg stand test. As the name implies and as explained by FieldSobrietyTests.org, during this test your balance is one of the things that an officer will evaluate. It is balance that many people may legitimately have problems with. Factors such as weight or neurological conditions may interfere with effective balance. Any injuries or conditions involving the legs, ankles, knees, hip or even back may also pose challenges for people when taking this test.

How can you get your license suspension removed?

When Florida residents are suffering without the ability to drive, Steven Wetter, P.A., is here to step in and lend a helping hand. You may not be aware of it, but there are a number of ways to get your suspended license reinstated, even in some of the most seemingly hopeless cases.

If your suspension is recent, then it's possible to fight whatever has pushed you over into that suspension. The three most common reasons for license suspension are:

  • Committing more than 3 serious offenses 
  • Not paying tickets or fines
  • Committing too many traffic violations in a certain time period

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