DUI roadblocks are increasingly coming under fire as being constitutionally dubious, although the US Supreme Court rules years ago that DUI checkpoints or roadblocks are constitutional. Since that time, 12 states have ruled that DUI checkpoints are unconstitutional according to their state constitutions (In Florida, DUI roadblocks are still legal).
Now, many police officers will pull over any driver who they think is avoiding a DUI roadblock. But does turning around legally a few hundred yards before a checkpoint, or just turning down a side street and then turning around, constitute reasonable suspicion of intoxication? In most cases, courts have found that this behavior does not constitute reasonable suspicion. Avoidance does not mean you are legally intoxicated.
However, in South Dakota, the supreme court has decided that if you turn around ‘widely’ enough, even if it is legal, you are then sufficiently suspicious to be pulled over for drunk driving.
In the case, the driver avoided a DUI checkpoint by turning down a gravel road before the road block ahead. The police observed the driver simply make a wide turn, and did not do anything illegal. They then pulled him over and arrested him for drunk driving.
The supreme court in South Dakota stated that although avoidance was not enough of a factor for him to be pulled over, there were other factors involved. They stated that the time of day – late at night – created suspicion. Also, they stated that a ‘wide turn,’ while not against the law, might be enough to ‘engender reasonable suspicion.’
In this case, the driver’s conviction for driving drunk was upheld. While it might seem quite a stretch to conclude that a legal ‘wide turn’ provides law enforcement with reasonable suspicion, in South Dakota, apparently, it does.
The US Constitution states clearly that the police are not allowed to simply stop someone and conduct a police investigation unless there are clear facts that indicate that they may be criminal activity present. So, if that is what the US Constitution says, how are DUI roadblocks legal?
This is a good question with no obvious answer. In the case Michigan vs. Sitz, the US Supreme Court reviewed a state supreme court decision in Michigan that struck down DUI roadblocks because they are unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court reverse this decision in a 6-3 ruling.
The chief justice at the time admitted in his majority opinion that DUI roadblocks are a violation of the 4th Amendment. So, he stated that a DUI roadblock really is a violation of the Constitution, but….
He went on to say that it is merely a ‘minor violation,’ and because of all the carnage on the highways, we have to do something about it. According to the majority opinion, there is only a ‘minimal intrusion on individual liberties,’ and this must be weighed against the public need for such roadblocks.
The minority opinion on the case noted that the Constitution does not note exceptions to the rules. The question is whether law enforcement possess probable cause to stop the driver. Their argument was that just because stopping every car at a DUI roadblock might make it easier to stop drunk driving, does not justify pulling over every car without cause.
The majority opinion rested its case on the ‘fact’ that DUI roadblocks are effective, but are they really? According to DUI statistics in the state of Michigan, the lower court had found that ‘the net effect of sobriety checkpoints on traffic safety is infinitesimal and possibly negative.’
Interestingly, the US Supreme Court sent the case back to Michigan, and told the lower court to change its decision. The Michigan Supreme Court stated that DUI checkpoints are not legal under the state constitution in Michigan.
As of today, 12 states do not allow DUI checkpoints or roadblocks. In Florda, DUI checkpoints are legal.
The most important thing to keep in mind if you are pulled over for a DUI in Pasco County, Florida is always what you should NOT do. If you ever happen to be stopped by law enforcement in Pasco County for a suspected DUI, you should be aware of how to react and respond so that you put yourself in the best possible position if the case does go to trial.
You should know that from the moment you are pulled over, the police officers on the scene are looking for every piece of evidence that they can to provide justification for arresting you for DUI. Remember also that police officers are mostly good people, but they are paid by the state or country to do a job, and one of the biggest parts of the job with the most pressure on them to perform is to keep drunks off the road. So they are going to be very aggressive in trying to collect evidence against you.
Overall, the less information you provide to the police when you are stopped, the better off you will be. You should not ever answer them if they ask you where you were, what you drank, how much, or where you were going. All of this will be used against you in court, and you are not required to answer any of it.
You also do not have to perform any of the field sobriety tests that they may want to administer to you. And, importantly, there are no consequences whatsoever if you refuse to do so. Of course, the police will not inform you that these tests are in no way required. All you need to do is to politely decline to take any field sobriety tests.
When it comes to the breath test, a good rule of thumb that many DUI lawyers believe in is to decline to take the preliminary alcohol screening test (PAS) when they first pull you over and you have not yet been arrested. The problem with this test is that it can be unreliable; you have no way of knowing the quality of the device they are using and if it is in good working order.
Now if they arrest you, they will want to have you take a breath or a blood test. You should tell them that you want to take the test at the police station. The equipment at the police station is most likely to be in the best working condition. Also, if you test as legally intoxicated at the station, a good DUI lawyer can still argue that you should not be charged with DUI, because the police cannot prove you were legally intoxicated at the scene.
The bottom line is to give the police as little information as possible, without causing further legal problems for yourself.
A DUI conviction in Florida will result in what is known as mandatory adjudication. What this means is that you will have a permanent criminal record in Florida. You can never have that conviction expunged from your record. Some of the consequences of your DUI conviction in Florida include:
- A criminal record that never goes away
- As much as a year of probation
- At least six months’ suspension of your driver’s license
- A 12-hour DUI school class must be completed, and possibly alcohol counseling
- At least community service of 50 hours
- At least 10 days of your car being impounded
- Several hundred to a few thousand dollars in fines and court costs
- The possible nuisance of an ignition interlock device on your car (the cost of it is on you)
- Jail time of up to six months
- Insurance costs can increase 2-3 times
Also, when you were arrested for DUI, you may have had to sit in a jail cell for many hours. This is fairly common practice in Florida. For you to be released after your arrest in Florida, you must meet the following criteria:
- You no longer act intoxicated
- Your faculties are not visibly impaired
- Your blood or breath alcohol level is below 0.05
- At least eight hours have passed since you were arrested
If there is any good news in your DUI charge, it is that no arrest for DUI is flawless. Law enforcement frequently makes mistakes. The breathalyzer and blood tests they use also are not always perfect and can give incorrect readings. A highly experienced DUI lawyer can help you to possibly beat your DUI charge. This is why you should contact Musca Law today so they can get started in preparing your defense.
Most people who are charged with DUI in Florida are men, but more women are being arrested each year as well. Fortunately, there are some possible defenses to a DUI charge for a woman that an effective DUI attorney can use.
Field Sobriety Tests
The law enforcement officer may ask the woman to exit her car and perform certain exercises to check if she is intoxicated. A good DUI lawyer can argue that some of these tasks can be very difficult to perform well because she is concerned about safety and is under a high degree of stress.
Most law enforcement officers are male. Many women who are stopped in the middle of the night in an isolated place may feel uncomfortable in performing roadside sobriety tests. The officer might think that this reluctance shows the woman is guilty. However, a woman who declines to take these tests may have very valid reasons for not taking them.
A woman who does take the roadside agility tests may be at a disadvantage because she is wearing shoes with high heels, or possibly flip flops. The officer may tell the woman to remove her shoes, but walking barefoot over stones, glass and so forth may make her uncomfortable. Also, the stress of being put in this situation may be so much that the woman cannot perform the tasks properly.
General Female Reactions to Stress
A law enforcement officer who stops a woman for DUI may act aggressively and this can upset her. Of course, anyone can be upset in this situation, but generally, women may tend to react to a highly stressful situation such as this by crying or shaking. This does not indicate guilt usually, but is simply occurring because of stress.
Possible Gender Bias in the Intoxilyzer 8000
The breathalyzer used in Florida has been shown in some studies to give artificially high readings on women. In fact, a man and a woman of the same weight can take a breathalyzer, and the woman’s reading can be higher than
People rarely expect to be arrested for a DUI. You might be out with your wife at dinner and have a few drinks, and before you know it, you’re handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. When the unthinkable happens, you are going to be hit with a lot of information and process that can be overwhelming. The most important thing to know is that you need to act quickly and get legal representation as soon as possible. That way your DUI attorney can begin to fight the charge and hopefully avoid having your license suspended.
Do not make the biggest mistake that many first-time DUI offenders in Florida make: to make the assumption that you can’t beat your case in court, and you don’t need a lawyer. DUI law is very complex, and you really do need a skilled, aggressive lawyer on your side. A good attorney will have years of DUI law experience in Florida, and he will be able to think about your case in ways that you cannot. He also will be able to access evidence that you cannot get by yourself.
As a first-time offender, you might think that because the police got a breathlyzer or blood test on you that showed you were intoxicated, you’re case is lost. Hardly. The first thing your lawyer probably will do is to demand proof from the police that all of their measurement equipment is properly calibrated. He is going to see is their equipment is in good working order and whether there have been any problems in the past with the devices.
If you submitted to a blood test, your DUI lawyer will want your blood sample to be sent to an independent laboratory to confirm the findings of the police. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, and they must prove that you were over the legal limit (0.08 in most jurisdictions) when you were pulled over, not at the police station.
Your Florida DUI lawyer will probably be able to refute any evidence against you that was gathered in field sobriety testing. These sobriety tests are voluntary in Florida, and they can be inaccurate. Some of the factors that can affect your performance of these sobriety tests include:
- Medical conditions
- Your weight
- Type of shoes you are wearing
You are simply not going to have the knowledge and skill in DUI law to be able to properly defend yourself. What you don’t know about DUI law really can and will hurt you. That is why you should contact a highly skilled DUI lawyer at Musca Law if you are accused of DUI.
A DUI conviction on your driving record is going to cause you many problems in your life. So, you want to be absolutely certain that you are selecting the best DUI attorney that you can find in Florida. Below are five tips to make certain that you get the best defense available:
1. Don’t Be a Cheap Skate: Saving money is fine for toilet paper and laundry detergent, but do not shop for a good DUI lawyer just based on the price. If you save yourself $1,000 on your DUI lawyer and lose, was it really worth it to save that money? Hire the best and be prepared to pay for it.
2. Do Your Homework: When you charged with driving drunk, it is scary, and you will want to get professional help ASAP. Do not be hasty! The best thing you can do for your future is to sit down when you have a clear head. Get together a list of possible attorney choices for your part of Florida. Ask about the experience that each DUI attorney has and what their results were in recent cases. Make sure you know how busy the lawyer is and which specific attorney is going to work your case, and what his/her recent case results are.
3. Be Ready to Go Shopping: We do not advise just picking a name off the Internet or out of the phone book. The best idea is to visit 4-5 different DUI law firms before you make your decision. Try small and large firms, remembering that a big law firm is not always the best. You want to make sure that the lawyer that prepares your case is the one handling the trial, if possible.
4. Be Ready to Run: If you hear a lawyer say that you should plead guilty, bail. You do not want to begin your DUI case with a guilty plea. Any good DUI lawyer is going to be ready from the start to fight your case. Oftentimes, the prosecutor will back down if he sees that your attorney is aggressive and relentless. Remember to ask how many times your attorney (the one actually taking it to trial) has taken DUI cases to trial.
5. Make Your Own Decision: We all like to use professionals that our friends recommend, but when it comes to DUI defense, you really need to do your own homework. No matter who your friends recommend, do your homework and check out every DUI attorney carefully.
Now that you understand some important tips to find a top DUI attorney, contact Musca Law today. You’ll learn just how successful our firm is at handling Florida DUI cases.
One of the consequences of being convicted for a DUI in Florida is being required to take a 12-hour DUI class. This program is led by a certified DUI instructor and will teach you about some of the facts and consequences of combining driving with alcohol and substance abuse.
To enroll in your DUI class in Pasco County, Florida, you have several enrollment options. First, you may enroll in person at the DUI school of your choice. Second, you can enroll by mail by downloading the forms from the company’s website where you are taking your class, and then mail them. Or third, you can register online. Here is a list of state-approved DUI class providers.
The best idea is to enroll online, as it is the fastest and can result in your driver’s license being reinstated more quickly (it will cost you $7 more for this option). Remember that you must live in the county in which you are taking your DUI class.
If you are a first-time DUI offender in Pasco County, you will need to take the Level I DUI class. If you have been convicted of DUI two or more times, you will need to take the Level II DUI class.
To enroll in your DUI class, you will need to pay $247, plus the $7 additional fee if you register online. Other requirements include:
- Bring a ticket copy with you to the class and a photo ID. These are necessary so the instructors can document what your blood alcohol level was when you were arrested, of if you declined to take the test.
- Before you complete your DUI class, you will need to provide a copy of the arrest report and/or documentation of probable cause. You may obtain this from the Clerk of Court. Your attorney also may be able to give you a copy.
The school at which you take your DUI class CANNOT provide you with a hardship driver’s license. You will need to apply for a hardship reinstatement through the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles – Bureau of Administrative Review. You will need to prove you have registered for your DUI class for your reinstatement application to be considered.
To complete your DUI class successfully, you need to:
- Attend all classes on time and in proper order;
- Not ingest alcohol or non-prescription drugs within 24 hours of attending a class;
- Complete all class assignments;
- Pay all program fees;
- Complete substance abuse treatment, if required.
If you are not yet represented by a strong DUI attorney, we highly recommend that you do so immediately to minimize the impact of your DUI. Contact Musca Law today.
One of the most difficult aspects of being convicted of DUI in Florida is the suspension of your driver’s license.
If you are convicted in the state of Florida for your first DUI conviction, you will have your driver’s license revoked for 180 days to one year. If it was your first DUI defense and there was serious injury involved, it will be revoked for at least three years.
To reinstate your driver’s license in Florida, you must take the following steps:
If You Apply To Reinstate Before Revocation Period Ends
Before your revocation period expires, you can apply in your county of residence for a hardship license. This license allows you to drive only to and from school and work. To apply for this license, you will need to have completed your DUI school and any alcohol abuse treatment that the court required. You also will need to repeat all of the driver’s examinations, including vision, knowledge and road tests.
Then, you may apply for your hardship license at any Administrative Review Office.
If You Apply to Reinstate After Revocation Period Ends
In this case, you will need to show proof that you have enrolled and completed DUI school and any required alcohol abuse treatment. If you fail to complete the DUI school course within 90 days, your driver’s license will be revoked until you finish the class. If you fail to finish alcohol treatment, if it was required, your driver’s license may also be cancelled.
When you apply for reinstatement after your first DUI, you must take all of the driver’s examinations, pay an administrative fee, and any license fee that may be required.
Also, you must prove that you have insurance for bodily injury liability for at least $100,000 per person, $300,000 per occurrence, and $50,000 for property damage liability.
Most people are aware of the criminal penalties of a DUI conviction in Flordia: jail time, fines and license suspension. However, if you are a repeat DUI offender, the ignition interlock device also will be a key aspect of your punishment. Of course, all of the costs to install the device and maintain it in your vehicle is a financial headache that you will have to bear as part of the consequences of your conviction.
The ignition interlock device will require you to blow a deep breath that is completely free of alcohol for you to be able to start your car.
Under Florida law at the moment, if you have one DUI conviction in Florida, you do not need to have an ignition interlock device put in your car. The exceptions to this are if you had a blood alcohol content (BAC) that exceeded 0.15 or higher. The other exception is if you had a minor under the age of 18 in your vehicle at the time of your arrest. The ignition interlock device is mandatory if you are a repeat offender.
Florida Law May Change Soon
You should be advised that the legislature in Florida is trying to remove the ‘second chance’ aspect of current law. Both the House and Senate have bills in process that would require first-time offenders to have to install an ignition interlock system in their vehicle, as well. The bills in question are House Bill 861 and Senate Bill 864. Neither of these bills will become laws during this legislative session, but it is highly possible that they will pass in the near future.
Ignition Interlock Device Details
There are two ignition interlock vendors that are approved in the state of Florida:
- Does Avoiding a DUI Roadblock Constitute Reasonable Suspicion?
- The Constitutional Question of DUI Roadblocks
- Pasco County DUI Tips – What Not to Do
- Florida Mandatory Adjudication and What It Means For You
- Special Female Defenses for DUI