Law enforcement agencies across the country increase their DUI enforcement efforts during the holiday season. DUI checkpoints, public awareness campaigns, and other strategic efforts can all increase the likelihood of being arrested for DUI over the Thanksgiving holiday. Be sure to contact an experienced Jacksonville DUI lawyer after any DUI arrest. You have constitutional rights which must be protected.
Florida’s DUI Law
Florida law prohibits impaired driving. Section 316.193 of the Florida Statutes issues criminal penalties for driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages. This includes any chemical substance set forth in Section 877.111 or any substance controlled under Chapter 893. With so much media attention and advocacy focused on drunk driving, it can be easy to forget that drugged driving is also a crime. Drivers can be guilty of driving under the influence without any alcohol in their bodies. This fact is particularly relevant in light of the opioid epidemic spreading across the country. Florida is far from immune from the country’s epidemic of prescription drug abuse. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, nearly four thousand Floridians died in 2015 as a result of heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone. This represents 12% of all the opioid overdose deaths in the United States in 2015. The American Journal of Public Health also reports that the number of fatally injured drivers with prescription opioids in their system increased more than seven times between 1995 and 2015. Now, more than ever, it is important to recognize the signs of drug impairment in order to avoid driving under the influence.
Like other states, Florida has not been able to set a blood level at which impaired driving from drugs can be inferred. Unlike alcohol, researchers have not yet been able to confidently assess the point at which humans are likely to be impaired by such drugs. This makes it more difficult for officers to establish probable cause that a driver is impaired by drugs. The inexact nature of drug impairment also makes it more difficult for prosecutors to determine charges of impaired driving. Without set blood levels to establish impairment, a jury must generally infer it from testimony about the driver’s behavior. This ambiguity can work against the prosecution, but it can also make it more difficult to launch an effective defense. Evidence of any amount of drugs in the body places the defendant in the difficult position of arguing that he or she did not feel impaired.
Stay safe this holiday season by helping friends and family get to their destinations safely. With ride share applications like Lyft and Uber, it is easier than ever to hail a ride exactly when and where you need it. Speak up when a loved one should not be driving. This conversation, while uncomfortable, has the potential to save lives. If you or a loved one is arrested on suspicion of DUI, consult with an experienced Jacksonville DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. The sooner an attorney becomes involved in your case, the better he or she will be able to protect your constitutional rights and mitigate the damage of an impaired driving conviction.