| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drunk Driving

What Makes a DUI Into an Enhanced DUI in Florida?

A criminal DUI conviction in Florida carries significant penalties. For a first offense, a judge may sentence you to six months in jail and order you to pay a fine of between $500 and $1,000. In addition, your driver’s license can be suspended up to 1 year. And when you are permitted to drive again, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device–i.e., a blood-alcohol detector connected to your dashboard–to operate a vehicle. But there are also circumstances where, even as a first-time offender with no prior drunk driving or criminal record, you may face enhanced penalties under Florida law. To put it bluntly, not all DUI arrests are the same. And you need to be aware of the type of actions that may lead the state to accuse you of an enhanced DUI offense. Excessive Blood-Alcohol Level You probably already know that a person is legally too drunk to drive if his or her blood-alcohol concentration is at least 0.08 percent–or in technical terms, 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. The 0.08 standard is currently the DUI threshold in all 50 states. While there are other ways to get charged with a DUI, most people are arrested based on a chemical test assessing their blood-alcohol level. Now, you might think your specific blood-alcohol level does not matter once it exceeds 0.08 percent. But under the law, it matters a great deal. If you are convicted of DUI based on evidence that your blood-alcohol level was 0.15 percent or higher, you will face enhanced penalties under the law. Once again, it does not matter if you have any prior DUI convictions. For a first offense, an enhanced DUI carries a maximum jail term of 9 months, as opposed to 6 months for a non-enhanced DUI. The fine level is also doubled. So while a judge can fine you up to $1,000 for a non-enhanced DUI, the enhanced maximum penalty is $2,000. The enhanced DUI penalties also affect a second conviction. For a non-enhanced DUI, a second offense carries a maximum jail term of 9 months. But for an enhanced DUI it is 1 year. And keep in mind, the enhancement applies only based on the current offense. In other words, if you had a 0.08 blood-alcohol level during your first DUI, and a 0.15 at the time of the second, you are subject to the enhanced penalties for the latter. Minors In the Car The enhanced DUI penalties described above also apply in cases where the accused driver “was accompanied in the vehicle by a person under the age of 18,” according to Section 316.193 of the Florida Statutes. This means that you could go to jail for a longer period of time if your minor child was in the car with you at the time of your arrest. Whether or not the child was actually harmed due to your alleged drunk driving is irrelevant. The prosecution only needs to prove there was a person under the age of 18 in the car at the same time as you. If you are looking at a possible enhanced DUI charge, you need to be proactive. These cases do not settle or go away on their own. The first thing you need to do is contact an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney who understands the Florida legal system and will fight to protect your rights. Call the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at (407) 377-0150 to discuss your situation with us.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | DUI

What Is a Car ‘Black Box’ and Can It Affect Me in a DUI Case?

We have all heard about the “black boxes” used in airplanes to record flight data. In the event of a crash, safety officials use the black boxes–which are actually orange in color to enable easier recovery–to assist in their investigation of the accident. Along those same lines, most new automobiles sold in the United States have their own black boxes or “event data recorders.” Unlike the models used in airplanes, which can record an entire flight, a car’s black box typically only records technical information for just a few seconds before, during, and after an accident. In other words, the event data recorder can tell you how fast the vehicle was going at the moment of impact, and even if the driver was wearing a seatbelt, but it will not provide any information on something that occurred five minutes before the accident. Florida Appeals Court Holds Police Need Warrant Before Looking at Car Data Many Florida residents may not even be aware their vehicle has an event data recorder. But law enforcement is certainly aware of them. And in many car accident and DUI cases, police and prosecutors are eager to get their hands on the black box data as potential evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The law regarding the use of such data remains in early stages of development. In a high-profile Massachusetts case from 2011, the state’s lieutenant governor was cited for an accident after his vehicle’s black box revealed he was “driving over 100 miles an hour and was not wearing a seatbelt” at the time, according to the New York Times. The Times further noted there was no state law governing access to the event recorder’s data. But what about Florida? Earlier this year, a divided state appeals court panel held that a trial judge in Palm Beach properly suppressed evidence that police gathered from a defendant’s black box without his consent or a warrant. The defendant faced DUI manslaughter charges in connection with a fatal October 2013 car accident. Police impounded the defendant’s vehicle following the accident. Twelve days later, the police downloaded and analyzed the data from the car’s black box. Despite having the car in their custody for nearly two weeks, the police made no effort to obtain a warrant to “search” the data recorders or retrieve its data. In fact, the police waited at least four more days after conducting their download to finally apply for a warrant, which the court denied as moot. The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled this search violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment, among other things, protects an individual’s right to privacy. Here, the Court said that extended to the data contained in a black box. Since the data itself is “not exposed to the public” and “the stored data is so difficult to extract and interpret,” the Court said that drivers have “a reasonable expectation of privacy in that information.” The police therefore cannot use data from such devices as part of a DUI investigation without a warrant or unless there are “exigent circumstances,” which were not present in this case. Are You Facing DUI Charges in the Orlando Area? The Fourth District’s decision is unlikely to be the last word on this issue. Indeed, the appeals court acknowledged it was the first court in Florida to directly address this question. Other state courts–including the Florida Supreme Court–are likely to weigh in over the coming years. If you are faced with DUI or similar charges following a car accident, it is important to speak with an Orlando criminal defense lawyer who understands how to deal with these situations. Moses and Rooth, Attorneys at Law, help people throughout Orlando and Central Florida fight drunk driving allegations. Call us at (407) 377-0150 to discuss your case with us today.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | DUI

Needle Size Matters: Clotted Blood Leads to Higher Blood-Alcohol Levels

Facing a DUI conviction can be devastating, especially when the charge is only one of several crimes that you have been accused of committing in connection with the DUI charge. When you are charged with a crime related to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), how can you be certain that the evidence obtained by law enforcement officers accurately reflects your blood alcohol content (BAC)? After all, a person cannot be convicted of a DUI without a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. If it is possible that the blood sample through which your BAC was measured had errors, you may be able to have the charges against you dropped. Can law enforcement officers in Florida require an individual to submit to a blood test? And why would a blood sample inaccurately report an individual’s BAC? Statutory Law in Florida and DUI Blood Tests Under Florida law (Florida Statutes Section 316.1933), if an officer has probable cause to suspect that a car driven by someone under the influence has caused the death or serious injury of another individual, the officer can require the person driving to submit to a test of their blood for the purpose of determining its alcoholic content. To be sure, Florida law enforcement officers do have the power to require a driver submit to a blood test in certain circumstances, as long as the blood test is “performed in a reasonable manner.” What are the circumstances under which a blood test could give an inaccurate reading of a person’s BAC? Florida Defendant Argues Blood Samples in DUI Cases Are Inadequately Collected According to a recent article in the Sun Sentinel, a defendant in a Florida DUI manslaughter case is arguing that Florida’s “state rules fail to ensure blood samples are adequately collected and screened before the evidence is used in criminal cases.” In other words, the procedures for collective blood samples are not reliable, the defendant argues. What makes the procedure potentially unreliable? In short, the procedures do not specify the type of size of the needle to be used in collecting blood, and the rules do not guarantee that “blood analysts in testing labs will toss clotted or irregular samples before cases go to trial.” The defendant contends that the diameter of the needle was too small, which “likely produced clotting and a ‘compromised’ blood sample.” When blood is clotted, it shows high blood-alcohol levels than if the blood is not clotted. With the way samples are introduced into evidence, defendants and their defense attorneys cannot know whether the blood was clotted. The article emphasizes that one way to correct the needle problem is to have standard blood test kits with larger needle diameters. In the meantime, however, if the defendant wins the case, it may be possible for others convicted of DUIs based on blood tests to appeal their convictions. Contact a DUI Defense Lawyer in Florida If you have questions about a DUI defense or appeal, an aggressive criminal defense lawyer in Florida can assist you. Contact Moses & Rooth today to discuss your case.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Claiming Intoxication in a Criminal Defense Case in Florida

Learning that you are facing criminal charges in Florida can be scary and frustrating, especially when you do not have any recollection of the crime itself because you were intoxicated or otherwise impaired. If you are charged with a crime in Florida but you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time the crime was committed, can you argue that your intoxication is a defense to the criminal charges? In other words, if you did commit the crime but did not know what you were doing due to your impairment, is that a valid defense strategy under Florida law? Learning More Voluntary Intoxication as a Defense Under Florida Law Generally speaking, in order to be guilty of a crime, you must have had intent to commit the crime (known in the law as mens rea). When an individual is so intoxicated that she or he could not possibly have had intent to commit a crime—even though she or he committed that crime—can that individual still face criminal charges? Can that individual argue that she has a diminished responsibility because she was so impaired that she could not have had the intent to commit the crime? Florida law (Florida Statutes Section 775.051) deals specifically with voluntary intoxication as a defense to a criminal act. The statute clarifies that “voluntary intoxication resulting from the consumption, injection, or other use of alcohol or other controlled substance . . . is not a defense to any offense proscribed by law.” In other words, under Florida statutory law, a person who has been charged with a crime cannot use voluntary intoxication as a defense, even if she was so inebriated that she could not form intent to commit the crime. To be sure, the statute goes on to clarify that “evidence of a defendant’s voluntary intoxication is not admissible to show that the defendant lacked the specific intent to commit an offense and is not admissible to show that the defendant was insane at the time of the offense.” To be clear, if a defendant voluntarily becomes intoxicated, she cannot use that intoxication as a defense to the crime, and she also cannot introduce evidence of her intoxication to prove that she did not have the requisite intent to commit the crime with which she has been charged. Moreover, the statute underscores that a defendant cannot use evidence of voluntary intoxication as part of an insanity defense, either. Exceptions to the Rule, and When Intoxication is Not Voluntary While most voluntary intoxication defenses will not work in Florida, there are some situations in which intoxication might be a defense to a criminal act in Florida. The statute specifically provides an exception when the defendant voluntarily took a lawful prescription drug that was prescribed to her, and the defendant became intoxicated unexpectedly. This defense may only be successful in cases where the defendant can prove that she was so intoxicated that she was unable to form intent—a key element of the crime. What about involuntary intoxication? This is a different matter altogether. When a defendant became involuntarily intoxicated—such as when she consumed a spiked drink or another substance unknowingly—then that defendant can indeed assert an intoxication defense. Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer The matter of an intoxication defense is complicated, and it is important to seek help with your case from an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact Moses & Rooth to get started on your defense.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | DUI

Will .05% BAC Become the New Norm?

DUI laws are getting tougher in Utah. Utah recently passed a law that will lower the current blood alcohol content (BAC) limit from 0.08% to 0.05%. When this law goes into effect in December 2018, it will be the lowest BAC in the United States. Utah is lowering its BAC due to recommendations from a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report published in 2013. The report asked states to lower their BAC to 0.05% in an effort to make roads safer and potentially save the lives of at least 500 Americans per year. However, the law—HB155—still needs to be tweaked before it becomes state law. It could negatively affect tourism, seeing as how the law will ban drivers from other countries from driving in Utah if they’ve had even a drop of alcohol. Is the New Law Strict Enough? Even though Utah will be the only state in the country to have such a law BAC, it still won’t be the strictest state in the nation when it comes to DUI laws. Arizona takes the top spot as the strictest state for DUI penalties. As a comparison, Utah ranks #2 for minimum fine on a first offense, #4 for minimum fine on a second offense, #9 for minimum jail time on a first offense and #10 for minimum jail time on a second offense. Overall, Utah ranks at #8—for now. How Florida Compares How strict is Florida when it comes to DUI penalties? In terms of criminal penalties and prevention, the state ranks #17 overall. It ranks 24 for criminal penalties and 5 for prevention. So while the state does well at preventing DUIs, it needs to implement stiffer penalties for those who are convicted. Florida is stricter than South Dakota, the most lenient state when it comes to DUIS. That’s because South Dakota does not impose mandatory jail time. Florida does not impose a minimum jail time sentence on a first offense, though, unlike other states. For a second offense, the minimum jail time is quite low compared to many other states—only 10 days. Stricter states have minimums of 30, 60, 90 and even 180 days. Will Other States Follow Suit? Utah is the only state that has taken action so far to comply with the 2013 NTSB report. Because the state is largely Mormon—and anti-alcohol—many residents are happy with the law. Many states may be waiting to see what will happen once the law is in place in Utah before following suit. It can be challenging to become the first state to enact a law, plus it’s a lot of work, so other states are likely taking a wait-and-see approach to see if the lowered BAC is actually a good idea. Contact a DUI Defense Attorney Today for Help While Florida does not have the toughest drinking and driving laws in the country, a person can still face serious penalties from a DUI conviction. A DUI can lead to jail, hefty fines and much more. A solid defense is critical. At the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, our Florida criminal defense attorneys have the experience to defend you in your DUI cases. Let us help you reduce your penalties or get your charges dropped altogether. Contact us today at (407) 377-0150 to schedule a free consultation.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | DUI

Tips on Getting your Driver’s License Back after DUI Conviction

In addition to fines and possible jail time, the most immediate consequence of a DUI conviction is the loss of your driving privileges. Under Florida law, conviction of a first DUI carries a minimum 180 days revocation of your driver’s license. Depending on the facts and circumstances, a judge may extend that revocation up to 1 year. And if the DUI resulted in serious injury to someone else, the minimum revocation period is extended to 3 years. Hardship Licenses & Post-Suspension Reinstatement If you have lost your license following your first DUI conviction, you need to be aware of the process for regaining your driving privileges. The first thing you need to know is that it may be possible to regain limited driving rights prior to the end of your suspension. If you need to drive for work, you can apply for a “hardship license” by asking for a hearing before the Administrative Reviews Office in the county where you live. And when your suspension period ends, you will also need to complete any DUI school or treatment program ordered by the court and present proof of your enrollment to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles before getting your license back. You must actually complete DUI school or treatment within 90 days after your driving privileges are reinstated, otherwise the Department will cancel your license again until you present proof that you finished the applicable program. You are required to take and pass an examination when applying for a hardship license or reinstatement. There are a number of additional costs associated with this, including a license fee and revocation reinstatement fee. The Department will also need to see proof of car insurance with minimum liability coverage of $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident, and $50,000 for property damage. In some cases, a judge will also order the installation of an ignition interlock device as a condition of driver’s license reinstatement. This is usually required for a first-offense DUI where the defendant had a recorded blood-alcohol level of 0.15 percent or higher or a person under the age of 18 was in the vehicle at the time of the arrest. Ignition interlocks are also mandatory when receiving a hardship license. The driver is responsible for the costs of installing the interlock device on their vehicle. Need Help With a Florida DUI Case? The process of getting your driver’s license back becomes more onerous with a second or subsequent DUI conviction. That is why it is important to avoid a first conviction if possible. A qualified Orlando DUI defense attorney can help. While no lawyer can guarantee an acquittal, it may be possible to minimize the length of a potential license suspension for a first offense. At the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, we have experience as both prosecutors and defense lawyers in DUI cases. We can put our skill to work for you. Call us today at 407-377-0150 to schedule a free consultation.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | DUI

Life After Your DUI: How to Cope

We often discuss drunk driving in terms of the legal process–i.e., the arrest and trial. But it is also important to understand just how a DUI can affect your daily life going forward. Even if you are a first-time offender who is not facing jail time, you will still find that having a DUI on your record can make it difficult to do perform basic tasks like going to work or taking your kids to the doctor. Getting Around After Your License Is Suspended Under Florida law, your driver’s license is suspended a minimum of 180 days–and up to 1 year–following a first DUI conviction. If you are convicted of a second DUI within 5 years, the minimum suspension is 10 years. And for a third conviction within 10 years, the suspension period is at least 10 years. It is possible under some circumstances to apply for a “hardship reinstatement” of your licenses while under suspension. If granted, you are permitted to drive “on a restricted basis solely for business or employment purposes,” according to Section 322.271 of the Florida Statutes. But you are not entitled to a hardship reinstatement as a matter of right. You have to complete a DUI school and apply for a hearing with the Administrative Reviews Office of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. But if you are unable to obtain a hardship reinstatement, you will need to find alternative means of getting around. Uber and other ridesharing services are a convenient, if potentially expensive option. LYNX also provides public transportation services for residents of Orange, Seminole, and Osce Counties. LYNX sells 30-day, unlimited-use bus passes for $50, making it a cost-effective option for daily commuters in the Orlando area. Some employers may even offer reimbursement or incentives to take public transit, as it reduces congestion and the demand for parking. Getting Legal and Mental Health Assistance Many times, people arrested for drunk driving are struggling with alcohol abuse or another mental health issue. If your own DUI arrest served as a “wake up” call to deal with a substance abuse problem, you should seek out professional help. The Mental Health Association of Central Florida offers a free “Mental Health Connections” program that can refer you to the appropriate services and providers in your neighborhood. This is not to say you should welcome a DUI charge. It will make your life more difficult and expensive. When all is said and done, you may have to shell out thousands of dollars for court-ordered fines, legal fees, alternative transportation, and higher car insurance rates, not to mention the additional costs associated with getting your licenses reinstated. This is why you need to take a DUI arrest seriously. At the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, our experienced Orlando DUI defense lawyers can assist you at every stage of your case. We are former prosecutors who understand how the system works from the inside. Call us today at 407-377-0150 if you need immediate legal assistance.

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Mom, Dad, I’ve been arrested for DUI: What to Do as a Parent

Every Florida parent is nervous when their teenager gets his or her driver’s license. Your biggest worry is that they will get into a serious car accident. But you should also be concerned about the possibility of a drunk driving arrest. Although teenage drunk driving has decreased significantly over the past two decades, it is still a major problem. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 10 percent of teenagers in high school drink and drive. While they might not sound like a lot, the CDC also notes that drivers under the age of 20 “are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent than when they have not been drinking.” Florida’s Zero-Tolerance Policies for Teens Who Drive Drunk That is why Florida, like most states, takes a “zero-tolerance” approach to teens and drunk driving. While a blood-alcohol 0.08 percent is the normal threshold for adult DUI, for drivers under the age of 21–the legal drinking age–it is 0.02 percent. This means that if your teenager drives after having just one drink, he or she can be legally charged with DUI. Under Florida law, a police officer who has “probable cause” to suspect your teen of drunk driving has the right to request they take a Breathalyzer or other chemical test. If they take the test and fail, their license will be automatically suspended for 6 months. If they refuse the test altogether, the penalty is doubled–a 1-year suspension. In addition, if your child’s blood-alcohol level is determined to be at least 0.05 percent, he or she must complete a substance abuse program licensed by the state before they can regain their legal driving privileges. The Steps to Take Following a DUI Arrest If your child has been arrested, it is important to sit down and discuss what happened in a calm, rational manner. Your child needs to understand that drunk driving has serious consequences. But yelling or belittling your child–i.e., “How could you be so stupid?”–will accomplish nothing. An arrest is a scary experience for anyone, much less a teen who might otherwise have never been in trouble with the law before. Your first priority should be gathering as much information about the arrest as possible. You need to know who your child was with, where they were drinking, how much they had to drink, and so forth. Once again, remaining calm during this discussion will encourage your teenager to be more forthcoming with details. After your initial shock and anger subsides, your next steps need to involve getting your child professional help. If you suspect your child has a drinking or substance abuse problem, you should seek out a therapist who specializes in helping teenagers. And of course, you will need an experienced Orlando DUI defense attorney to handle the legal aftermath of the DUI arrest. Call the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at 407-377-0150 today if you need immediate legal assistance.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | DUI

Best Nightlife and Bar Scene in Orlando

A record 68 million people visited Orlando in 2016. Tourists from all over the United States come to Orlando to visit theme parks, relax on the gorgeous beaches and play golf at the world-class courses. While many come to the Sunshine State for family-friendly fun, some come to enjoy the nightlife. Orlando has a happening bar scene geared toward locals and tourists alike. If you enjoy alcohol, friends and fun, Orlando is the perfect destination. What to Do in Orlando After Dark Many tourists enjoy the CityWalk at Universal Orlando. Here, you can find restaurants and entertainment. You can watch live shows, see the Blue Man Group, play mini-golf and even go shopping. There is even a club with music played by celebrity DJs. Disney World also has nightlife. Downtown Disney is home to shopping, dining and entertainment. You can also watch the Epcot fireworks show every night at 9 p.m. If you want to escape the tourist scene, though, there are many lounges and bars in the area so you can relax. Downtown, you can find three clubs in one building. Chillers, Latitudes and the Big Belly Brewery offer a casual atmosphere for young adults. Wall Street Plaza is another place to consider if you enjoy bar-hopping. Here, you’ll find eight bars. Loaded Hogs and One Eyed Jacks are both party bars. Globe is a European cafe, Waitiki is a Tiki lounge and Slingapours is a dance club. The Monkey Bar is a martini bar and Tuk Tuk Room offers sushi and cocktails. Many people flock to Wall Street Cantina for their margaritas. Bullitt Bar is a newer bar downtown. What makes it unique is that it features a rock and roll theme, so consider hanging out there if pop and dance music isn’t your thing. Don’t overlook the hotels. Even the locals hang out at the lounges in the most popular hotels. Rix, located at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, is surprisingly sophisticated and un-Disney-like. Here, you can find signature drinks and gourmet appetizers. in a trendy Mediterranean-inspired setting. Disney’s Grand Floridian has a band and pianist in the lobby. At Disney’s Contemporary Resort, you’ll find Outer Rim, a trendy nightspot. After dark, you’ll find karaoke at Kimonos, a sushi bar in the Walt Disney World Swan. At the Hard Rock Hotel, you can enjoy cocktails in the Velvet Lounge while enjoying the ambience of music and rock and roll memorabilia. At Gaylord Palms, you can relax at Auggie’s Jammin’ Piano Bar and hear live music every night at 9 p.m. If you’re looking for something different from the average dance club scene, consider one of these options: At Disney’s BoardWalk, you can indulge in some people-watching in a midway atmosphere. You can enjoy a nice stroll with friends and family. On most nights, you can watch street performers sing and dance—and even perform magic tricks and juggle—outdoors on the promenade. Atlantic Dance is a hot spot for business travelers. This club—open to everyone 21 and older—features ’80s dance hits and Top 40 music from Tuesday through Saturday. It’s open until 2 a.m. and best of all, there’s no cover charge. If you’re more into cowboys and the western atmosphere, head on over to Jellyrolls, which is a club that’s reminiscent of a rustic saloon. There, you’ll find dueling pianos. There’s always a boisterous crowd and it’s very busy on weekends. You must be 21 or older to enjoy this bar, which is open until 2 a.m. Drinking and Getting Home Safely It’s important to stay safe when drinking in public so your night out doesn’t end up in the emergency room—or jail. A good way to avoid getting overly drunk is to eat and drink water while enjoying your alcohol. Don’t down your drinks; sip them slowly and enjoy them. Keep your drink with you at all times. Be aware of how much you are drinking. Avoid engaging in drinking games. Do not attempt to drive home after a night of drinking. Get a ride from a sober friend or a taxi. You can also use a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft. There is no excuse to drive drunk. Have You Been Charged With a DUI in Orlando? Did your night out in Orlando lead to a DUI charge? The Orlando criminal defense lawyers from Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law can help. A DUI conviction can affect many aspects of your life for years. We can assess the details of your case and help formulate a solid defense. Give our office a call today at (407) 377-0150.   CC Image by Ricardo’s Photography at Flickr.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | DUI

Does Florida Allow Sobriety Checkpoints?

While traveling around the Orlando area, especially during weekends or holidays, you may notice police conducting random “sobriety checkpoints.” You may have even be stopped yourself. But can the police really do this? After all, if you are just driving down the street and there is no evidence that you are violating traffic laws or committing a DUI, what right do the police have to stop you? DUI Checkpoints and the Courts Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court and the State of Florida have long held that DUI sobriety checkpoints do not necessarily violate a person’s constitutional rights. While the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution normally protects citizens against warrantless searches by the police, the U.S. Supreme Court carved out an exception to this rule in a 1990 decision. The Court found that “the state’s interest in preventing drunken driving” outweighed “the degree of intrusion upon individual motorists who are briefly stopped.” The Supreme Court’s ruling did not mandate DUI checkpoints, mind you, but rather left it up to the states to decide for themselves. About a dozen states currently ban sobriety checkpoints, but Florida is not among them. However, the Florida Supreme Court does require all law enforcement agencies to adopt “written guidelines” before implementing a sobriety checkpoint. These guidelines “should cover in detail the procedures which field officers are to follow at the roadblock,” including the random selection of vehicles, how police should conduct the stop itself, and appropriate public notice of the time and location of any checkpoints. It is important to note the checkpoint must be “random.” It is illegal for the police to deliberately target certain groups–i.e., only pulling over African-American or Hispanic motorists–or to stop such a high percentage of cars as to make the checkpoint a total roadblock. Your Legal Rights at a Sobriety Checkpoint So what happens if you are stopped at a legally established DUI checkpoint? Remember, while sobriety checkpoints may not violate your Fourth Amendment rights, you still retain your right to “remain silent” under the Fifth Amendment. In other words, if a police officer at a checkpoint asks if you have been drinking, you do not have to answer. Nor can the officer actually search your vehicle without your consent or first obtaining a warrant from a judge. The officer may look for other evidence of DUI, such as whether your breath smells of alcohol or there is an open container of beer in plain view. If the officer has “probable cause” to suspect DUI, you can be asked to take a Breathalyzer or a field-sobriety test. If you refuse such tests, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended under Florida’s “implied consent” law. Have You Been Arrested at an Illegal DUI Checkpoint? There are many cases where Florida law enforcement do not properly conduct a sobriety checkpoint. If you have been arrested and charged with DUI, it is important to stand up for your constitutional rights in court. An experienced Orlando DUI defense attorney can help. Call the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at 407-377-0150 to discuss your case with a lawyer today.

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