“Think before you drink” is not just a slogan; it is good advice. While finding a reason to have a drink with friends or family comes quickly, the same cannot be said for thinking about how to get home afterwards.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is a crime. The offense of DUI occurs when you are found to be in physical control of a vehicle within the state of Florida while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or any chemical or controlled substance when affected to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired; or you have a breath or blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher.
Being in physical control means you don’t have to be moving to be charged with DUI, but simply be capable of starting the vehicle and making it move. For example, a person passed out behind the wheel of a car, with the key in their possession, sitting in their driveway could result in a conviction for DUI.
The crime of DUI in Florida is a misdemeanor. DUI has standardized penalties that are increased upon each conviction, the third of which becomes a felony. In addition, punishments are enhanced if your blood or breath alcohol exceeds .15% BAC or if you are accompanied by a minor at the time of the offense.
If convicted of DUI for the first time in Florida, a judge is required to impose the following penalties:
· Up to six months in jail.
· Up to twelve months of reporting probation.
· Minimum six-month driver license revocation, but up to twelve months.
· Minimum fine of $500, but no more than $1,000.
· Ten-day impoundment or immobilization of the vehicle used
· 50 hours of community service.
· Completion of a 12-hour DUI Substance Abuse Course.
· Completion of a psychosocial evaluation to determine if Substance Abuse Treatment is required.
· Completion of any recommended substance abuse treatment.
I recall sitting in a courtroom years ago waiting for my case to be called, when I heard the judge pronounce a sentence on a DUI defendant. The guilty driver’s sentence included a one-year license suspension, one year of supervised probation, a hefty fine, attendance at a DUI attack school and 50 hours of community service.
After reading the sentence, the judge looked directly into the defendant’s eyes and said the following, “Would have been a lot cheaper just to take a cab, huh?”
While that might sound callous to the defendant, it resonated with me. Imagine the impact the decision to drive drunk had on this defendant’s life and that it could have all been avoided by simply calling a cab or today, summoning an Uber or Lyft.
This holiday season, please keep the judge’s wise words in mind. Be safe and Happy Thanksgiving!