Florida DUI & Accident Statistics
- In 2014, Florida made 40,677 DUI arrests. 26,291 of them led to convictions.
- In 2014, Florida's 676 drunk driving fatalities represented 28.1 percent
of all total traffic accident deaths, a 4.7 percent decrease from the
- In 2013, of the 13 fatal traffic accidents in Palm Beach County, six were
related to drunk driving.
- Most of Florida's fatalities related to drinking and driving occur
on Saturdays and Sundays between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.
What Is Under the Influence?
A law enforcement officer's assessment of "under the influence"
could vary substantially from the way it is defined under state law. In
Florida, your "normal faculties" are defined as "your ability
to see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, drive a vehicle, make judgments
and act in emergencies, and, in general, to normally perform the many
mental and physical acts of your daily life." In the absence of proof
that you were legally drunk at the time of arrest - like the results of
a Breathalyzer - the officer's assessment can be challenged in a court of law.
An important misconception is that you must have been drinking alcohol
to have been arrested for DUI. But in Florida, you can be arrested for
DUI if there is evidence that you are under the influence of any controlled
Controlled substances include:
Therefore, if you are have taken any or a combination of these controlled
substances, you could be arrested and charged with DUI even if you have
not consumed alcohol. However, there are many medicines that could impair
your judgment but are not deemed controlled substances. You can't
be convicted of DUI if you are stopped while driving under the influence
of these substances. Some common examples of non-controlled substances
include the common sleep medicine Ambien and many over-the-counter sleep
aids and cough medicines.
Stopped for a DUI? Here's What You Should Do.
If you see those flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, it's best
to pull over promptly and safely as soon as possible. Use your directional
signals when pulling over. Once you are stopped, remain in the driver's
seat of the car. If your license, registration, and auto insurance are
easily accessible, have them ready for the police officer. Do not make
sudden movements that might raise suspicions or be interpreted by law
enforcers as threatening.
When the officer approaches, be polite. If the officer asks why you were
stopped, do not speculate on the reason. Be aware that any statement you
make can be used against you in a court of law. Do not try to talk your
way out of a ticket.
During the course of the DUI investigation, the officer will attempt to
have you answer questions concerning your drinking that day. You should
not make any statements to law enforcement, as every word you say will
be used against you. You are not required to answer any questions other
than biographical information such as your name. You are not required
to incriminate yourself or to justify any of your actions. Do not volunteer
You are, however, required to provide the officer with basic information
regarding your identity, including your:
- Other personal information; nothing more!
The officer will ask you to step out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety
tests. These tests are voluntary, and you do not have to perform them.
The officer may attempt to coerce you into performing these tasks, but
you are not required to do so. Always decline.
Understanding the DUI Arrest Process
If the officer issues you any citations or traffic tickets, you are required
to sign them. By signing the ticket, you are not admitting guilt, and
you could still fight those citations in court. At this point, police
could place you under arrest for a DUI in Palm Beach County. If they do,
you will be handcuffed and placed in the back of the police car. They
will then transport you to the local breath alcohol testing center. This
is where they will ask you to provide a breath sample.
The police will request that you submit to chemical tests to check for
the presence of alcohol or controlled substances. In Florida, there are
three tests which can be administered. The first is a breath test, commonly
called a Breathalyzer, which tests for the presence of alcohol. The second
is a urine test, and the third is a blood test. It is best to refuse the
Many factors can affect your case, such as probable cause for your detention,
whether or not the arresting officer actually saw you driving the car,
and whether or not the officer's evaluation is consistent with the
reports of witnesses. But ultimately, the evidence used to convict you
of a DUI charge is primarily data retrieved from blood, Breathalyzer,
and field sobriety tests administered by the arresting officer.
Field Sobriety Tests
If an officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of alcohol
or another controlled substance, he or she asks the driver to perform
field sobriety tests.
Field sobriety tests generally consist of five exercises:
Horizontal gaze nystagmus - Commonly referred to as HGN, this test is when the officer holds a pen
light in front of a drivers' eyes and asks them to use their eyes
to follow the pen light. The officer moves the pen light and watches the
driver's eyes for involuntary movement. Involuntary movement of the
eyes are viewed as a sign of impairment caused by the consumption of alcohol
or controlled substances.
Walk and turn - The walk and turn is an exercise that involves the driver walking a
series of small steps down a straight line, turning, and walking a series
of small steps back. Officers look for several clues of potential impairment,
namely the inability to follow directions, inability to walk on the line
without stumbling or inability to follow instructions.
One-leg stand - The one-leg stand is an exercise that requires a driver to lift one
leg up in the air to a 30-second count. The officer gives specific instructions
on how to hold the leg off the ground and what to do if the foot touches
the ground before 30 seconds elapse. The officer is looking for the driver's
inability to follow instructions, count, hold his or her leg off the ground
and maintain balance.
Finger to nose - The finger to nose test is exactly as its name suggests. Drivers are
told to tilt their heads back, close their eyes and call out a hand (right
or left) to touch the tip of the nose with the index finger. Here, the
officer is looking for the driver's inability to touch the index finger
precisely on the tip of the nose as well as the driver's overall balance.
Romberg alphabet - The Romberg alphabet is an exercise where the officer has the driver
recite the alphabet from A to Z in a non-singing, non-rhythmic manner.
The officer is looking for the inability of the driver to follow instructions,
correctly recite the alphabet without pausing and maintain balance.
Police use these tests to gather evidence against the driver that will
be used in court against the driver after a DUI arrest has been made.
You should refuse to perform these tests!
The driver is asked to provide a breath sample by blowing into a device
known as a Breathalyzer. If the driver refuses to provide a breath sample,
the officer is required to read what is referred to as "implied consent."
Implied consent states that if the driver refuses to provide a breath
sample, his or her license could be suspended for a period of 12 months
for a first refusal. If the driver has been charged with DUI in the past
and refuses a Breathalyzer, that suspension could be 18 months. Additionally,
if it's the second or subsequent refusal to provide a breath sample,
the driver could be charged with a misdemeanor for refusing to provide
a breath sample.
It is important to note that if a breath test is refused, it does not automatically
result in a driver's license suspension. The suspension may be challenged
through a formal review hearing with the DMV. Moreover, the driver may
be eligible for a hardship license to drive for work purposes. The driver's
license issues associated with a DUI can be very complicated, and you
should contact our West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers to fully understand
the details - and your options.
Regardless of the results of a breath test (or even if you refuse to take
the breath test), you will be booked at the Gun Club Jail and will not
be released from the custody of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office
until eight hours have elapsed. If you consent to taking a Breathalyzer
test, and you blow .08 or higher, police will have evidence that you were
driving under the influence and challenging your DUI becomes much more
What to Do After Being Released
After you are released from the Palm Beach County Jail, you should immediately
document what transpired. DUIs often are very defendable cases, but as
time passes, the details are forgotten. It's best to contact an experienced
DUI defense attorney right away. Starting from the day of your DUI arrest,
you have only 10 days to request a formal review hearing with the Florida
Department of Motor Vehicles. If you forget to request this review, it
could affect whether your driver's license suspension is sustained
or lifted. A DUI lawyer in West Palm Beach will ensure that the necessary
paperwork is filed, keeping you in compliance.
Types of Offenses Related to DUI, Serious Bodily Injury, & DUI Manslaughter
Property damage: If you damaged another person's property while driving under the influence
of alcohol or other intoxicating chemicals, you will be charged with "DUI
with property damage," which is a first-degree misdemeanor. If convicted
of DUI with property damage, you could be sentenced to one year in jail.
Serious bodily injury: If you operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
and cause physical harm to another person, you will be charged with "driving
under the influence with serious bodily injury." DUI with serious
bodily injury is a third-degree
felony for first-time offenders, and a conviction could carry a five-year jail sentence.
Vehicular manslaughter: If you are intoxicated and cause the death of another person, which includes
an unborn child, you'll be charged with "DUI vehicular manslaughter."
This offense is a second-degree felony and carries a mandatory minimum
prison sentence of four years in jail and a maximum of 30 years.
Hit-and-run: Also known as "leaving the scene of an accident," a hit-and-run
charge can range from a second-degree misdemeanor (when property is damaged)
to a first-degree felony if someone is killed. A hit-and-run conviction
involving DUI vehicular manslaughter is punishable by a maximum of 30
years in prison.
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) test refusal: When you operate a motor vehicle in the state of Florida, you give your
implied consent to undergo BAC testing if a law enforcement officer suspects
that you are under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.
Refusal to submit to a blood, urine or breath test could result in a one-year
suspension of your driver's license.
Resisting arrest: A charge of resisting arrest can be tacked on to your DUI charges due
to the most minor actions, like not obeying verbal commands or tensing
your arms during the handcuffing procedure. Resisting a police officer
without violence is a first-degree misdemeanor while resisting with violence
is a third-degree felony.
The Consequences of a DUI Charge
If you have been charged with DUI, you probably are concerned with all
the different possibilities regarding how the charge could affect your
life. In addition to the criminal charge of DUI, you also will be subject
to a license suspension in the event that your breath or blood alcohol
level (BAL) exceeds .08; or you refuse to submit to a breath, blood or
A DUI arrest brings harsh consequences not only to your driving privileges,
but to your employment. If your driver's license is suspended, how
can you drive to and from work on a daily basis? When you need to rely
on someone else for transportation, you could be late and terminated for
tardiness. You would face the challenge, on a daily basis, of how to get
to your work place. If you have children and need to drive them to day
care or school, you would not be permitted to do so while your driving
privileges have been revoked. Everyday tasks become virtually impossible
State Professional Licenses
A DUI arrest and conviction entails additional risks for individuals who
hold other types of licenses with the state of Florida. For example, the
Board of Nursing has the power to discipline nurses for problems that
stem from drugs or alcohol. Physicians, attorneys, judges, and other professionals
face similar implications. While termination might not be automatic for
a DUI arrest, nurses and other professionals who are licensed by the state
are often held to a higher standard than most and face serious consequences
if they fail to report a DUI/drunk driving arrest and conviction to their
employer or agency under which they are licensed. This is where an experienced
criminal defense attorney who specializes in DUIs can help.
Employment Background Checks
More and more companies are conducting background and driving checks on
potential employees. Companies might go back a few years or review your
entire driving record. A DUI arrest will appear on both types of checks.
A potential employee has significant challenges to overcome in order to
secure future employment with such an arrest on his or her record. Background
checks are generally run more frequently on government employees or those
with high-security clearance with jobs. It is important to immediately
contact a top-notch West Palm Beach DUI attorney to assist you in working
with the government and preventing you from losing your job.
Why Seek the Help of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A.?
Facing a DUI charge can change your life. A conviction will put a permanent
mark on your driving record and give you a criminal record. It can reduce
your chances of getting a job and make your insurance rates skyrocket.
If you're arrested for a DUI offense in Palm Beach County, an important
first step is securing a West Palm Beach DUI attorney who has the most
current knowledge of local DUI laws and the intuition to detect possible
discrepancies that could strengthen your defense - like inaccurate Breathalyzer
and blood tests and incorrect arrest procedures.
Before retaining a criminal defense attorney, review his or her background
and qualifications. Make sure the attorney practices in Palm Beach County.
Find out how long the attorney has been practicing in the county. This
is important because West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers often know
the prosecutors involved and might be able to get concessions that non-local
attorneys miss. Find out if the attorney has trial experience. You do
not want to find out the hard way -during the trial - that your attorney
has limited experience in this area.
Check out the firm's DUI lawyers' credentials. How many years have
they been practicing? Are they former prosecutors who know both sides
of the system? Do the lawyers actually go to trial? Have they successfully
handled DUI, DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide cases? Do they have
the ability and time to take your case to trial? Do they have small caseloads
so they can spend the necessary time to fight your case? These are just
a few questions you should consider before choosing legal counsel.
We Can Help Fight Your DUI Charge
In the state of Florida, the legal consequences associated with a DUI arrest
are significant. Many drivers plead guilty and accept all the penalties,
but this could have very serious effects on your life. A DUI is a misdemeanor
conviction that cannot be removed from your record. You will lose your
driving privileges. You will have trouble getting auto insurance. You
might be placed on probation with many special conditions. This is why,
when hiring a DUI attorney in West Palm Beach, it's best to be aware
that all attorneys do not possess the same skills set. A DUI causing serious
bodily injury or DUI manslaughter are serious felonies where lengthy prison
sentences are almost always imposed.
We at Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. are all highly skilled
former prosecutors who formerly practiced as trial lawyers for the Palm
Beach County State's Attorney's Office. Combined, we have more
than 70 years of experience in the criminal trial practice and more than
800 trials that have gone to verdict. We are the only criminal defense
firm in Palm Beach County with four former prosecutors.
Call us today
for a free consultation regarding your case.