Most Floridians understand that the crime of DUI (driving under the influence) is to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above .08. What many Floridians don’t know is that there are other ways to be charged and convicted with DUI in Florida under circumstances that occur when the defendant’s BAC is below .08. Following is a discussion of other ways to be convicted of DUI in Florida and what you need to know if you find yourself charged with DUI with a BAC of below .08.
Under Florida law, a BAC of .08 is a presumptive limit. A presumptive limit is a limit beyond which an individual is presumed to be unable to safely operate a vehicle. What this means is that the presumption of impairment can be challenged at trial and potentially overcome with sufficient proof.
In addition, if the defendant’s BAC does not reach .08, the prosecution may prove impairment in other ways. Dashboard camera footage, field sobriety tests, and eyewitness testimony are a few of the several ways in which the prosecution may be able to prove impairment when a defendant’s BAC is below the presumptive limit.
For instance, dashcam footage showing the defendant weaving as he drives, testimony by law enforcement of a poor performance at a field sobriety test he administered, or witnesses at a drinking establishment who watched the defendant have several drinks immediately before driving may all be used to prove up impairment.
The prosecution may also use the statements made by the defendant and the actions taken at the time of the arrest as proof of impairment below the statutory presumption. Law enforcement may testify to the defendant telling them prior to arrest that they had had several drinks before getting behind the wheel or that the defendant’s responses to their questions at the scene were unclear or nonsensical to show that he or she was impaired at the time of the arrest. Additionally, officers may testify to the defendant’s glassy, bloodshot eyes, lack of balance and coordination, slurred speech, or erratic driving to show impairment.
In Florida, a driver need not have consumed any alcohol at all to be convicted of DUI. Although the statute sets out the presumptive limit for alcohol, ingesting any substance that impairs one’s ability to drive safely can (and often does) lead to a DUI conviction. Illicit drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and even drugs prescribed to the defendant may make it difficult for him or her to drive, leading to a charge of DUI.
Declining to submit to a blood test for alcohol may also lead to a criminal conviction in Florida. As Florida law specifies that holding a driver’s license and driving on Florida’s roads implies consent to be tested for blood alcohol levels if they are lawfully arrested for DUI, choosing to not comply with such a request from law enforcement constitutes a separate crime. Not only does such a refusal lead to an automatic suspension of the defendant’s license, the defendant’s refusal to submit to BAC testing may also be used as evidence of impairment against him or her at trial.