West Palm Beach Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Lawyer
Chapter 316 of the Florida Statutes addresses driving under the influence and related crimes. In West Palm Beach and throughout the State of Florida, it is a criminal offense to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, also known as driving while intoxicated. In general, a person can be charged with driving under the influence if his or her blood alcohol level is a .08 or higher (.02 if he or she is under the age of 18) or if his or her “normal faculties” are impaired.
What Happens if I am Arrested for DUI in West Palm Beach?
The DUI process can be extremely confusing, especially if you have no prior experience in this area. A West Palm Beach DUI Lawyer from The Law Offices of Roger P. Foley can review your case and the charges involved in order to aggressively pursue options that could help eliminate them altogether or mitigate the situation. You do not have to simply "accept" the punishment, which could include jail or prison time and a driver’s license suspension, among other penalties. Call us today to speak with one of our DUI lawyers serving Boca Raton to learn more about your legal options.
What are “Normal Faculties?”
“Normal Faculties” are typically described as the ability to walk, talk, see, hear, drive, and any other function performed as a normal daily task.
How Will the Police Decide if my Normal Faculties are Impaired?
If you have been pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence, or if you have been pulled over for a traffic violation or any other reason and the police officer suspects you may also be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer will ask you to step out of your vehicle to perform field sobriety exercises (aka FSEs) in an attempt to determine if you are in fact under the influence.
Field sobriety exercises include: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), where the officer will look at your eyes to determine if they exhibit involuntary eye movement, such as shakes or jerks, called nystagmus; Walk and Turn, where the officer asks you to walk a certain number of steps heel-to-toe and then turn around and walk back; One Leg Stand, where the officer asks you to stand on one leg and count to 30 without hopping or falling; and Rhomberg Alphabet, where the officer asks you to say the alphabet without singing it.
Field sobriety exercises, also called roadside sobriety tasks, are part of the DUI investigation process of law enforcement officers. You do not have to submit to any of these “tests” under law. Field sobriety exercises are very subjective and can be interpreted differently depending on the individual police officer. Additionally, there are other elements aside from intoxication that could cause you to “fail” any of the tests such as physical injuries or illnesses, or elemental issues including the lighting in the area, the surface of the road, and even the weather.
Clues That Police Are Looking For In Impaired Drivers?
In order to be convicted of DUI, the State Attorney has to prove that you operated or you were in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. You might think that a vehicle just means a car, but in West Palm Beach people can be arrested for DUI in a car, on a bicycle, on a boat, in a golf cart, or even riding a horse.
So, what makes police suspicious before they pull you over? Here’s a list of some of the things that might get a cop’s attention before he or she pulls you over:
- Driving into another lane
- Straddling a lane line
- Almost hitting something
- Making a wide turn
- Problems stopping
- Unnecessary speeding up or slowing down
- 10mph or more under the speed limit
- Driving without headlights at night
- Not using your blinker
- Driving the wrong way
- Slow to respond to police commands
- Slow response to traffic signals
- Failure to respond to police commands
- Stopping for no reason
- Unsafe lane changes
- Illegal turns
- Driving somewhere other than on the road
You had a few drinks at dinner and are driving home when all of a sudden you see blue lights flashing behind you. What now? You want to pull over somewhere safe. This means that you do not want to pull over in an intersection, in a median, or in someone else’s driveway. The law enforcement officer will get out of the car and the first thing he or she will do is observe your appearance and your behavior. The officer will speak with you and listen to see if your speech is slurred. It’s important to be polite. Speak calmly and do not shout or call the officer names. He or she will look into your eyes to see if they are glassy and/or bloodshot. He or she will attempt to smell inside the car and will look at your clothes to see if you look put together. An officer’s first job after stopping your car is to observe and interview you face to face.
Once the police stop your car, regardless of the reason, there are some clues that the officer is trained to look when determining if someone is impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Some of those clues are:
- Difficulty with the controls in the car (such as turning the car off or turning the radio down)
- Fumbling with your driver’s license or registration (yes, even if you’re shaking because you’re nervous)
- Difficulty getting out of the car
- Repeating questions or comments
- Swaying or balance problems
- Leaning on the car or some other object
- Slurred speech
- Slow to respond to officer commands
- Giving the wrong information (name or address, for example)
- Odor of alcoholic beverage
The police officer who pulled you over isn’t just watching you; he or she is also listening to you. If a cop hears the following, you are more likely to be suspected of drinking and driving:
- Slurred speech
- Admitting to drinking- Never admit to drinking-
- Answering questions and your answers don’t make sense
- Unusual statements
- Abusive language (even if you’re upset that you got pulled over, it’s important to be nice)
The police officer will also try to smell inside your vehicle and/or your person. If you smell like alcohol, marijuana, “cover up” odors (like Listerine or perfume/cologne), or other unusual odors, you are more likely to be investigated for DUI.
Once a cop pulls you over, you will be asked to provide both your license and registration. The police will be watching to see if you:
- Forget to hand over both documents
- Hand over documents other than your license and registration
- Don’t see your license and/or registration when you’re looking for them
- Fumble with your wallet, purse, license, or registration (yes, even if you’re just nervous)
- Can’t get your documents with just your fingertips
Usually, the police will try to distract you while you’re looking for your license and registration because drunk or impaired drivers usually have a hard time dividing their attention.
Remember, the officer is always watching you and observing your behavior for any sign that you might be impaired. If you:
- Show angry or unusual reactions
- Can’t or won’t follow the police instructions
- Can’t open your door
- Leave the vehicle in gear
- Slowly climb out of the vehicle
- Lean against the vehicle
- Balance against the vehicle
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs)
If the cop who pulled you over believes that based on what he or she has observed so far is suspicious and that you may have been drinking and driving, he or she might perform some tests on you to add to the investigation. The SFSTs, Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, are the most scientifically reliable parts of a DUI investigation. That is if they are correctly administered. That’s a big “IF”.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
As your blood alcohol increases, your eyes begin to jerk as they move to the side. The investigating officer will often shine a flashlight in your eyes and ask you to look right or left, usually following a pen or finger. The cop is looking to see if your eyes involuntarily jerk when you look left or right. This test is 88% accurate at detecting intoxication when administered properly.
Vertical Gaze Nystagmus (VGN)
As you become more intoxicated, usually with drugs, your eyes will jerk when you look up. VGN is performed when the officer asks you to look up using only your eyes and holding them, looking up as high as you can, for at least 4 seconds.
Walk and Turn Exercise
If police are investigating you as a possibly impaired driver, an officer will ask you to take nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line, turn, and walk back along that same line. The instructions must be given in a very simple way before you are asked to complete those instructions. This test is 79% accurate in determining if a driver is impaired, if administered correctly.
As the cop is giving you this test, he or she is watching you and observing everything you do and say. The officer is watching to see if you:
- Can’t hold your balance while the instructions are given (during the instructional stance)
- Start walking too soon
- Stop while you’re walking
- Don’t touch your heel to your toe
- Step off the line
- Use your arms to balance
- Turn the wrong way
- Walk the incorrect number of steps
One Leg Stand Exercise
The whole time you are completing this test, the officer is watching to see if you:
- Sway while you’re balancing
- Use your arms to balance
- Put your foot down before you’re told to put it down
Breathalyzer/Preliminary Breath Testing
A breathalyzer test is scientific evidence, rather than a police officer’s opinion, that you were drinking and driving. The officer may tell you that you have to blow. That is an incorrect statement and a reason to suppress evidence. Police officers are allowed to lie to criminal suspects before an arrest but they cannot legally lie about the breath test. They must read a document to you referred to as “implied consent”. If you are being asked to take a breathalyzer test, you are the suspect in a criminal DUI investigation or likely have already been arrested. You do not have to take the test. If you refuse, your driver’s license may be suspended for the refusal, but you will not be providing a police officer with scientific evidence of your guilt if you have in fact been drinking and submit to this test. First Refusal suspends your driver’s license for 1 year and a second or subsequent refusal is 18 months. Note: On a first refusal, you are eligible for a hardship license. On a second dui refusal, you are not entitled to a hardship license. There are no waivers for a second dui refusal.
If after gathering all the evidence, including the officer’s observations and tests, the officer believes that he or she has probable cause that you have committed DUI, you will be arrested.
DUI Facts and Figures that Police are Trained to Know
- About 28 million people self-reported that they drove drunk in the last 12 months. (2018 source)
- There are about 300,000 people who drive intoxicated every day, but fewer than 3,000 of those intoxicated drivers are arrested. (2018 source)
- Drivers under the influence of alcohol or other substances are more likely to speed or turn sharply. They are also more likely to have slow reaction times.
- Intoxicated drivers are less likely to wear seatbelts.
- On an average day, 2% of drivers are on the road intoxicated. During late night hours, the number of intoxicated drivers is about 10%. On weekends and holidays, that number is probably even higher.
- 26% of fatal crashes that happen on weekends are substance-related
- For every person arrested for DUI, there are 100 people who don’t get arrested.
- Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in the country.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in West Palm Beach is a serious crime that carries heavy penalties. If you have previously been convicted of Driving Under the Influence in Florida, you are well-aware of the consequences: jail time, exorbitant fines, alcohol education class fees, court costs, license suspension, mandatory ignition interlock, probation, community service and vehicle impoundment. For the Florida Statute regarding DUI penalties, see §316.193, Fla. Stat.
Penalties for DUIs in Florida are listed in the tables below:For DUI Charges with Blood Alcohol Level of .08% to .15%
|Offense||Maximum Penalty||Fine||License Suspension||Ignition Interlock|
|1st Offense||6 months in jail||$500-$1,000||6 months-1 year||Court discretion|
|2nd Offense: More Than 5 Years After 1st Offense||9 months in jail||$1,000-$2,000||6 months-1 year||1 year|
|2nd Offense: Less Than 5 Years After 1st Offense||1 year in jail (minimum 10 days in jail)||$1,000-$2,000||5 years minimum||1 year|
|3rd Offense: More Than 10 Years After 2nd Offense||1 year in jail||$2,000-$5,000||1 year minimum||2 years|
|3rd Offense: Less Than 10 Years After 2nd Offense||5 years in prison (minimum 30 days in jail)||$2,000-$5,000||10 years minimum||2 years|
|4th Offense||5 years in jail||$2,000 minimum||permanent||n/a|
|Offense||Maximum Penalty||Fine||License Suspension||Ignition Interlock|
|1st Offense||9 months in jail||$1,000-$2,000||1 year minimum||6 months|
|2nd Offense||1 year in jail||$2,000-$4,000||5 years minimum||2 years|
|3rd Offense||1 year in jail||$4,000 minimum||10 years minimum||2 years|
|4th Offense||5 years in prison||$4,000 minimum||permanent||n/a|
Commercial drivers are subject to stricter DUI conditions. If you are a commercial driver and are found to have .04% or higher BAL, refuse to submit to a sobriety or BAL test, or are caught driving while in possession of a controlled substance, your commercial driver's license will be suspended for 1 year. A second DUI conviction will result in the permanent suspension of your commercial driver's license.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is it Worth Getting a Lawyer?
- Why do I say That?
- What is the Average Cost of a Lawyer?
- Should you Plead Guilty?
- Can a DUI get Dismissed?
- Do I Need a Lawyer for a First-time DUI?
- How Long do DUI Cases Take?
- Is it Worth Fighting a DUI?
Yes. You already have been arrested, spent eight (8) hours in jail do you really want the court system to kick the living crap out of you. Nobody but your DUI Defense Attorney has you best interest at heart.
Because the system will beat the average person down and overwhelm them with stress and anxiety. A West Palm Beach DUI Lawyer will discuss options, look for mistakes, and work within the system to acquire the best result. You are hiring an attorney to be your best friend and to review everything with a magnifying glass. Mistakes happen, your attorney’s job is to look for them.
Fees range from $2,000 to $15,000 for a first dui. However, the fee is dependent on the experience of your attorney. Respectfully, not every attorney has the same training. There are too many attorneys that dabble in DUI and the client/defendant does not receive the best possible outcome. Mr. Foley is a member of the National College of DUI Defense, he has taken the same courses that police officers have: DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST’s), Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE). Mr. Foley has also completed and passed the Instructor Course which means that he has the information necessary to train others in dui detection, however he uses that information to find fault in police officers that have not properly administered the exercises.
No. You should let a trained dui attorney review your case and make a determination of what is best in your case. If you plead guilty to a DUI, it will be a conviction and stay on your record for life. Pleading Guilty is a last resort. You only do it, if police did everything correct when arresting you. That is why you hire an attorney that has proper training. The dui attorney will review all options and defenses in your case and will give you guidance on how to proceed. Many people contact our office with an expectation that they must plead guilty because they were impaired but then learn that the officer made substantive mistakes, mistakes that could get the case reduced or dismissed. Never plead guilty until you have a dui attorney review your case.
Yes. Absolutely. The most common way is via a Motion to Suppress Evidence. The best way to have a dui case dismissed is by attacking the stop of the vehicle, the reasonable suspicion to begin the dui investigation, and attacking of the blood, breath or urine test. DUI is a complicated area of law and many officers make mistakes that can result in dismissal of charges.
Yes. The reason being is you don’t have training in DUI to protect yourself. The system has been known to take advantage of people. Pleading guilty is the last resort. Your facts must be analyzed by a qualified dui attorney. You may be eligible for a diversion program or you may have a 4th, 5th, or 14th amendment issue that could lead to dismissal of your case. The worst thing you can do is not hire an attorney and suffer the consequences for life. You will have increased insurance premiums, probation, court fees, loss of license, and other statutory consequences. A Dui cannot be expunged from a record unless its dismissed. Often people say, “oh it’s just a dui, it’s not that big a deal.” As time goes by they realize the collateral consequences, such as limited employment, denial on a residential lease application, special auto insurance with high premiums, and a permanent mark on their reputation. One should seriously consider spending their hard-earned money to be sure that they make the right choice and that the system does not take advantage of them.
DUI cases can be over within 90 days or continue for a year and a half. Each case is different. The reality is the longer the case takes the better it generally is for the defendant. The reason being memories of witnesses’ fade, officers relocate, retire, get fired, get arrested, etc. There are numerous issues that can be attacked in a dui case. If depositions are taken they take time to coordinate, if motions are filed then dates are dependent on the judge’s schedule, an officer can be on leave or in special training, people get sick. There are so many things that must be done. The more issue the case has the longer it will be. Every case is different.
It depends on your facts, the police officer, the judge, the prosecutor and who you choose as your dui defense lawyer. Here is an example fact pattern: Your car is stopped in the middle of a main street, blocking traffic, the police arrive on scene, the police claim that you have an odor of alcohol coming from your person, flush face, bloodshot eyes, slur your words, and you are arguing with your passenger while you also admit to drinking, and you don’t perform the roadside exercises to standard. You look drunk. The police arrest you. Then upon arriving at the police station you give a breath test and receive a blood alcohol content of 3.06. Most people may not fight that case, our client did. We filed five (5) motions to suppress, lost 4 of them but won one. You only need one substantive issue. The case was dismissed on a technicality. The officers never found the keys to the car. Without the keys, the state could not establish actual physical control of the vehicle. Motion granted. Case dismissed. Sure, that does not happen every day, point is you need a dui attorney that knows his craft and has the confidence to file and argue motions. If you don’t fight, then you can’t win. It depends on you whether your dui is worth fighting. Consult a dui attorney.
Florida DUI Video Series