Driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics is a serious crime in the United States. Some people may think that they’re still capable of driving even after a few drinks, but the risk of harming themselves or other people is still a huge risk. In the United States, an average of 29 people die on the streets every day due to a drunk driver. Only a million people are arrested every year, but that’s only a small percent of the 111 million people who admit to drunk driving.
As a driver, it’s your responsibility to know if you are mentally fit to drive. So, if you ever find yourself being stopped by police who suspect you’re driving under the influence, you may have to take a DUI test on the spot to prove whether or not you’re drunk. That doesn’t mean you don’t have any legal rights, though. Here’s what you should do.
What’s the Legal BAC to Drive?
It depends on various state laws – check out the Governors Highway Safety Association to see which laws apply to you. For Florida, for example, the laws on drunk driving are not as strict. It’s not a good idea to drink alcohol right before you have to operate heavy machinery or drive, but in Florida, you can still drink and drive. It’s only punishable by law if your blood alcohol content is 0.08g/210L or if your alcohol level is impairing your ability to drive. So, you can get arrested if you’re clearly drunk driving, or you’re stopped for an inspection and have a high blood alcohol content – even if you are capable of driving.
Can You Refuse a Breath Test or Field Sobriety Test?
If a member of law enforcement stops your car and suspects you of DUI, they may request you take a breath test or field sobriety test. Not all breath tests are accurate and, in some cases, the results are thrown out in court. However, it is possible for law enforcement to use it as evidence if they have two breath samples and their margin of difference is less than 0.02 g/210L. So, if one sample says your alcohol content is at the legal borderline but the second sample says it is 0.02 g/210L beyond the legal limit, you can be apprehended for a DUI.
It is a misdemeanor to refuse a breath test only if you have an earlier DUI incident where you refused a breath test. You can, however, refuse to take a field sobriety test without any consequences as the test results are subjective and not a good indicator of sobriety. The test involves physical tasks such as standing on one leg or stand very still, and factors such as nervousness from the rational fear of dealing with law enforcement, poor physical coordination, or a previous injury that can throw you off balance.
The law enforcer that stops you cannot physically force you to take a breath test. They can, however, threaten to have your license suspended. If they threaten you with other consequences to coerce you into taking a breath test, it is possible to have the DUI charges dismissed as this is not part of due process.
What If I am Charged with a DUI?
Whether or not you are guilty, the best thing to do is to cooperate with law enforcement and call your criminal defense attorney. Whether or not you are guilty, the state has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were indeed guilty of a DUI.
Even if you are guilty of a crime, it is your attorney’s duty to try to reduce your sentence and make sure you get due diligence from the court. Even though pleading guilty means you resign yourself to the fact that you will receive a penalty for your actions, going to court without an attorney puts you at the mercy of the court and whatever they feel is the best punishment for your actions.
DUIs are a serious crime, which is why law enforcers are taking more steps to ensuring drunk drivers stay away from the steering wheel by sanctioning tighter laws around DUI cases. If you happen to find yourself charged with a DUI, the best thing to do is to remain calm, cooperate with authorities, and demand your right to a criminal defense attorney. Whether or not you are guilty, your attorney will ensure you receive due process and the state performed due diligence in their process to prove your guilt. Having a qualified attorney may also provide you with a lighter sentence.