Your Gainesville DUI Case: The Basics

The Gators won! Well, how could they not? You wore your best jersey, painted your face orange and blue, touched your lucky gator figurine three times on the way out the door, had a killer tailgate party, and drank a beer each time they scored a touchdown. This formula for success has been honed over years of Gator fandom, and works just about every time. The only problem is that you now you have to get home from the game. Designating a driver is best, because driving home in your current state could expose you to a DUI conviction. Not sure what that means in Gainesville? Read on to find out.

First, it's best to be clear: driving while intoxicated is never advisable because it is very dangerous. Roughly one-third of fatal traffic accidents in Florida involve a driver who is intoxicated. Any legal consequence of driving while under the influence of intoxicating drugs will pale in comparison to the emotional and physical ramifications of ruining someone else's life.

What Is a Florida DUI?

In Florida, DUI stands for "Driving Under the Influence [of Alcoholic Beverages, Chemical Substances or Controlled Substances]." You might have also seen the abbreviation DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), which most likely refers to similar crimes in other states. Someone is guilty of a DUI in Florida when:

  1. she is in control of a vehicle, which includes bicycles;
  2. with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher; or
  3. while under the influence of a chemical substance to the extent that her normal faculties are impaired.

Notice that you could still be guilty of a DUI even if you used a substance other than alcohol. Whether you had a prescription or other right to use the substance does not matter. You could also be convicted of a DUI if your BAC is .08 or higher, regardless of whether your driving is actually impaired.

Also, Florida has a fairly strict rule when deciding what it means to be in control of a vehicle. Florida courts have decided that someone is in control of a vehicle when they have the ability to start the car and make it move. This means that someone who is sitting in the driver seat of a parked car with the engine off is still "in control" of the vehicle and may be arrested for a DUI if they are intoxicated.

Gainesville DUI Stops

DUI stops in Gainesville, Florida, work much the same as DUI stops around the state. First, the police officer may observe that a someone is driving erratically or notice something odd at a DUI checkpoint. Once stopped, the officer can question the driver, and if suspicion warrants it, perform a field sobriety test. If the officer concludes that the driver's faculties were impaired, then she can arrest the driver.

Gainesville DUI Process

After a police officer arrests a driver for DUI, she may decide to administer a breathalyzer test. Florida drivers must submit to chemical drug testing under the state's implied consent laws, which say that drivers consent to drug tests when they obtain their driver's license. Refusal to take the test may lead to a license suspension for 12-18 months, and may be used as evidence against the driver in court. However, refusing a breathalyzer test is not a crime in and of itself.

The police officer will then take the driver to the Alachua County Jail for booking. The driver may be held there for up to 8 hours, or until his faculties are no longer impaired. He will then be released on bail, or a promise to return to court in exchange for money.

The case will proceed to an arraignment, where the driver will plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If the driver pleads not guilty, the facts will be examined in a criminal trial; otherwise, the case will proceed straight to sentencing. Criminal procedures, like DUI trials, are held in the Alachua County Criminal Justice Center.

Gainesville DUI Consequences

The consequences for a DUI vary depending on how many prior convictions a driver has within the past 10 years. The Florida DMV has some good information about different types of DUI offenses and their penalties. In general, the penalties can fines, incarceration, and community service, andget more serious with each subsequent offense. If you happen to have more than one conviction within the past 5 or 10 years, the penalties escalate faster. Penalties can double if there was a child in the vehicle, or if the driver's BAC was .15 or higher.

Someone who is convicted of a DUI in Florida will lose her license - even if it is her first conviction. The period of suspension begins at 180 days and gets longer with each subsequent offense. However, first time offenders have the option of applying for a hardship reinstatement, going to DUI school, and maybe installing an ignition interlock device on their car in order to get on the road faster.

For more information, see FindLaw's sections on DUI/DWI and criminal procedure.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.