If you’ve ever been pulled over by a Florida police officer in a traffic stop, you know how disconcerting and stressful such situations can be. Perhaps you forgot to put a new bulb in your headlight or the officer claims to have recorded your speed above the posted limit. There’s no way to predict what the ultimate outcome of a traffic stop will be, even for minor issues. For something serious, like DUI, it’s important to know your rights.
DUI stands for driving under the influence in Florida and may refer to impairment caused by drugs or alcohol. Perhaps you had a glass a of wine with a group of friends you met for lunch earlier in the day. Now, several hours later, you’re arrested on suspicion of DUI and are wondering whether it’s best to just plead guilty.
Penalties under conviction of DUI in Florida can be severe
If DUI charges are filed against you, you’re guaranteed an opportunity to refute the charges against you in court. Under Florida law, a prosecutor must prove that your normal faculties were impaired at the time of the arrest or that you were unlawfully operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration level registering .08 or higher.
A conviction for DUI can result in substantial fines as well as incarceration. Whether or not it’s a first offense may have a significant impact on sentencing. Other factors, such as if you were involved in a collision and if that collision resulted in injury or death to another person, may also have an impact on your case. Pleading guilty effectively closes your case, which means there are no more opportunities to try to mitigate your circumstances.
Know your rights and how to protect them
If a police officer pulls you over and asks you to step out of your vehicle, it’s possible that he or she suspects you of DUI. You have rights. For instance, you’re under no obligation to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening or field sobriety test. There are no penalties for refusing.
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also protects you from interrogation without legal representation. This means that you do not have to answer questions under investigation if you do not have an official legal advocate with you at the time. Before determining how to plea at a DUI arraignment, it’s always best to gain reliable information on your legal rights.