Everyone in the Tampa Bay area knows that if you’ve had too much to drink, and you drive on a Florida street or highway, you can be arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI), and you’ll need to be represented by a Tampa Bay DUI attorney.
But how far does Florida’s DUI enforcement actually reach? Does the DUI law extend to private property? Precisely where can you be charged with driving under the influence in Florida?
If you’ll keep reading, you will learn some important details about Florida’s DUI laws, and you will also learn more about your rights if you’re charged with driving under the influence in this state.
How is Private Property Defined in Florida?
“Private property” in Florida includes not only residential property but also the streets inside apartment complexes, condominiums, mobile home parks, and gated communities as well as the parking lots and parking garages adjacent to malls and other retail and commercial locations.
Florida law defines DUI broadly, so it does not matter where you drive under the influence. It’s against the law. The statute says that no type of vehicle may be operated by anyone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs anywhere “within this state,” including private property.
Florida is not unique. Although the language varies somewhat in the law from state to state, suspects may be arrested for driving under the influence on private property in all fifty states.
When May the Police Stop You for Suspicion of DUI?
Provided that a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that you may be driving under the influence, the officer has the right to stop you – anywhere – and determine if you are too impaired to drive.
In fact, under Florida law, you cannot operate a golf cart, a go-kart, a tractor, or an all-terrain vehicle – or even ride a bicycle – if you are intoxicated, and it does not matter if you are on a public street or on private property.
What Will the Court Consider in a “Private Property” DUI Case?
Even sitting behind the wheel of a parked vehicle while you’re intoxicated could trigger a DUI charge in this state. However, the court may consider whether your keys were in the ignition or the engine of your vehicle was warm, and every case is handled on an individual basis.
Some local police agencies are required to have a traffic control agreement with groups like homeowners’ associations and condo associations. If the procedures set forth in such an agreement are not adhered to, a lawyer may be able to have the evidence against you suppressed.
In the Tampa Bay area, if for any reason you are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or any intoxicating legal or illegal drug, a Florida DUI attorney will review the details of the charge against you, protect your legal rights, and fight aggressively for justice on your behalf.
What Are the Basic Penalties for a Misdemeanor DUI Conviction?
These are Florida’s standard penalties for misdemeanor DUI convictions if there is no property damage, no injuries, and no other aggravating circumstances related to the case:
1. A first conviction for DUI may be penalized with up to nine months in jail, a one-year driver’s license suspension, and a fine of up to $2,000.
2. A second conviction for driving under the influence may be penalized with up to a year in jail, a five-year driver’s license suspension, and a fine of up to $4,000.
3. A third conviction for DUI may be penalized with up to a year in jail, a ten-year driver’s license suspension, and a fine of up to $5,000.
Are There Additional Penalties for DUI Convictions?
If your blood alcohol content level was excessively high when you were arrested, or if your DUI conviction involved an accident with property damage and/or injuries, the legal penalties may be even harsher.
A fourth conviction for driving under the influence in Florida is a third-degree felony punishable upon conviction with up to five years in prison, a life-long driver’s license suspension, and a fine of up to $5,000.
The extra-legal consequences of a DUI conviction in Florida are also considerable. If you injure someone while driving under the influence, you could be sued by the victim for damages, and a criminal DUI conviction can be introduced in civil court as proof of the victim’s injury claim.
A DUI conviction will increase your auto insurance rates. Moreover, if you hold a professional license, a DUI conviction may lead to disciplinary action by your professional licensing board, and if you are an immigrant in Florida, a DUI conviction may trigger a deportation proceeding.
What is a First Time DUI Offender Program?
If it’s your first DUI offense, you may be eligible for a First Time DUI Offender Program. If so, the prosecutor will offer to drop the DUI charge, you’ll be required to plead guilty to reckless driving, and you will be placed on probation for one year.
Upon completing a First Time DUI Offender Program, no points will go on your license, and no DUI conviction will appear on your record. However, If you do not complete the program, you will be convicted of DUI, and the usual penalties for a DUI conviction will be imposed.
How Will a Lawyer Defend You Against a DUI Charge?
If you believe that you are not guilty of DUI, and if your case goes to trial, a Tampa Bay DUI lawyer may present one of these standard defenses against the charge:
1. The officer did not have probable cause to stop you for suspicion of DUI.
2. The breathalyzer test result was inaccurate because the device was improperly calibrated and maintained.
3. The police officer who conducted the breathalyzer test was not properly trained to use the device, or the test was improperly conducted.
What’s the Best Advice?
The advice you’ve heard again and again cannot be emphasized strongly enough: Don’t Drink and Drive. A taxi or an Uber ride may cost a few dollars, but even a five-star limousine costs considerably less than a ride to the local jail, the emergency room, or the morgue.
If you’ve been drinking, do not even think about driving under the influence. Hire a ride, make an arrangement with someone you trust to be a designated driver, get a room for the night, or sleep on a friend’s sofa. Do not drive for any reason until you are completely sober.
Of course, everyone can make a judgment mistake, and you could even be wrongly arrested and charged with DUI when you’re innocent. In either situation, as soon as possible after an arrest, reach out to a Tampa Bay DUI attorney for the advice and representation that you will need.