When it comes to DUI, it can be hard to separate the truth from common myths and misconceptions. Knowing the truth can make all the difference if you’re ever pulled over and arrested, making it a key topic for our Tampa DUI lawyers to review. Read on to learn more about the top myths associated with DUI in Florida and what to do if you’ve been arrested.
Myth #1: You Have to be Caught in the Act
You may think that an officer must have witnessed you driving drunk in order to arrest you for DUI, but you could be arrested even if the police just have reason to believe that you were driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This means, for example, that you could be arrested for DUI after an officer observes you “sleeping it off” in your vehicle at the side of the road. The best thing you can do in this situation is to exercise your right to remain silent and involve an attorney as soon as possible.
Myth #2: Drive Carefully & You Won’t Be Arrested
Even if you obey traffic laws and drive carefully, you can still be arrested for DUI. You could encounter a sobriety checkpoint, or an officer may pull you over for an unrelated issue like a broken taillight or expired registration. If the officer believes you may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may ask for you to perform field sobriety tests or a breathalyzer test to determine your sobriety. Florida DUI checkpoints must use random means to stop drivers, such as every fourth vehicle, and you could be unlucky enough to be selected.
Myth #3: If You Suck on a Penny, You Will Pass a Breathalyzer Test
There is an urban legend that you can essentially fool a breathalyzer by sucking on a penny to throw off the results. This could not be further from the truth. Breathalyzer machines have their faults, but they measure the alcohol content from deep in your lungs. A copper penny will not affect the results of a breathalyzer.
Myth #4: Breathalyzer Tests Are 100% Accurate
Breathalyzers are complex machines that must be properly calibrated and maintained to give reliable readings. Even then, however, there are strict protocols in place that officers must follow when administering a breath test. This includes monitoring the subject prior to the test, because burping, vomiting, eating, or drinking could affect the outcome. Breath test results can be challenged when machines malfunction or tests are improperly administered.
Myth #5: You Can Only Be Charged with a Blood Alcohol Level of .08%
Although the “legal limit” in Florida is .08%, you could still be arrested and charged with DUI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is lower. A BAC of .05%, for example, coupled with evidence of “failed” field sobriety tests, could be used as evidence of intoxication and an inability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Our Tampa DUI lawyers have experience with cases involving BACs higher and lower than .08%, having successfully represented drivers in the face of all types of drunk driving charges.
Myth #6: Field Sobriety Tests Accurately Show Intoxication
Field sobriety tests like the one-leg stand or the walk-and-turn are used to test a driver’s balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions. These are all considered indicators of impairment, but no two drivers are the same. Medical conditions, poor lighting, loud noises, high-heel shoes, and a number of other external factors could influence a driver’s performance on field sobriety tests. These tests are far from 100% accurate in determining intoxication, and they can be challenged in court.
Myth #7: You Have to Submit to Field Sobriety Tests
Many people think you have to agree to perform field sobriety tests if you’re pulled over for DUI in Florida, but you are not required by law to do so. You can politely refuse to perform these tests, but this does not necessarily mean you’ll be free to go. The officer may still take you into custody if they believe there is enough evidence to support an arrest. In refusing field sobriety tests, however, you can avoid giving law enforcement additional evidence against you. Choosing whether to comply or refuse is something you should decide for yourself based on the situation at hand.
Myth #8: If You Pass Field Sobriety Tests, You’ll Be Released
You may think that passing field sobriety tests will ensure your release after a DUI stop, but you could still be arrested. The officer will use more than field sobriety test performance to decide whether to make a DUI arrest. They will be observing you for cues or signs of intoxication, like the smell of alcohol on your breath, bloodshot eyes, the presence of open containers in your vehicle, or slurred speech. If the officer has probable cause even without failed field sobriety tests, they may arrest you.
Protect Yourself: Hire a Qualified Tampa DUI Lawyer
Sucking on a penny or passing field sobriety tests is no guarantee that you’ll avoid a DUI arrest. The most important thing to do if you’ve been pulled over and taken into custody is to listen to your Miranda rights: remain silent and get an attorney. Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you, and the best way to protect yourself is to have a qualified attorney on your side.
Our Tampa DUI lawyers at Thomas & Paulk have represented thousands of clients across Florida in the face of drunk driving-related charges. We know the courts, the judges, the laws, the tests, and the ways law enforcement officers will try to gather evidence to make an arrest stick. In dispelling common DUI myths, we hope we’ve shared some of our knowledge with you so you can make the right choices. To find out more, call (813) 321-7323 or contact us online.