police car pulling over a car for a DUI stop

NW Florida Defense Attorney Shares to Expect During a DUI Stop

Being stopped because you are suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) can be scary. You may be confused about your rights and concerned about what may happen. Experienced DUI lawyer Tim Flaherty of Flaherty & Merrifield shares what to expect during a DUI stop, your legal rights, the implications of refusing sobriety testing, and other key information you need to know in order to protect your rights.

What Happens When You’re Stopped for DUI in Florida

If you are stopped for a DUI check in Florida, this means that the police officer who pulled you over suspects that you are driving under the influence. They will go through one or more of a series of tests to determine whether or not you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In Florida, both field sobriety and blood alcohol content (BAC) testing may be used.

Field Sobriety DUI Tests

Field sobriety tests are physical tests an officer usually asks a driver suspected of DUI to complete first. While the officer isn’t likely to mention this, submitting to field sobriety testing is voluntary in Florida, and there are no penalties for refusing. However, if you don’t know that you can decline or if you choose to take a field sobriety test, the results can be used to determine whether you will be arrested and charged with DUI and, if so, can also be used to prosecute you. Field sobriety tests include:

  • Walk-and-turn test. This physical test involves attempting to walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe, then turning and walking back. If you wobble during this test, the officer may assume you are not sober.
  • One-leg stand test. During this field sobriety test, an officer will instruct you to stand on one foot and count to 30. If you are unable to stand on one foot for the full 30 seconds, this may suggest you are intoxicated.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test. During this test, an officer will monitor your eye movement to see if there are any involuntary jerking movements. Jerking eye movements are indicators that a driver may be under the influence.

Chemical DUI Tests

If a driver who is suspected of DUI fails or refuses a field sobriety test, the individual will most likely be asked to submit to chemical testing to measure their blood alcohol content (BAC). These tests include:

  • Breathalyzer test. A breath test is a chemical test that involves the driver blowing into a machine, commonly known as a breathalyzer, to determine their BAC. In Florida, any result over 0.08% is considered under the influence.
  • Blood test. In some cases, you may be asked to have your blood drawn for a blood test to measure your BAC level. In a suspected DUI involving serious bodily injury or death, a driver can be compelled to submit to blood testing in Florida.

If you fail to submit to chemical testing during a lawful DUI arrest, you will be subject to significant consequences regardless of whether you are convicted of DUI. These include being arrested, having to pay financial penalties, and having your driver’s license revoked for at least a year. It’s one year for the first refusal; subsequent refusals involve revocation for longer.

Know Your Rights in Relation to a DUI Stop

It’s very important to know your rights during a Florida DUI stop, as everything you do and say can have an impact on the outcome. Key rights include:

  • Right to remain silent. When stopped under suspicion of DUI, you have the right to remain silent. You can choose not to provide answers to law enforcement’s questions about your prior activities, alcohol consumption, or anything else. You are obligated to provide your identification and vehicle documents, but you don’t have to share anything else.
  • Right to refuse field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are voluntary, and you can refuse to take them. It is possible for a person to fail these tests even if they are completely sober, yet the results can be used by law enforcement to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest.  
  • Right to implied consent notice. If you are arrested for DUI, you have a right to be informed of Florida’s implied consent law, which states that a driver must consent to a blood or breath test after being arrested for DUI. This is why there are legal penalties for drivers who refuse chemical testing regardless of being convicted of drunk driving or not.
  • Right to request an attorney. If you are arrested, you always have the right to request an attorney. It is not a good idea to handle DUI charges without a lawyer with experience defending Florida DUI cases. Your attorney will guide you through the legal process and work on your behalf to protect your rights and interests during legal proceedings.

What Not to Do During a Florida DUI Stop

Knowing what not to do if you are pulled over for a DUI stop in Florida is just as important as knowing and exercising your rights.

  • If you are stopped for DUI, don't resist. Listening to the officer, consenting to a breathalyzer and/or blood test, and staying non-confrontational is in your best interest.
  • Don’t self-incriminate. Avoid saying anything that could be used against you, such as remarking that you were just at a party or were drinking earlier in the day.
  • Don’t wait to call a lawyer. A skilled Florida DUI defense lawyer will counsel you on your rights during the complex legal process and help put you in a strong position.
Tim Flaherty
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney