Alcohol isn’t the only basis for a DUI. You can be arrested and charged with a DUI for controlled substances, prescription medications, and over-the-counter drugs.
If you were pulled over by police in Tampa, arrested, and then charged with driving under the influence of drugs (drug DUI), call a lawyer right away. Fighting a DUI is possible, but it is challenging to do alone. By working with an experienced Tampa DUI attorney from Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A., you have someone by your side who knows the ins and outs of Florida DUI law and the most effective defense strategies.
Florida Drug DUI Laws
Florida law prohibits driving or having physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or any chemical or controlled substance. Florida Statute 877.111 outlaws inhaling, ingesting, possessing, selling, purchasing, or transferring chemical substances that will intoxicate you or distort or disturb your auditory, visual, or mental processes. This includes nitrous oxide, acetone, and butyl nitrite. Anything that can get you high and impair your driving ability can lead to a drug DUI.
Controlled substances are listed in Chapter 893 and include:
Common Causes of Drug DUI Charges
You could be charged with drugged driving after using any of the substances listed above, but drug DUIs commonly result from the use of:
- Prescription Drugs
It’s important to note that even prescription drugs can result in a DUI if abused or misused. If you take prescription medication, read the label carefully and avoid driving if there is any chance of impairment.
Drugged Driving Statistics
According to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey, 11.7 million people drove under the influence of illicit drugs, including marijuana, in 2021. While it’s hard to measure just how many crashes are caused by drugged driving due to several factors, estimates show that almost 44% of drivers in fatal crashes tested positive for drugs.
In Florida, the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle crash dashboard reveals that over 100 crashes and 45 fatalities in 2023 have resulted from drug-impaired driving.
Penalties for Drugged Driving
Since driving under the influence of drugs is included under the same statute as drunk driving, the penalties for both are the same. Penalties will depend on the specific nature of the offense, but consequences may include:
- First offense — up to six months in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, a driver’s license suspension of between six months and one year, and 50 hours of community service.
- Second offense — up to nine months in jail and a max fine of $2,000, driver’s license suspension of between six months to a year, and up to one year of probation. If the second offense is less than five years after your first, the judge will sentence you to at least 10 days of jail time and suspend your license for five years.
- Third/subsequent offense – if a third offense comes within 10 years of the previous two, you will be charged with a felony and face at least 30 days in jail and up to five years, a maximum fine of $5,000, and a 10-year license revocation.
Defending Against a Drug DUI
There are many potential defenses to a drug DUI. Your Tampa drugged driving lawyer will thoroughly investigate the allegations against you, including reviewing all of the prosecutor’s evidence. Based on the facts of your case, your attorney will determine the most effective strategy for avoiding charges, winning a dismissal, or obtaining an acquittal at trial.
To be convicted, the prosecutor must establish that there was a controlled substance or other chemicals in your system and that this impaired your normal faculties. Testing positive for a drug is not enough. There must be evidence that your ability to safely operate a vehicle was impaired because of that drug.
Possible drug DUI defenses include:
- Lack of probable cause for a traffic stop
- Unlawful search and seizure
- Sobriety/DUI checkpoint failed to comply with standards
- Not in actual physical control of a vehicle
- Blood or urine test results are inaccurate or unreliable
- Field sobriety test results are unreliable
- Insufficient evidence of impairment
- Adverse and unforeseeable drug reaction
Under Florida Statute 316.1932, when you drive a vehicle in Florida, you are deemed to have given your consent to submit to a chemical or physical test to determine the alcohol content of your breath or blood if you are lawfully arrested for a DUI.
Because of Florida’s implied consent law, you must agree to a breath, urine, or blood test if arrested for a DUI. If you refuse, you face a civil driver’s license suspension. A first-time refusal results in a one-year license suspension. A second refusal leads to an 18-month suspension.
Fighting a Civil License Suspension
An administrative driver’s license suspension after refusing to submit to a chemical test is a civil penalty, and you have to appeal the decision through the civil process. This is not a criminal penalty you will deal with in court, along with the drug DUI charges.
There is a brief window of time for fighting an administrative license suspension: 10 days.
After 10 days, a failure to ask for an administrative hearing means your license suspension will go into effect. You will have to wait several months before seeking a hardship license.
Field Sobriety Tests
An officer can pull you over if they reasonably suspect you are committing a crime, like driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Once you are stopped, they have to look for clues that you are impaired. When they ask questions, they will observe your answers and whether you are slurring your words, have red or glazed eyes, or smell like alcohol or marijuana.
Another way an officer will look for evidence of impairment is by asking you to complete one or more field sobriety tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standardizes three field sobriety tests.
- One-Leg Stand Test: The officer will ask you to stand with one foot several inches off the ground while you count aloud. The officer will tell you when to stop.
- Walk-and-Turn Test: The officer will ask you to walk nine steps, touching one heel to toe each step. The officer will instruct you to turn on one foot and return in the same manner.
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: The officer will ask you to look at a small object and track it with your eyes as they move it back and forth. When looking at a significant peripheral angle, the officer will look for whether your eyes have a pronounced jerking motion.
Tampa Drugged Driving FAQ
What if I have a prescription?
A prescription is not a permission slip to drive while impaired due to your medication. You can still be convicted of a drug-related DUI for a valid prescription. That being said, it is not easy for a prosecutor to prove. We will strive to prove your medication did not impair you and win a dismissal or acquittal.
Do I have to perform a field sobriety test?
No, Florida law does not require you to submit to any field sobriety tests. You can refuse without fear of any civil or criminal penalties. Refusing to perform any field sobriety limits the evidence the police can gain to use against you. Do not assume you will be convicted if you submit to a field sobriety test. These tests are unreliable, and we have experience actively fighting against field sobriety test results in court.
What about a breath test?
Under implied consent, you cannot refuse a breath test without penalty. In fact, refusing after a DUI arrest can lead to harsher criminal penalties. A second-time refusal can be charged as a separate misdemeanor offense. You can face a driver’s license suspension if you are asked to submit to a warrantless blood test. However, you cannot face criminal penalties.
Contact a Drug DUI Attorney Today
You never have to face DUI charges alone, whether you are accused of being impaired by drugs, alcohol, or both. There are many ways to defend against a DUI charge, even if you tested positive for a controlled substance, prescription medication, or OTC drug. Let Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A. fight for you.