DUI Is For More Than Just Alcohol
There’s a reason the Florida offense “driving under the influence” doesn’t have the word “alcohol” in it. It’s because alcohol isn’t the only drug that makes it harder to someone to operate a car: there are plenty of alternatives both prescription and illegal, and any drug can qualify so long as it impairs the driver’s faculties in some significant way. For instance:
- Marijuana slows your reflexes and reaction time and it can mess with your ability to judge timing and distances.
- Opioids slow you down and leave you drowsy, making it hard to concentrate on the road. The same is true for a large number of other prescription drugs, and even if you have a prescription you can get in trouble for taking them and then getting behind the wheel.
- LSD and other psychoactive drugs cause hallucinations, and you definitely don’t want someone behind the wheel who can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t.
- Cocaine and other powerful stimulants can make it hard to concentrate on the road, plus they can make the driver more aggressive. That’s not a trait you want to see in someone driving a heavy machine moving at dangerously fast speeds.
The police hand out DUIs most often to people who had a few too many drinks, but that’s not the only way to get one. Florida doesn’t have a zero-tolerance rule against mixing drugs with driving, but if an officer decides you’re impaired based on your driving and any sobriety tests after pulling you over, then if you also get a positive result on a drug test you’ll get a DUI.
It’s also possible to get a DUI even if you aren’t actively driving when an officer spots you. It’s part of a rule called “actual physical control” which exists to stop people from evading arrest by pulling over and stopping the car when a patrol comes around. The details are different in different states, but in Florida the law is broad and only needs to meet three standards:
- The person in question is in the vehicle or on the bike.
- The person can operate the vehicle, meaning he or she is in the driver’s seat and can reach the key without much trouble.
- The vehicle can start up and move. A drunken person behind the wheel of a broken-down car is in no danger of getting a DUI.
Some states reduce the charge for “actual physical control” cases since they might have been trying to sleep it off. However, that’s not the case in Florida, so drivers under the influence should move to the passenger seat or the back row if they want to sleep it off. Then again, you should avoid getting into a situation where you’re too impaired to drive and yet you’re in the driver’s seat.
Statistically, while traffic accidents involving drugs and alcohol make up a small fraction of the total accidents in Florida, these crashes involve a disproportionate number of deaths. Driving under the influence isn’t bad because it’s common, it’s bad because it’s deadly. Even distracted driving isn’t nearly as dangerous.
That’s why at Shapiro, Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, and Walsh, we serve the victims and the survivors of drunk and high driving. A DUI conviction is a good first step, but if you or a loved one suffered a serious injury from a collision with a drunk driver then you deserve proper compensation. As personal injury lawyers for the state of Florida, we can help you get it. Our firm has offices throughout southwest Florida, so feel free to contact the one closest to you to schedule a free initial case review.