Know the Laws and Know Your Limits
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles presents substantial information on the state’s laws regarding drunken driving that many should heed; just a quick internet search shows headline after headline on the tragedy of driving under the influence:
Sun-Sentinel: Drinking might have figured into Fort Lauderdale crashes that left one dead
Channel 7 News: Driver charged with DUI in fatal Tamarac crash
NBC 6 News: Driver Who Tweeted “2 Drunk 2 Care” Pleads Guilty in Fatal Crash
Drunken driving leads to fatalities on the road and personal injury that could have repercussions for years to come, affecting income, relationships and quality of life. All drivers, from the time they get behind the wheel as teenagers to the point at which they become senior citizens, should educate themselves on the law as it relates to drunken driving.
Under Florida law, DUI is proved by impairment of normal faculties or unlawful blood alcohol or a breath alcohol level of 0.08 or above. The penalties upon conviction are the same, regardless of the manner in which the offense is proven. A first conviction carries a fine of between $500-$1000; if the blood/breath alcohol level is .15 or higher the fine could reach $2000. In a second conviction, the fine could reach $4,000 and possibly $5,000 for the third conviction, depending on the blood alcohol level. A first conviction also carries mandatory 50 hours of community service.
Then there is the possibility of imprisonment, with the sentence handed down at the court’s discretion. The first conviction could carry a sentence of up to nine months; the second and third, a year, and the fourth, five years. You may also see your vehicle compounded.
If you cause property damage or personal injury to another while driving under the influence, you are guilty of a First Degree Misdemeanor, carrying a possible $1,000 fine or one-year imprisonment.
Accidents that caused serious bodily injury are considered third-degree felonies, carrying a fine of up to $5,000 and five years’ imprisonment.
Here is what you could be facing in a DUI manslaughter/vehicular homicide:
DUI/Manslaughter: Second Degree Felony (not more than $10,000 fine and/or 15 years’ imprisonment).
DUI Manslaughter/Leaving the Scene: A driver convicted of DUI Manslaughter who knew/should have known accident occurred; and failed to give information or render aid is guilty of a First Degree Felony (not more than $10,000 fine and/or 30 years’ imprisonment).
Vehicular Homicide: Second Degree Felony (not more than $10,000 fine and/or 15 years’ imprisonment).
Vehicular Homicide/Leaving the Scene: A driver convicted of vehicular homicide who left the scene of an accident is guilty of a First Degree Felony (nor more than $10,000 fine and/or 30 years’ imprisonment).
Needless to say, your driver’s license is no longer yours. In the first conviction, you lose it for a minimum of 180 days; the second could be as long as five years; the third, 20 years, and in the event of a fourth, you could lose it forever.
If you are convicted of DUI/manslaughter, you will also permanently lose your driver’s license; in the case of manslaughter, DUI serious bodily injury or a vehicular homicide conviction, you will lose your license for a minimum of three years.
The upshot, obviously, is that no good comes from driving while under the influence of alcohol or an illegal substance.
The Guide to Community Preventive Services, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have promoted several strategies to abate the problem of drunken driving, such as making it illegal nationwide to drive with a blood alcohol level at or above 0.08 percent. And to make it illegal, period, for people under 21, to drive “with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system.”
The two entities also support sobriety checkpoints so police can stop vehicles to ascertain the condition of drivers and to take breath tests if they suspect the driver is intoxicated. In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, www.cdc.gov: “Alcohol screening and brief interventions take advantage of “teachable moments” to identify people at risk for alcohol problems and get them treatment as needed. This combined strategy, which can be delivered in health care, university, and other settings, helps change behavior and reduces
alcohol-impaired crashes and injuries.” In addition, the CDC encourages “school-based instructional programs” which can be effective at teaching teens “not to ride with drunk drivers.”
Personal injury litigation in Ft. Lauderdale is an area that has seen its share of tragic motor vehicle accidents that have been caused by drunken drivers and ruined the lives of everyone involved. If you have been the victim of a crash in South Florida, contact a personal injury lawyer to make sure all of your rights are addressed and you receive the compensation you deserve.
As you take a drink before you drive, remember the above driver’s text: “2 Drunk 2 Care.” Don’t let that be you. Stay smart out there and know your rights.