Our great grandparents may recall the old days of prohibition. A constitutional amendment made alcohol illegal to own or possess and ushered in a violent period in the history of the United States when alcohol, wine, liquor, whiskey and beer was illegal and only criminals owned and sold it.
Prohibition made criminals of ordinary citizens and created such a law enforcement problem that the constitution was altered and alcohol was no longer illegal: it was regulated.
The regulating of alcohol, which exists today in the criminal laws of Florida, dictates who can own, consume or sell alcohol, and imposes criminal penalties for possessing or selling as well as public intoxication, either in a common public area, in a private dwelling, or while operating a motor vehicle. Most commonly; people run afoul of alcohol laws when they are arrested for driving under the influence, DUI, or DWI, driving while impaired. Also, anyone under the age of twenty-one is subject to arrest if they possess, consume or sell any alcoholic beverage.
DUI arrests are the most common criminal problem people in South Florida see. Many citizens in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Palm Beach, or anywhere in South Florida have firsthand experience as DUI arrestees. Understanding what a DUI means and what are the elements as well as the defenses is the key to a favorable outcome if you are arrested or charged with an alcohol related offense, such as DUI.
The first element the State must prove is that you were operating a motor vehicle. The term “operating” has been litigated in criminal courts many times and has a very broad meaning. If you are in a motor vehicle and the keys are anywhere near you, such as on the floor, door, or seat, it is sufficient for a court to find you were operating a motor vehicle. You can be asleep in the back seat, trying to do the right thing by not driving, and yet the law will find you operating, even if the keys are not anywhere on your person or near you.
The next element of a DUI convictiction is proof of impairment. Impairment means that your normal faculties are affected by an intoxicant to the extent that you cannot do the things one normally must do to operate a motor vehicle, speak, or walk.
Impairment can come from consuming alcohol or any other intoxicant. Marijuana, cocaine, cough medicine, sleeping aids, any substance which you ingest, either by swallowing or breathing than can impair your functioning is included in the DUI statute. It is not necessary for the State to prove what caused your impairment, only that your normal faculties were impaired.
If you have questions, which you should, contact a South Florida criminal defense attorney for a consultation.
Understanding both your rights to be free from unlawful search and seizure, as well as understanding what the elements of an alcohol related crime, or an impairment charge, is critical for every citizen.
Know your rights and understand the law and you can protect yourself from overzealous law enforcement, or just bad judgment.
Further information can be found in the app CRIMINAL LAW 101 which can be downloaded onto an Apple iPhone, iPad, or any “smart phone” type device which uses an Android or Google platform.