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How does Florida law treat driving under the influence of drugs

As we've made clear on our blog, the state of Florida takes driving under the influence of alcohol very seriously, as even first-time offenders face time behind bars, license revocation and steep fines.  

It's important to understand, however, that these tough impaired driving penalties don't just apply to those who consume too many glasses of wine, mugs of beer or specialty cocktails. Indeed, those unable to drive safely after consuming drugs can also find themselves in trouble with the law.

In general, state law provides that a person can be charged with DUI if they are operating a motor vehicle or have actual physical control over a motor vehicle while under the influence of either a chemical substance or a controlled substance that otherwise impairs their "normal faculties."

As you can likely surmise from the foregoing discussion, this essentially means that a person can be charged with DUI for driving under the influence of either illegal drugs -- marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc. -- or legal drugs -- those prescribed by their physician -- if it prevents them from driving safely.

Some important points to keep in mind concerning Florida's DUI laws as they relate to drugs:  

  • It's not an affirmative defense to have a valid prescription for the drug in question.
  • The law does not set forth any sort of fixed amount of drugs that must be found in the driver's bloodstream in order to be convicted -- like the .08 BAC for DUI -- rather the issue of impairment is assessed on a case-by-case basis and will have to be demonstrated by the prosecution
  • Law enforcement officials can request a blood test for drugs from Florida drivers, and any refusal will be treated as a first-degree misdemeanor and entered as evidence in their prosecution
  • The penalties for a conviction for driving under the influence of drugs are the same as those for a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol

If you've been arrested for impaired driving -- either alcohol or drugs -- consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible. Together, you can examine your situation, explore your options, and take the necessary actions to protect your rights and your future. 

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