This week classes have resumed for students across Pinellas County and Florida, including St. Petersburg College, University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Eckerd College, and Webster University St. Petersburg.
While college is undoubtedly the time for undergraduates to explore new academic subjects, find their career paths, and live independently for the first time, this is also a time for many students to blossom socially. Part of the stereotypical college social scene involves parties and drinking.
Social drinking at parties, football games, and other events can turn into pressure for individuals living on their own and experiencing freedom for the first time. It is crucial for incoming freshman and upperclassman alike to understand the dangers of drunk driving in Florida.
Florida DUI Law
First, let’s understand the law regarding DUI or drunk driving in Florida.
Under Florida Statute § 316.193 an individual (over the age of 21) is guilty of driving under the influence or DUI if he or she is driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs (including marijuana), or a combination of both, to the extent his or her normal faculties are impaired or the individual has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher.
Impairment is usually determined based on exhibited behavior such as slurred speech, inability to stay away or keep eyes open, or lack of balance or coordination. Usually, a law enforcement officer will test impairment through one or a series of field sobriety tests, including the one-leg stand or the walk-and-turn test.
An individual may also be charged with DUI if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. BAC is determined by a chemical test, either blood, urine, or breath testing.
Individuals under the age of 21 cannot lawfully consume alcohol even if they are in college. As a result, an individual under 21 may be charged with drunk driving under Florida Statute § 322.2616 if he or she has a BAC of 0.02 or higher.
Common Alcohol and DUI Myths
Now, let’s dispel some common myths about alcohol and drunk driving.
- I know when I am drunk- We have all heard someone say that they know when they are drunk. This is absolutely false. An individual may be impaired under Florida law or have a BAC over 0.08 and “feel sober”. It is important to not drive or have a designated driver after consuming any amount of alcohol.
Today, there are several ways to avoid drunk driving. For example, there are ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft that offer low-cost fares around the clock. Also, a ride with Uber or Lyft can be requested and paid for via an app on a smartphone.
Also, it helps to appoint a designated driver in advance. Perhaps one friend in the group can decide to not drink at the particular event and ensure everyone gets home safely.
- I’m only tipsy. I can drive- Impairment is impairment. Slight impairment due to drugs or alcohol puts you and others at serious risk of death or injury. According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 10,000 deaths occurred due to alcohol-impaired crashes in the U.S.
- I’m a big guy (or girl). I can drink a lot and not get drunk-FALSE. While it is true that alcohol affects each person differently, size or weight alone does not determine an individual’s tolerance or BAC.
BAC is influenced by a variety of factors, including weight, metabolism, the amount of alcohol consumed, the time between alcoholic beverages, food consumed before, during, and after the consumption of alcohol, and more. It is impossible to predict BAC in advance.
- I live close. I will be okay- FALSE. Per a 2002 survey 52 percent of reported crashes occurred within 5 miles or less from home. 77 percent of crashes occurred within 15 miles from home. Impairment due to alcohol or drugs substantially increases the risk of a traffic accident involving injury or death.
Do Not Drink and Drive
There are countless other myths regarding alcohol and drinking and driving; however, the most important fact is drunk driving is dangerous and costly. In addition to the risk of serious injury and death, a conviction for drunk driving can detrimentally affect your academic career and result in jail time and steep fines.
If you are charged with drunk driving, DUI involving serious bodily injury, Dui involving property damage, drugged driving (DUID, minor in possession, or any related offense, it is important to consult an experienced DUI defense attorney.
Seth Shapiro and Melinda Morris of The Morris Law Firm, P.A. are Pinellas County-based DUI defense lawyers with years of experience defending St. Petersburg area college and university students.
They are also co-authors of What You Must Know If You Have Been Arrested For DUI – A Former State Prosecutor’s Guide to DUI Charges in Florida. This book contains valuable information regarding DUI charges, chemical testing, and common misconceptions about DUI and the Florida legal process. Get your free copy of the e-book today.