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The Florida Bar

Does a DUI Arrest Mean Alcoholism?

Broward County judges, juries, the Florida legislature, and even friends and family members of the accused tend to assume that a person arrested by the Fort Lauderdale police for DUI has a drinking problem. In short, they often operate on the assumption that a DUI arrest is an indication of a deep-seated, and possibly previously invisible, problem with alcohol. While frequent or multiple DUI arrests could be symptoms of alcoholism, Fort Lauderdale DUI Lawyer William Moore knows that a DUI arrest alone does not prove that the driver is an alcoholic.

Florida law requires that a first-time DUI conviction result in a variety of penalties, including probation, driver’s license revocation, and community service. Offenders can also be sentenced to jail. Additionally, the court requires an offender to undergo an alcohol abuse evaluation and attend DUI School. The alcohol abuse evaluation requirement is premised on the idea that anyone arrested for DUI in the Broward/Fort Lauderdale/Fort Lauderdale-Dade County area is likely an alcoholic. The DUI alcohol abuse evaluation often results in additional mandatory substance abuse treatment, which may or may not be warranted under the circumstances. First-time DUI arrests are frequently the only arrest or conviction a person will ever have. For example, a young person out with friends does not realize that he has exceeded the limit and is pulled over. Contact a Broward DUI lawyer for information on your specific case.

Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have worked to reduce DUIs, enhance DUI penalties, and to reduce alcohol consumption more broadly on a national scale since the early 1990s. The impact has been felt strongly in south Florida. The group managed to raise the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 in every single state, significantly above the drinking age in other industrialized nations. For instance, it is 18 or 19 in every Canadian province, and legal in some provinces to consume alcohol at home with parental supervision. In France, the legal drinking age is 16 for most alcohol, but 18 for strong spirits consumed on the premises of the bar or restaurant. Ireland does not allow anyone under the age of 18 to drink publicly, but there is no legal drinking age for private affairs or in homes. In Great Britain, 16-year-olds can consumer beer, wine, and cider with a meal and if an adult buys the alcohol; in all other situations, the legal age is 18. Interestingly, the group also advocates for stricter seat belt legislation and reducing non-driving underage drinking.

Candace Lightner, the founder of MADD, left the group several years after starting it. Lightner has indicated that she has problems with the current direction of the organization, saying, “[MADD] has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned . . . I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.” She started the group in 1980, when DUI penalties were significantly lower and less frequently prosecuted, following the tragic death of her teenage daughter in a drunken hit-and-run accident. After Lightner left, the group continued to amp up its anti-alcohol – not just anti-DUI – lobbying. In addition to raising the drinking age to 21 and the blood alcohol limit to 0.08, the group advocates for treatment of alcoholism for all DUI offenders, mandatory jail sentencing, and required breathalyzer ignition locks for all DUI offenders. The organization has pressed for the United States Congress and the legislatures of all fifty states to treat even one DUI arrest as conclusive evidence of alcoholism. Requiring a DUI offender who blew a 0.08 to install a permanent breathalyzer ignition lock is not necessarily good policy. Additionally, MADD maintains that for every DUI arrest made, the person has typically driven drunk many other times. In many cases, that is simply not true.

A good Fort Lauderdale DUI attorney is familiar with these issues and more. If you have been charged with DUI in south Florida, contact William Moore Criminal Defense, P.A., which has experienced Fort Lauderdale DUI lawyers with offices in Fort Lauderdale-Dade, Broward, and Fort Lauderdale Counties.

This article should be used for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

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