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Tampa Criminal Attorney > Blog > DUI > Intoxication Defenses in a DUI

Intoxication Defenses in a DUI


Section 856.011 defines intoxication as loss of “the normal control of either his/her body or his/her mental faculties, or both.” Furthermore, the Sunshine State, like most other jurisdictions, has a per se definition. Individuals with a BAC adobe the legal limit, which is usually .08, are intoxicated as a matter of law. The first standard is subjective and difficult to prove. The second one assumes the blood or breath test was accurate.

The direct and indirect costs of a DUI conviction usually exceed $15,000. A Tampa DUI lawyer challenges the state’s evidence on key points of a case, like intoxication, and reduces or eliminates these harsh consequences. Furthermore, as lawyers advocate for clients, they maintain open lines of communication, so clients can make the best possible choices for themselves and their families.

Normal Control

Right off the bat, this definition is flawed. Usually, police officers make little or no effort to determine the defendant’s “normal” physical and mental capacity. Many Floridians have mental or physical disabilities that significantly limit their normal functions, making it almost impossible to interact with officers or successfully perform field sobriety tests. More on that below.

Additionally, the state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that alcohol or another substance caused the loss of normal function. Since the state has the burden of proof, it must exclude other possible causes, such as:

  • Fatigue: This condition could affect the loss of normal functions at the star of, or at the conclusion of, FSTs. Most DUI stops happen at night. After eighteen consecutive awake hours, fatigue causes serious disability. Furthermore, as sobriety tests draw to a close, mental and physical fatigue affects the defendant’s performance.
  • Anxiety: One minute, Jim is driving home, minding his own business. Then, he suddenly sees flashing squadcar lights in his rearview mirror. Finally, an officer tells him to step out of the car. That experience, by itself, overwhelms most people with anxiety, especially if they haven’ been in trouble before or they’ve had a bad experience with a police officer..
  • Disorientation: The aforementioned flashing lights aren’t just for decorative or emergency purposes. Colored strobe lights cause flicker vertigo, a visual contusion that disorients people. That’s especially true if the defendant has epilepsy or another such pre-existing condition, a point that goes back to the “normal” discussion.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test (DUI eye test), walk and turn (walking a straight line), and one-leg stand are the three NHTSA-approved field sobriety tests.

The HGN test demonstrates how the three aforementioned factors affect the defendant’s performance. Many people have nystagmus (lazy eye) and don’t know it. Physical fatigue, mental fatigue, and anxiety magnifies their symptoms. Bright flashing lights, especially against a dark sky, further magnify the already-existing symptoms.

BAC Level

The Breathalyzer, like the Drunk-o-Meter that preceded it, uses breath alcohol level to estimate blood alcohol level. That extra step opens the door for numerous flaws.

Mouth alcohol is a good example. When people vomit or burp, alcohol particles in the stomach flood into the mouth. Therefore, the breath alcohol level is inflated, which means the blood alcohol level estimate is inflated.

Theoretically, Florida law requires officers to monitor subjects for at least fifteen minutes. The monitoring period would all but eliminate this possible flaw. However, since most courts don’t strictly enforce this requirement, most officers basically ignore it.

 Reach Out to a Compassionate Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Pinellas County and nearby jurisdictions.



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