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Jury Instructions

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious crime. Not only this, but the legal process of resolving a DUI is complicated. Florida has published the guidelines that jurors typically follow to deliberate a verdict for DUI cases. These are referred to as jury instructions and can be found on the Florida Supreme Court’s website. Reading jury instructions is a great way to get ahead of your criminal charges.

During a criminal case, each juror will receive a copy of the same jury instructions. Typically, jury instructions are easier to read than the Florida Statutes. This means you may be able to understand aspects of your DUI that you weren’t aware of.

It’s important that you do whatever you can to thoroughly understand your DUI charges. If not, you could face penalties such as steep fines and possible incarceration. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, it’s vital that you seek a criminal defense attorney.

DUI Lawyer for Jury Instructions in Brevard County, Florida

Have you recently been charged with a DUI? Are you having a hard time dissecting Florida statute regarding DUI charges? It’s essential that you’re familiar with the criminal process before you go to court. Find an attorney who will go through DUI jury instructions with you at Law Offices of Germain & McCarthy.

Our attorneys at Law Offices of Germain & McCarthy are skilled at criminal defense. We have represented many clients from DUI charges using our defensive strategies. Law Offices of Germain & McCarthy will ensure that all your questions are answered. We will sit you down with you and explain all possible legal routes. You will never get left in the dark with Law Offices of Germain & McCarthy.

Call us today at (321) 248-7742 to schedule a free consultation. We represent clients throughout the greater Melbourne area and surrounding cities including Satellite Beach, Palm Bay, Cocoa, and Titusville.

Overview of DUI Jury Instructions in Florida

  • Rules for Jurors in Florida
  • Definitions for DUI Jury Instructions
  • How Does the Jury Deliberate?
  • How Does the Jury Determine Impairment?
  • Aggravating Factors in a DUI
  • Inoperability Defense in a DUI
  • Felony DUI Instructions
  • Additional Resources

Rules for Jurors in Florida

All members of the courtroom must follow certain rules, this includes jurors. Jury members are given preliminary instructions that outline the guidelines and procedures of a jury. The instructions used by the jury in your trial will generally be the same. Florida hasn’t completely altered all of their jury instructions in nearly 25 years.

Jury members must do the following when hearing a case:

  • The jury cannot form a fixed opinion on the case until all evidence is heard;
  • The verdict must be based solely on the evidence or lack of evidence provided;
  • Not communicate about the case to anyone, including other jurors until deliberation;
  • Not research or look up any information regarding the case;
  • Keep all electronic devices off in the courtroom;
  • The jury cannot conduct their own investigation for the case;
  • Not to disclose any insights, personal opinions or ask for advice on the case; and
  • The jury cannot visit any places mentioned or look at any mentioned place on a map.

The jury is instructed to follow these rules to maintain the integrity of the legal system. Jurors who break any of these rules may form a bias which is devastating to the case. Additionally, jury members who violate these rules could face sanctions and be held in contempt of court. If any juror violates these rules, it will result in a mistrial. A mistrial means the trial must start over again with a new jury.


Definitions for DUI Jury Instructions in Florida

Florida’s DUI jury instructions provide definitions for any terms that may seem vague. Some of the terms may seem obvious, but in law that isn’t always the case. It’s important that you understand these definitions moving forward so you can evaluate your charges. Definitions in jury instructions for a DUI can include the following:

  • Vehicle – Any device that can transport persons or property on a highway or other Florida roads. Devices that use stationary rails or tracks are not considered vehicles.
  • Normal Faculties – A person’s ability to walk, see, hear, talk, judge distances, make judgements, drive an automobile, act in emergencies and perform daily mental and physical tasks.
  • Impaired – Florida law defines impaired as diminished in some material respect.
  • Actual Physical Control – A person who is physically in or on a vehicle and has the capability of operating it. You can still be in actual physical control if you never turned the car on.
  • Alcoholic beverages – Any substance that contains some alcohol.
  • Controlled Substance/Chemical Substance – Any controlled or chemical substance that is illegal under Florida law such as marijuana, cocaine, or heroin.

How Does the Jury Deliberate for a DUI?

Jurors are required to follow the strict instructions given to them during a case. For a DUI, the jury will receive instructions on how to deliberate a guilty, nolo contendere (no contest) or not guilty verdict. To convict a person of a DUI the prosecution must prove:

  • The defendant drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle; and
  • While the defendant was driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle he or she:
    • Was under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or a chemical substance to the extent that their normal faculties were impaired; OR
    • Had a breath-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath; OR
    • Had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.

How Does the Jury Determine Impairment for a DUI?

The jury is instructed to use the evidence presented in court to determine if a person was impaired while driving. Florida jury instructions state that there are two ways the jury must deliberate. It’s important that you’re aware of how the jury measures impairment before you head into the courtroom.

If the evidence shows that the defendant had a BAC of .05 or less, then the jury can presume the defendant wasn’t impaired. However, supplemental evidence that shows the defendant was under the influence can overcome this decision. The jury instructions for this are:

“If you find from the evidence that while driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, the defendant had a blood or breath-alcohol level of .05 or less, you shall presume that the defendant was not under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that [his] [her] normal faculties were impaired; but this presumption may be overcome by other evidence demonstrating that the defendant was under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that [his] [her] normal faculties were impaired.”

If the evidence shows the defendant had a BAC of more than .05 but less than .08, then the jury cannot determine if the defendant was under the influence or not. If this occurs, then the jury can consider other evidence to determine whether the defendant was impaired or not. The exact jury instructions for this are:

“If you find from the evidence that while driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, the defendant had a blood or breath-alcohol level in excess of .05 but less than .08, that fact does not give rise to any presumption that the defendant was or was not under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that [his] [her] normal faculties were impaired. In such cases, you may consider that evidence along with other evidence in determining whether the defendant was under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that [his] [her] normal faculties were impaired.”

If the defendant had a BAC of .08 or more, then the jury can assume that the defendant was under the influence. However, this evidence may be contradicted or moot if new evidence shows that the defendant wasn’t impaired at all. The jury instructions for this are:

“If you find from the evidence that while driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, the defendant had a blood or breath-alcohol level of .08 or more, that evidence would be sufficient by itself to establish that the defendant was under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that [his] [her] normal faculties were impaired. But this evidence may be contradicted or rebutted by other evidence demonstrating that the defendant was not under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that [his] [her] normal faculties were impaired.”


Aggravating Factors in DUI Jury Instructions

Certain factors can lead to enhanced penalties. Florida law instructs jurors to be familiar with these factors when deliberating. If the jury finds any of the following aggravating factors your legal consequences may be enhanced.

  • The defendant had a BAC of .15 or higher; or
  • The defendant was accompanied by a minor during the DUI offense.

A minor is any person under the age of 18 years old. If you’re found guilty for an aggravated DUI your possible jail time will be longer, your fines larger and you’ll have added conditions to your sentencing.


Inoperability Defense in Florida DUI Jury Instructions

The inoperability defense addresses the “actual physical control” issue. Defendants have been found guilty of DUI for simply sitting in their car. If the car is operable and the defendant has the capability to drive, then they are in “actual physical control.” Some defendants claim that their vehicle was inoperable, so DUI was impossible. This is referred to as the inoperability defense.

The jury instructions inform jurors of the inoperability defense. If the vehicle was inoperable, then the defendant may not be considered guilty of DUI. However, the defense isn’t applicable if the vehicle became inoperable while the defendant drove it. So, if you wrecked your vehicle until it’s inoperable while driving under the influence, then you couldn’t utilize the inoperability defense.


Felony DUI Jury Instructions in Florida

A DUI can be elevated to felony charges based on the defendant’s criminal history. Jurors are given instructions on how to determine if a DUI case is felony-level or not. The defendant is guilty of a felony-level DUI if they drove under the influence and did the following:

  • Has two previous DUI convictions and one DUI conviction that took place within 10 years of the current charges; OR
  • Has three DUI convictions on their criminal history.

Additional Resources

Florida Jury Instructions – Visit the official website for the Florida Supreme Court to find more information surrounding standard criminal cases. Read the jury instructions for driving under the influence, leaving the scene, racing or other serious traffic offenses.

Standard Jury Instructions (SJI) Committee – Visit the official website for the Florida Bar to find more information about the SJI Committee. Learn more about how the committee reviews and amends jury instructions every year. Access their agendas, case work page, minutes and more.


Lawyer for DUI Jury Instructions in Melbourne, Florida

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, it’s vital that you obtain skilled legal representation. You may be facing heavy penalties such as steep fines and possible jail or prison time. Don’t go at this process alone. Get in contact with the attorneys at Law Offices of Germain & McCarthy.

The attorneys at Law Offices of Germain & McCarthy have years of experience defending clients from DUI charges. We utilize all resources available to us to obtain the best result for you. Our attorneys will not only fight for you, but also explain the legal process. Start your defense today with Law Offices of Germain & McCarthy.

Law Offices of Germain & McCarthy represents clients throughout the greater Brevard County area and surrounding counties including Indian River County and Volusia County.

Why Hire Germain & McCarthy?

  • Our attorneys have over 20 years of combined experience.
  • We have an exceptional reputation & hundreds of happy clients.
  • Our attorneys have a proven track record in handling cases like yours.
  • We offer free consultations to all of our clients no matter the case.
  • We are available and accessible 24/7 for all of your legal needs.