What happens when a person is arrested for DUI or reckless driving on federal law in Florida? The crime is charged in a U.S. District Court Notice Violation alleging a violation of Florida’s DUI laws under the Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA).
Crimes charged under the ACA often involve the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), with a BAC over .08 (DUBAL), or a second refusal to submit to a chemical or breathalyzer test. Related offenses might include fleeing to elude, leaving the scene of a crash, or reckless driving.
The ACA assimilates the criminal laws of the State of Florida into federal law making those crimes applicable on federal enclaves. In the Tampa Bay area, federal enclaves include:
- MacDill Air Force Base which is located in Tampa, Hillsborough County;
- James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida; and
- De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, Manatee County.
Attorneys for Federal DUI Investigations
If you were accused of drunk or impaired driving on federal land located in the State of Florida, then contact an experienced DUI defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. We represent men and women accused of DUI under federal law.
Many of these cases involve driving under the influence of alcohol or while impaired by drugs on federal law including DUI at a military installation, the VA hospital parking lot, or in a national park.
We also represent members of the military accused of DUI and other criminal offenses under state law.
Call us at (813) 250-0500 to discuss the case.
What is the Purpose of the Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA) for DUI Cases?
The purpose of the Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA) is to borrow state law to fill gaps in the federal criminal law that applies on federal enclaves. In other words, the ACA exists to fill in gaps in federal law where Congress has not defined the missing offense.
“Under the Act, if there is no federal criminal law on point, and if a defendant’s conduct would have been a state-law crime but for the fact that it was committed on federal territory, it ‘becomes a federal offense….’ ” United States v. Pego, 567 F. App’x 323, 329 (6th Cir. 2014).
Keep in mind that the Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA) does not, however, assimilate state procedural or evidentiary law. United States v. Murphy, 3:08po101, 2012 WL 1021710, *7-8 (S.D. Ohio 2012) (Rice, D.J.).
The Federal DUI Refusal-To-Test Statutes
When federal law enforcement officers investigate impaired driving incidents occurring on federal law, they will often read the Federal Implied Consent Law taken from Section 3118 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which puts the driver on notice that a refusal to provide a valid sample of her breath for testing would result in the suspension of driving privileges on federal property.
An issue often arises about whether the officers have given adequate notice when the DUI is prosecuted under the Assimilative Crimes Act. The notice requirements that are explained in the federal implied-consent statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3118, are less detailed than the notice required under Federal Law.
The federal DUI refusal-to-test statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3118, provides that a person who refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test, “after having been first advised of the consequences of such a refusal, shall be denied the privilege of operating a motor vehicle upon the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States during a period of a year commencing on the date of arrest upon which such test or tests was refused….” 18 U.S.C. § 3118(b).
The Gap in Federal DUI Law for a Refusal to Submit
Is there a gap in federal criminal law when an arrested DUI suspect refuses to take a breathalyzer test?
The courts have found that the answer is “yes” because “[d]riving under the influence of alcohol within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States is not directly actionable under the federal criminal code.” United States v. Rutherford, 1:15CR321, 2016 WL 3574332, *2 (M.D. Ala. 2016).
The ACA fills this gap by incorporating a state’s criminal statutory prohibitions against DUI. See id. This gap in federal criminal law exists even though 18 U.S.C. § 3118 seems to cover an arrested DUI suspect who allegedly refused to take a breathalyzer test on an air force base.
Although § 3118 addresses such problems, it is a procedural and administrative statute, not a criminal statute. As one court explained:
[T]he loss of driving privileges [under 18 U.S.C. § 3118(b) ] appears to be an administrative sanction rather than a subject for prosecution. It is automatically triggered by a qualifying individual’s refusal to take a breath or other physiological sobriety test. Rather than being imposed after a judicial hearing, the suspension of driving privileges for one year “commenc[es] on the date of arrest upon which such test or tests was refused.”
United States v. Williams, 629 F.Supp.2d 539, 543 (E.D. Va. 2009).
The Williams court went on to explain that Section 3118 also differs from most criminal statutes in the words it uses to describe the sanction: the offending driver “shall be denied the privilege of operating a motor vehicle upon the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” 18 U.S.C. § 3118(b).
The denial of privilege within a limited geographical area can be distinguished from the more obviously punitive sanctions of most criminal statutes, which deprive individuals of property, liberty, or both. Id.
Because federal criminal law has an administrative but not a criminal DUI refusal-to-test statute, a gap appears in federal criminal law that the ACA may fill with state law.
The federal courts have found that the basic purpose of the Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA) is one of borrowing state law to fill gaps in the federal criminal law that applies to federal enclaves.
This article was last updated on Friday, October 23, 2020.