DUI Laws in Florida

This article provides a comprehensive overview of DUI laws in Florida, including definitions, penalties, administrative procedures, and legal defenses.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in Florida, carrying significant legal consequences. Understanding the intricacies of Florida's DUI laws is crucial for residents and visitors alike. This article provides a comprehensive overview of DUI laws in Florida, including definitions, penalties, administrative procedures, and legal defenses.

Definition of DUI in Florida

In Florida, DUI is defined under Florida Statutes Section 316.193. A person is guilty of DUI if they are driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle within the state and:

  1. The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in Florida Statutes Section 877.111, or any substance controlled under Chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person's normal faculties are impaired.
  2. The person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.
  3. The person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

Source: Florida Statutes Section 316.193

Actual Physical Control

"Actual physical control" means that the person must be physically in or on the vehicle and have the capability to operate the vehicle, regardless of whether the vehicle is moving or not.

Penalties for DUI in Florida

First Offense

For a first DUI offense in Florida, the penalties can include:

  • Fines: $500 to $1,000. If the blood-alcohol level (BAL) is 0.15 or higher, or if a minor is in the vehicle, fines range from $1,000 to $2,000.
  • Imprisonment: Up to 6 months. If the BAL is 0.15 or higher, or if a minor is in the vehicle, imprisonment can be up to 9 months.
  • Probation: Up to 1 year.
  • Community Service: Mandatory 50 hours.
  • License Suspension: 180 days to 1 year.
  • DUI School: Mandatory attendance and completion.

Second Offense

For a second DUI offense, the penalties increase:

  • Fines: $1,000 to $2,000. If the BAL is 0.15 or higher, or if a minor is in the vehicle, fines range from $2,000 to $4,000.
  • Imprisonment: Up to 9 months. If the BAL is 0.15 or higher, or if a minor is in the vehicle, imprisonment can be up to 12 months.
  • License Suspension: Minimum of 5 years if the second offense occurs within 5 years of the first.
  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID): Mandatory installation for at least 1 year.

Third Offense

A third DUI offense within 10 years is considered a third-degree felony:

  • Fines: $2,000 to $5,000. If the BAL is 0.15 or higher, or if a minor is in the vehicle, fines are not less than $4,000.
  • Imprisonment: Up to 5 years.
  • License Suspension: Minimum of 10 years.
  • IID: Mandatory installation for at least 2 years.

Fourth and Subsequent Offenses

A fourth or subsequent DUI offense is a third-degree felony:

  • Fines: Not less than $2,000.
  • Imprisonment: Up to 5 years.
  • License Suspension: Permanent revocation.
  • IID: Mandatory installation for at least 2 years.

Source: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

Administrative Penalties

Administrative License Suspension

Florida has an administrative license suspension law, which allows for the immediate suspension of a driver's license if the driver refuses to submit to a chemical test or if the driver's BAL is 0.08 or higher.

  • First Refusal: 1-year suspension.
  • Second or Subsequent Refusal: 18-month suspension.

Hardship License

Drivers may be eligible for a hardship license, which allows them to drive for business or employment purposes during the suspension period. To obtain a hardship license, the driver must:

  1. Enroll in DUI school.
  2. Apply for a hardship hearing with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).

Source: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

DUI and Minors

Zero Tolerance Law

Florida has a "Zero Tolerance" law for drivers under the age of 21. If a driver under 21 is found to have a BAL of 0.02 or higher, their license will be suspended for 6 months. A second or subsequent offense results in a 1-year suspension.

Penalties for Minors

In addition to license suspension, minors convicted of DUI may face:

  • Fines: Up to $1,000.
  • Community Service: Mandatory 50 hours.
  • DUI School: Mandatory attendance and completion.
  • Probation: Up to 1 year.

Source: First Time Driver

DUI and Commercial Drivers

Lower BAL Threshold

For commercial drivers, the legal BAL limit is lower. A commercial driver is considered to be driving under the influence if they have a BAL of 0.04 or higher.

Penalties for Commercial Drivers

  • First Offense: Disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for 1 year.
  • Second Offense: Lifetime disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle.

Source: Florida Statutes Section 322.61

DUI and Boating

Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

Florida also has laws against boating under the influence (BUI). The legal BAL limit for operating a vessel is the same as for driving a vehicle: 0.08.

Penalties for BUI

  • First Offense: Fines up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail.
  • Second Offense: Fines up to $2,000 and up to 9 months in jail.
  • Third Offense: Considered a third-degree felony with fines up to $5,000 and up to 5 years in prison.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Common Defenses

Several defenses can be used to challenge a DUI charge in Florida:

  1. Improper Stop: Arguing that the officer did not have a valid reason to stop the vehicle.
  2. Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests: Challenging the administration or interpretation of field sobriety tests.
  3. Faulty Breathalyzer: Questioning the accuracy and calibration of the breathalyzer device.
  4. Medical Conditions: Demonstrating that a medical condition affected the driver's performance on sobriety tests or breathalyzer results.
  5. Lack of Evidence: Arguing that the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to prove the DUI charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is highly recommended to seek legal representation if charged with a DUI. An experienced DUI attorney can help navigate the legal process, identify potential defenses, and work towards the best possible outcome.

Conclusion

Understanding DUI laws in Florida is essential for all drivers. The state imposes strict penalties for DUI offenses, including fines, imprisonment, and license suspension. Additionally, administrative penalties can result in immediate license suspension. Special rules apply to minors, commercial drivers, and boating under the influence. Legal defenses are available, and seeking professional legal assistance is advisable for anyone facing a DUI charge.

For more information on Florida DUI laws, visit the official Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website and review the Florida Statutes Section 316.193.

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Von Wooding

Von Wooding

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