In the state of Florida, drivers are charged with a DUI if their blood alcohol content, or BAC, is equal to or greater than .08 percent. This limit drops to .04 percent for drivers of commercial vehicles and to .02 percent for drivers under the age of 21. If the driver’s BAC is .15 percent or greater, Florida DUI laws stipulate that judges may not reduce the charges or penalties under any circumstances.
The DUI charge is also applied to any driver under the influence of a controlled substance to a degree that it impairs his or her normal faculties. The 1996 case State v. Tagner and the 2008 case Sabree v. State established the presence of a controlled substance in the driver’s blood alone was not sufficient for a DUI charge. An officer must additionally observe impaired function in order to successfully bring a DUI charge.
As with most states, Florida has an “implied consent” law that stipulates any driver lawfully arrested by a police officer must submit to a blood, breath or urine test. Probable cause — an officer observing erratic driving or disregard for traffic laws, for instance — is sufficient to place a driver under arrest for DUI in Florida. A refusal to take the test results in automatic suspension of one’s driver’s license for one year. This suspension is independent of the result of the DUI case. Subsequent refusals become a first-degree misdemeanor and carry a longer period of suspension. Refusal can also be used against a person later in court as evidence of guilt.
DUI escalates to a third-degree felony charge according to Florida DUI laws if it is the third such offense within a period of 10 years or if it is a fourth lifetime offense. DUI automatically becomes a third-degree felony under any circumstances if serious bodily injury is caused to another person. A DUI in which another person is killed becomes a second-degree felony regardless of whether it is ruled manslaughter or homicide. Both of these charges are escalated to a first-degree felony if the accused leaves the scene of the crime before police arrive.
Recent Changes to Florida DUI Laws
Penalties for fourth offenders were reduced in 2010 if certain conditions are met. If drivers did not commit manslaughter or homicide in previous incidents, they can potentially receive a restricted license upon installation of an ignition interlock device during their first year of suspension. This is also contingent upon the defendant participating in a treatment program.
In 2012, Florida Statute 316.193 was amended to require that all drivers convicted of a DUI must install an ignition interlock device on any vehicles that they use for a minimum of three months. This period increases with the severity of the charge.
A change to DUI law in 2013 now allows drivers who have refused a breath test to apply for a “hardship license” if they can show a need to drive for work, business, medical or family necessity. To obtain the hardship license, immediately upon suspension, the driver must waive his or her right to challenge the validity of the suspension. This option is only available for a driver’s first offense. The 2013 law change also allows those with suspended licenses to petition the court for invalidation of the suspension if the arresting officer or breath technician did not show up for the court case.
What Is The Legal Alcohol Limit In Florida?
Offenses for driving under the influence of alcohol are taken very seriously in Florida. State laws detail severe penalties for people found guilty of DUI. These punishments may include extensive jail time, large fines and loss of driving privileges, among other consequences.
The legal alcohol limit in Florida is .08 percent, as it is in every other U.S. state. Important to understand, however, is that various classes of drivers are subject to blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits that vary from this designated level.
- While the alcohol limit of .08 percent applies to drivers 21 and over, motorists not of legal drinking age are subject to a BAC limit of .02 percent.
- Commercial drivers also must adhere to a BAC level – .04 percent – that is below the legal limit for passenger motorists over 21.
Individuals who have a BAC of.15 percent or greater are likely to face aggravated DUI charges, which can result in enhanced penalties. For example, the fine handed down by a court may be double that of a fine for a standard offense. Additionally, being convicted on an aggravated driving under the influence charge requires the installation of an ignition interlock device for at least six months.
Ignition Interlock Requirements In Florida
DUI offenders of all levels may be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed. Guidelines for IIDs in DUI cases include:
- For a first conviction, a device need only be installed if court ordered – unless BAC is .15 percent or above.
- A second conviction can result in an IID period of at least one year – or two years if BAC is.15 percent or over.
- A third conviction can require IID installation for at least two years.
- A fourth conviction may result in at least five years of device use.
People convicted of DUI are responsible for all IID-related costs, including installation, maintenance and monitoring.