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 a 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 of 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 it is 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.
Florida DUI Penalties
In Florida, individuals may be considered driving under the influence based on their blood-alcohol content, or BAC. The maximum allowable BAC depends on a number of factors, including the person’s age. A person who is under the age of 21 may be charged with DUI if his or her BAC is reported to be .02 percent or higher. The threshold for individuals over the age of 21 is a BAC of .08 percent, which is standard across the country. A person operating a vehicle commercially may be charged if his or her BAC is .04 percent or higher.
DUI charges in Florida are initially misdemeanors but graduate to felonies under certain circumstances, such as after multiple offenses within a period of ten years or if another person is seriously injured or killed. Penalties may be aggravated by a number of circumstances. This may include a recorded BAC of over .15 percent or the presence of a minor under the age of 15 in the vehicle.
Penalties for a First Florida DUI Offense
The fine for a first DUI ranges from $500 to $1,000. Defendants may also be sentenced to 50 hours of community service. The potential maximum sentence of incarceration is six for a first offense. In cases involving a BAC of greater than .15 percent, the maximum is nine months. The vehicle will be impounded for 10 days upon conviction. A person’s driver’s license can be revoked for a period of 180 days to one year. In some cases, a person may be required to use an ignition interlock device in their vehicle for a minimum of six months, if hardship is claimed.
Penalties for a Second Florida DUI Offense
The fine for a second DUI ranges from $1,000 to $2,000. The period of incarceration can be up to nine months. The vehicle will be impounded for 30 days, and the minimum driver’s license suspension is five years. A person may also be ordered to install an ignition interlock device for a period of one to two years.
Florida Penalties for a Third DUI Offense
The fine for a third DUI ranges from $1,000 to $5,000. The period of incarceration can be up to a year. The vehicle will also be impounded for 90 days, and the person’s driver’s license ma revoked for no less than 10 years. An ignition interlock device may also be required for the two years following the conviction.
Florida Penalties for a Fourth DUI Offense and Beyond
A fourth or subsequent DUI becomes a felony and is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of five years and a minimum fine of $1,000 with a maximum of $5,000. A convicted person’s driver’s license may be permanently revoked. However, a bill was passed in 2010 that allowed some drivers who were convicted a fourth time to apply for restricted reinstatement. This is only possible if the person was not charged with manslaughter and if the person completes an alcohol treatment program within six months of reinstatement. Additionally, the vehicle involved may be seized and disposed of.
Penalties for Refusal to Submit to Testing in Florida
Florida’s implied consent law requires drivers to submit to a blood, breath or urine test. Refusal to submit to these tests is a separate violation that carries an automatic license suspension. The penalties for refusal include fines and mandatory license suspension.