Arnold Law is a highly reputed criminal defense law firm that has a history of serving clients in and around the Florida area. The experienced legal counsel for the firm has a long history of successfully representing DUI-related cases and work towards the most favorable outcomes possible for their clients. The expert lawyers can aggressively represent your DUI case, assert the rights of the defendants, address their concerns, and stand by to guide them throughout the trial. There are various possible defenses for a DUI defense case, but in order to practice them and build a solid defense, it is crucial to seek legal guidance at the earliest.
What is DUI under Florida Criminal Law?
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious crime under Florida law. The DUI offense involves driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcoholic beverages, chemical or controlled substances. The offense is proved by impairment of “normal faculties” or if the BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) is 0.08 percent or higher. If law enforcement personnel stops you on suspicion of drunk driving and you record a 0.08 or above BAC on a breath or blood test—you will be found guilty of DUI based on that information alone. The arresting officer is not required to prove your impairment or inability to pass a field sobriety test.
This act of driving a vehicle with a 0.08 percent or higher BAC can get you charged under "DUI Per Se" law. All states follow per se DUI laws applicable to the concentration of alcohol in a driver’s blood. Per se is a Latin phrase that means "by itself." The DUI per se charge is applied regardless of the fact that whether your driving ability was actually impaired or not. This means that even if you after a single drink feel completely in control of your senses, your BAC may exceed the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration established by your State, which may result in you being prosecuted under per se DUI law.
Even when you are not actually driving a vehicle, but in "actual physical control" of a vehicle with BAC at or above 0.08 percent, you will be considered in a state of impairment and potential of being charged with DUI. This means that even if you are sitting on the driving seat in your stationary car in a state of intoxication and the law enforcement personnel found you; it is possible that you will be prosecuted for DUI under the Florida law. In addition to that, in most states, you can be charged for impaired driving even though your BAC is less than 0.08. This happens if the arresting officer can provide specific evidence, such as a recording of you failing a sobriety test or slurred speech, even with a BAC lower than the permitted limit of 0.08.
In most states, DUI in a serious criminal offense while some don't consider first-time drunken driving an offense it is seen just as a civil infraction. Some states have laws that mandate jail time for first offenders, while enforcement of punishment is left up to the discretion of the judge in others.
The term "drunk driving" is a common misnomer for the crime of DUI. While drunk driving indicates that the vehicle driver was impaired by alcohol, a DUI conviction can also happen if the driver is found driving under the influence of a prohibited amount of alcohol or drugs in the body. In Florida, the act of drunk driving or drugged driving is referred to as DUI by the law enforcement and legal system.
Each State has its own DUI laws that determine possible punishments based on the severity of the offense. The actual DUI charge depends on various factors, including whether you are a first-offender or repeat-offender, what was your blood or breath alcohol concentration, the time gap between your DUI offenses, whether or not a person was injured or killed, and whether or not any property was damaged. After considering all these factors, the State will bring the appropriate charge against your DUI offense.
Refusal to Submit a Breath, Blood or Urine Test
Police in Florida use a breathalyzer device to test drivers suspected of drunk driving. However, you may refuse to provide a breath sample in such a condition, and the law enforcement personnel cannot force you to take the test. DUI lawyers may find more leverage defending their clients if they are not tested positive for high blood-alcohol concentration.
As per the "implied consent" law, when you apply for a driving license, you are giving consent to various tests to determine possible impairment while driving. However, this refusal may come with a cost and serious repercussions. The refusal to submit testing may risk the suspension of your license and other further penalties. Although applicable in all 50 states, the penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test may vary by State.
In Florida, the refusal to submit a breath, urine, or blood test sample by a suspect of drunk driving is admissible in court. This means that your denial for a blood-alcohol test can be presented as evidence that the suspect had a consciousness of guilt. Second or subsequent refusal is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree.
DUI under criminal law is illegal in all 50 states. More than one-third of all traffic fatalities, such crimes are considered the most serious of driving offenses in any state. Florida law is stringent when it comes to driving under the influence, and DUI charges tend to carry hefty penalties. Below we are going to discuss some of the DUI laws in Florida with possible penalties.
Florida DUI for Underage Drivers: Zero Tolerance Laws
In Florida, it is illegal for those under the age of 21 to buy and own alcohol in all 50 states. Florida has very strict measures when it comes to underage drinking. As per Florida DUI laws, a law enforcement officer can ask for an immediate breath/blood test without probable cause if he suspects alcohol use by an individual 21 years of age.
All states have “zero tolerance” laws for underage DUI offenders. As per the DUI law in Florida, any young driver under 21, if found to have a BAC of 0.02 or higher and caught by police under suspicion will be harshly punished, entailing other penalties such as suspension of driver’s license. Even the first time DUI offenders can have their license suspended for six months. For second or subsequent offenders, the driving license suspension may extend up to 1 year. The refusal to submit to the breathalyzer test by an individual below 21, the license suspension is one year right away. Refusal for the test by second or subsequent time drivers under 21 may result in 18 months of license suspension.
If you are an underage driver and found to have a breath or blood alcohol of 0.05, you get a driver’s license suspension that will remain in effect until you complete a substance abuse class. The license shall remain suspended for an indefinite period until you don’t finish the substance abuse treatment course. There can be other associated consequences of having a DUI conviction as a driver under 21, such as refusal from admissions into professional courses like nursing or law studies.
The DUI laws for underage drivers are rightly called "zero tolerance" laws as the Florida legislature does not show any tolerance when it comes to instances of underage drinking and driving. Although the rationale behind these laws is to combat the real risks and dangers of underage drinking, sometimes even an innocent glass of wine over a family dinner or a few sips of light beer at a friend’s birthday party could land a young driver (under 21) with a DUI charge.
Penalties of DUI Offenses in Florida
DUI offenses under Florida law are considered serious and can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The consequences you tend to face on getting a DUI in Florida will depend on certain factors, which also includes your DUI history. Since DUI is a criminal offense, it is not limited to fines; you may have to face a lot of other consequences in addition to the DUI fines.
- Immediate suspension of driver’s license
- Confiscation of your car/vehicle
- Pay for and complete DUI school
- Complete mandatory community service
- Serve probation and/or jail time
- Installation of an ignition interlock device
The severity of punishments tends to be harsher for repeat DUI offenders. While first-offenders can generally expect a reasonable fine and possibility of jail time, repeat DUI offenders will incur more hefty monetary punishments and certainty of days of jail time. In an unfortunate case of someone getting seriously injured or killed in an accident where a repeat offender was involved, the imposed penalties and charges will certainly get harsher.
First Time DUI Offense
A DUI offense with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher will result in mandatory fines and jail times. For a first offense DUI conviction with BAC of 0.08 or higher, it may range from a minimum of $500 to a maximum of $1000 and a prison sentence from at least 8 hours to 6 months (180 days).
If your BAC is more than 0.15 or driving with a minor in the car, the DUI fine increases to $1000 to a maximum limit of $2000, and the jail time can be increased to up to 9 months.
Mostly, first-offense DUI is typically classified as a misdemeanor but may result in some additional penalties after considering different aspects of the case. The additional penalties include a mandatory 50 hours of community service, probation for up to 1 year, a license suspension for six months, as well as impounded vehicle for ten days. Installation of an ignition interlock device on the vehicle for first-offenders with a BAC of more than 0.15 is also mandatory.
Under Florida’s Ignition Interlock Device (IID) Program, if you are convicted of a DUI in Florida, you may be ordered to install an ignition interlock device into your motor vehicle. It is an in-car breath screening apparatus that needs the driver to pass a satisfactory breath-alcohol test else the motor vehicle will not start. Also, it records your interaction with the device, which is routinely checked by the department of Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Second Time DUI Offense
If an alleged drunk driver has a BAC of 0.08, the minimum fine for a second-time DUI convict has a minimum fine of $1000 or a maximum of $2000. It could also result in imprisonment for not more than nine months.
If BAC was recorded 0.15 or higher or had a presence of a minor while driving, the fine for DUI conviction is not less than $2000 or more than $4000. In this case, the prison sentence can increase up to 12 months. In cases where the second conviction happens inside five years of the previous conviction, mandatory imprisonment of a minimum ten days is given followed by a minimum of 48 hours of confinement.
Other penalties that may apply include probation of 180 days to 1 year, up to 5 year revocation of driver’s license, up to 30-day vehicle confiscation, 1 year mandatory use of vehicle ignition interlock breath-testing device, criminal record expressing adjudication of guilt, compulsory DUI school and discretionary alcohol treatment, and financial compensation if DUI conviction involves an accident, personal injury or property damage.
Third Time DUI Conviction
For a third conviction, the DUI fine for BAC of 0.08 or more varies between $2000 and $5000. If the blood-alcohol content is 0.15 or higher, or there is a minor in the vehicle, the DUI fine may increase to a minimum of $4000. However, for a third conviction, a sentence of up to 5 years in state prison can be given. If the third time conviction for DUI is within ten years of the prior conviction, a minimum of 30 days is mandatory followed by a confinement period of no less than 48 hours. However, if more than ten years have elapsed since the last conviction, a prison sentence of not more than 12 months can be given for the third DUI conviction.
Other penalties that may apply is up to 10 years license suspension, up to 50 hours community service or additional fee of $10/hour of service, up to 90-day vehicle impound, ignition interlock device, mandatory Florida DUI school and discretionary alcohol treatment, permanent felony conviction on your criminal record, and financial restitution if DUI involves an accident, personal injury or property damage.
For fourth or subsequent DUI conviction, a fine of not less than $2000 is imposed. For BAC at or above 0.15, or with the presence of minor in the vehicle, the DUI fine of at least $4000 can be imposed. It can also cause up to 5 years of imprisonment in state prison. Other penalties may include up to 5 years of probation, lifetime license revocation, 90-day vehicle confiscation, mandatory installation of ignition interlock device for 2 or more years, up to 50 hours of community service, DUI school and alcohol treatment, permanent felony conviction on criminal record, and financial restitution in case DUI offence results into accident, personal injury, or property damage.
Under Florida DUI laws, almost all first-time DUIs will be considered a misdemeanor. However, certain types of DUIs can be charged as a felony or aggravated DUI—a more severe crime than a misdemeanor that is usually punishable with a period of imprisonment—even if it’s your first offense. The presence of such aggravating factors may turn an otherwise misdemeanor offense into a felony, thus increasing the range of potential punishments and penalties depending on the state laws. Aggravated DUIs or felony charges involve much higher fines, harsher penalties, and other collateral consequences that may apply for a DUI conviction.
In Florida, there are circumstances when a DUI charge can result in enhanced penalties. If a driver under the influence of alcohol injures or kills someone, he or she can be found guilty of a felony DUI. This could result in years of a state prison sentence, and if the driver has a history of a misdemeanor for DUIs, this DUI could result in a more extended period of imprisonment. A DUI can also be considered a felony if it is your third DUI within the past ten years. If you are caught drunk driving for the fourth time or higher then also you will be charged with felony DUI.
When someone charged with a DUI is tested for extremely high BAC, say two-three times the legal state BAC limit, the offense shifts into the domain of aggravated DUI and may be considered a felony. The presence of a minor in the vehicle when caught for DUI can also turn a DUI into aggravated DUI, resulting in several augmented penalties. The age of the minor to trigger enhanced DUI penalties may vary from State to State; it is set 16 years in some and 12 in others. For instance, if you are caught drunk driving with a BAC of 0.15 (or higher) or have a minor in the vehicle, you may receive a charge for aggravated DUI. Other factors, like driving drunk within a school zone or driving a school bus while intoxicated can also increase the scope of DUI penalties.
In Florida, if an alleged drunk driver kills someone, the DUI charge filled is called DUI manslaughter. A DUI manslaughter is regarded as a second-degree felony, which may result in a maximum punishment of 15 years imprisonment and/or $10,000 fine.
The laws and possible penalties for DUI offenses may vary from State to State. It is important for defendants to have a close look at the state laws under which they have been charged guilty. For hit-and-run cases in regard to a fatal DUI crash, a DUI charge may be filed as a first-degree felony carrying a maximum penalty of maximum 30 years of imprisonment.
In addition to the criminal penalties, following a DUI convict, you may have to lose some personal liberties. After such a conviction, it may get difficult for you to obtain a passport or professional license, rent a home or work with kids, get a government student loan for higher education, purchase firearms, or certain jobs may be altogether unattainable to those who have been convicted of DUI acquire employment in various sectors. As a consequence of a DUI conviction, premiums for auto insurance are likely to hike significantly, or your insurance may even get altogether canceled.
Under the law of Florida, a DUI conviction will remain on your driving record for as long as 75 years and does not allow any DUI expungement. This also means any driver who is convicted for DUI will have that DUI on their driving record for life.
Every DUI case is different, and there are several defenses to felony DUI, including challenging the BAC tests, the validity of law enforcement personnel's testing methods, improper calibration of breathalyzer equipment, the medical condition which may have caused an erroneous result, and other circumstantial pieces of evidence. In order to build a solid defense, the defendant must seek help from skilled DUI defense lawyers.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Specializing in DUI laws Near Me
A DUI offense can make a lasting impact on your life. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drunk driving offense in Florida, you must seek legal assistance from a local expert DUI attorney like Arnold Law. We assist all Florida residents who need consultation on DUI-related criminal defense cases. We can help to find out the strengths and weaknesses of your case and help you prepare the best possible defense going forward. We have a reputation for providing the best available legal advice and handling all kinds of DUI charges. Call us at 904-264-3627 to get in touch with one of our highly qualified lawyers regarding your DUI case. Don’t delay; contact Arnold Law today!