The Sunshine State is a must-visit for holiday goers, a serene location to settle with your family, and also set up business or work. If you are a lover of alcohol and spirits, you want to learn drunk driving laws in Florida, before law enforcement arrests and charges you.
Florida is one of the states with the strictest drunk driving laws. Also known as DUI, drunk driving refers to the act of operating or driving an automobile while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. If caught drunk driving, you risk getting severe punishment like paying hefty fines, serving time in jail, and having your license suspended for long periods.
However, there are different penalties for drunk driving based on the number of times you violate Florida DUI laws. These laws include the first time, second time, third time, and fourth/ subsequent time DUI offenses.
When facing DUI charges, you could find it hard to understand the complex drunk driving laws in Florida. It is recommended that you work with a reputable lawyer who not only guides you on Florida’s DUI laws but also represents you in court and is talented to cast doubts in the prosecution’s evidence. Seek the best legal counsel at Arnold Law and increase your chances of winning your DUI charges.
Implied Consent Law and Refusing a Blood/ Breath Test
You are privileged to drive on the roads in Florida. That means the moment you obtain a driver’s license, you are consenting to any kind of blood alcohol test a traffic office needs you to undergo. Standard tests the police use to determine your blood-alcohol content (BAC) are urine, blood, chemical, and breath tests.
Even though you are required to submit a blood test, the law allows you to resist the tests. However, you get charged in court for refusing to take a breath test. You need to hire a competent DUI attorney as the prosecution could use your breath-test-refusal against you in court or as proof that you acted out of guilt.
Florida Administrative Hearing Process
In Florida, there exist two forms of administrative hearings any suspect should learn. Firstly, if apprehended for drunk driving, you are allowed up to ten days to file for either type of hearing.
Informal Administrative Hearing
You have only ten days to request an informal hearing from the day of your arrest. The hearing officer responsible for your informal hearing is usually under the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The work of this officer is to evaluate proof against you the traffic officers bring forth.
The hearing officer decides to reinstate your license or uphold the arresting officer’s verdict to revoke your driver’s license. You could have your license restored if the hearing officer finds doubts in the proof presented to them. You and the arresting officer alike can only have your testimonies heard at a formal hearing and not an informal hearing. Therefore, you should file for a formal hearing to have your testimony heard.
Florida law states that you or your criminal defense lawyer could request a formal hearing within 30 days. Here, you or the attorney are needed to testify under oath. Then, the hearing officer assesses the proof the law enforcers present and hears their testimony.
After reviewing the arresting officer’s evidence, the hearing officer assesses your proof and also hears testimonies from your witnesses too. When all parties present pieces of evidence and statements, the hearing officer makes the final decision, which is either in your favor or the arresting officer’s favor. You need to hire an experienced DUI lawyer if you want to gain your driving privileges in Florida back.
Obtaining a Florida Hardship License
At times the hearing officer upholds the cop’s decision to suspend your driver’s license. Here, you are allowed to file for a hardship license. Before you are eligible for this license, you need to meet specific requisites, namely:
- You don’t have more than two DUI convictions in your criminal record
- When facing your DUI charges, you complete a DUI program within 90 days
- If you had a BAC above 0.08 percent at the time of your arrest, you must wait for a 30-day license-suspension period to elapse. Also, if you resist taking a chemical test, you must wait for 90 days after your license suspension
After meeting the above-mentioned requirements, you could file for a hardship review hearing, and the hearing officer decides whether to grant you a Florida hardship license. If given the license, the officer requests that you perform some paperwork and forward the documents to your closest DMV office in Florida. At the DMV, you are needed to submit an SR22 form before they can offer you the hardship license.
What Are the Benefits of The Hardship License?
You can use a hardship license for two purposes:
- Business purposes. With this hardship license, you are allowed to drive to work and back home, driving while on duty for work purposes, driving to the hospital for treatment, driving to your place of worship, and driving to your place of study/ institution
- Employment purposes. Unlike the hardship license for business purposes, the one for employment purposes only allows you to drive to your workplace and back to your home and other job-related reasons
Florida First Offense DUI
As the name suggests, a first-time DUI offense in Florida occurs when you are caught with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above, and you have no other DUI conviction in your criminal records. Florida law considers first offense DUI a misdemeanor. Possible punishment for first offense DUI in Florida includes:
If convicted for misdemeanor DUI, you could pay a fine not below $500 and not exceeding $1,000. You would pay this fine if your BAC were less than 0.15 percent.
You could pay a fine of not less than $1,000 and not exceeding $2,000 of caught with a 0.15 BAC or higher or if there was a minor in the car at the time of your arrest.
Serving Jail Time
You could spend time in the county jail for a period not less than six months if caught with a BAC of 0.15 percent or below. The judge could decide to, in the place of jail time, grant you a one-year probationary period with community service of not less than 50 hours.
If caught with a 0.15 BAC or higher, or you had a minor in the car during your arrest, you could spend time in jail for not more than nine months.
The court could sentence first offense DUI convicts to community service for a compulsory 50 hours. If the judge grants community service as punishment, you must pay an extra fine of $10 for all hours you work in the community service.
As mentioned above, you must complete a drug program in a DUI school before the DMV can issue you a hardship license. If you attended a DUI school after the DMV suspended your license, you must, before the court can reinstate it, prove that you enrolled for a drug program.
You are also needed to complete a drug rehabilitation program within 90 days after the DMV reinstates your driving license. The DMV revokes the license again if you cannot get another one before you can complete your drug rehabilitation program.
According to Florida law, the court impounds your car for ten days for you to have probation in the place of jail time. Your vehicle impoundment begins the day you complete your compulsory jail time. For example, if you complete your jail time in 30 days, the impoundment begins on the 31st day after walking out of jail.
Note that you settle all costs incurred for vehicle impoundment. However, if your family or workers use the car, the judge could choose to do away with the impoundment period.
If it is your first offense DUI, you are required, for six months, to install an ignition interlock if your BAC was over 0.15 percent or if the arresting officer found a minor in your car during your arrest.
If arrested for a first offense DUI, you have your license revoked for not less than 180 days and not more than one year. You could have your driver’s license suspended for one year if you resist a chemical test.
Florida Second Offense DUI
Your second time DUI offense occurs when law enforcers catch you with 0.08 BAC or greater, and your past criminal records of less than five years entail a DUI offense. Possible punishment for a second offense DUI Florida includes:
If charged with DUI for the second time in Florida, you risk serving jail time of not less than ten days. You must serve no less than two of these days behind bars uninterrupted.
The maximum period for a second DUI convicted to serve in jail is nine months. The law requires that you have a 0.14 BAC or lower.
However, if your BAC was more than 0.15 percent or a minor was present in your car during your arrest, you could serve jail time in the county jail for not more than one year.
If caught with a second offense within five years, the court could impose a fine not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000 provided that you had a 0.15 BAC or lower.
The minimum fine if caught with a minor in your car or a BAC of 0.15 percent or more, is not less than $2,000 and not more than $4,000.
The court could grant you probation on the condition that your car gets impounded for 30 days if you are convicted for drunk driving for the second time before five years elapse after your first offense.
Like the first time offense, the impoundment period begins on the day you complete your jail time. The court could remove the impoundment period if the car use entails transferring your family members to school and work or your workers to work-related duties.
According to Florida law, you must attend and complete a drug program in a DUI school to have your driver’s license reinstated if convicted for a second offense DUI.
The court requires that you install an ignition interlock device for not less than a year if found guilty of a second offense DUI. You must install an IID for about two years if a minor was in the car during the arrest, or your BAC was above 0.15%.
A second-time conviction for DUI attracts a license suspension for not less than five years if your previous sentence is within five years. You can apply for a hardship license with the DMV after a year following the suspension of your driver's license suspension.
If your second offense DUI occurs after five years since your last conviction, the court could revoke your driver’s license for one year.
Also, if you resist a chemical/ blood test, you risk having your license suspended for 18 months.
Florida Third Offense DUI
A Florida third offense DUI happens when you are arrested with a BAC of 0.08 percent and above, and you have had two DUI convictions before where one of these convictions occurred within ten years.
You are charged with felony DUI if you cause serious bodily harm to someone else. If your drunk driving offense for the third time doesn’t cause injury to someone else, the prosecution charges you with a misdemeanor offense. Possible punishment includes:
A third offense DUI is considered a more severe offense when compared to a first or second offense. If convicted for this crime, the court could order you to pay a fine of an amount between $2,000 and $5,000.
If you had a minor (a person below the age of 18) in your vehicle at the time of your arrest or you had a 0.15% BAC or higher, minimum fines increase to $4,000. The judge has the jurisdiction to impose fines depending on your prior crime commissions and conditions surrounding the crime.
Serving Jail Time
You serve in jail no less than 30 days if convicted for a third offense DUI. Besides the mandatory sentence, you could serve in the county jail for up to one year. The judge has the jurisdiction to decide the length of your jail sentence depending on your prior criminal offenses and situations involved in your case.
Enrolling in a DUI School
Florida law requires that you register in a DUI school and complete the whole program before the DMV can reinstate your driver’s license.
Before the court can grant you probation, it should order for your car impoundment that elapses after 90 days after your release from jail.
You are also needed to pay all fees incurred during the impoundment. The court could dismiss the impoundment period should you offer proof of the vehicle’s dependency, for example, transporting your family or even employees.
Suspension of Your Driver’s License
For a third DUI offense, the court could revoke your driver’s license for not less than ten years. After the ten-year revocation, you could apply for a hardship license after an extra two years.
If you commit a third DUI offense after ten years past your previous and second offense DUI, the license revocation gets lowered to five years. Also, resisting having your blood alcohol content tested, you risk a ten-year license suspension.
Installing an Ignition Interlock Device
You are required per Florida law to install an IID for not less than two years if you are convicted for a third offense DUI.
If arrested for a third offense DUI and had another conviction within the last ten years, you risk having your driver’s license suspended for not less than ten years. You are allowed to obtain a hardship license after the revocation period elapses, and the court adds another two years.
However, if you get caught drunk driving and your previous second offense is beyond the ten-year frame, and you have no other crime commission in your records within the last five years, the court revokes your driver’s license for no longer than five years.
Also, if you fail to take a blood test, you risk having your driver’s license revoked for ten years.
Florida Fourth and Subsequent Offense DUI
Three prior DUI convictions with at least one of them occurring within the last ten years and a BAC of 0.08 percent constitute a fourth or subsequent offense in Florida if caught another time drunk driving.
The prosecution could enhance your charge to a felony offense if you cause great bodily harm to someone else. If no one incurs injuries following your drunk driving offense, you get charged with a misdemeanor DUI, and possible sentencing includes:
Serving Time in Jail
You risk spending time in the county jail for not more than five years if convicted the fourth time for drunk driving. However, the court has the jurisdiction to decide the number of years to sentence you to jail based on your criminal record and the weight of your case.
The least fine the court can impose on you for a fourth or subsequent offense DUI is $2,000. However, the fine minimum increases to $5,000 if yours is a felony criminal offense. The judge decides on the amount of fine to impose depending on your crime and criminal record.
Per Florida law, vehicles belonging to DUI convicts get impounded to have probation granted to them. Usually, the court impounds your car for 90 days, and you are required to foot any costs incurred during the impoundment. Your vehicle impoundment period begins after you complete serving your jail term.
However, if you have other people, for example, employees and family members, who largely depend on the car for movement purposes, the court could choose to wipe out the impoundment period.
Suspension of Your Driver’s License
The fourth and subsequent DUI offenses have the most severe license revocation punishment. The court withdraws your driver’s license for like with zero chances of reinstating it. Also, you are not eligible for a hardship license if convicted for DUI the fourth time.
Florida SR22 Requirements
The DMV requires you to fill an SR22 form before they can issue you a hardship license. All that is needed is having active SR22 insurance for three years.
Should you experience a lapse in your insurance coverage within the three years, the law needs the insurance firm to forward a report of the same to the Florida DMV. After the lapse occurs, the DMV revokes your driver's license, and they need you to fill another SR22 form to obtain a license.
Legal Alcohol Limit in Florida
Florida law allows different categories of drivers to have different levels of alcohol in their blood while driving.
Adult Drivers/ Per Se Laws
An adult driver is said to break Florida DUI laws if they operate a vehicle with a 0.08 BAC or higher.
It is a criminal offense for a commercial driver to operate a vehicle registered under the category of commercial vehicles with a BAC of 0.04% or greater.
Punishment for a DUI Conviction for Commercial Drivers
After your arrest for drunk driving, the law enforcers place you on an out-of-service status for not less than 24 hours. Other consequences resulting from your arrest as a CDL holder include:
- Getting disqualified as a CDL holder and having the license revoked for a year
- The DMV could suspend your commercial driver status for three years if found transporting dangerous substances during your arrest
The court, if it finds you guilty of drunk driving, could impose penalties like:
- A fine of not less than $1,000
- Enrolling and completing a drug rehabilitation program
- An irreversible criminal record
- Completing community service
- Serving jail time for not more than six months
Underage drivers in Florida are those of the age of 21 years and below. Florida enacted a zero-tolerance law for drivers below 21 years. That means you could face charges even after taking one glass of low-alcohol-content wine. If you are a minor, you are guilty of drunk driving when caught with a BAC of 0.02%. Penalty for drunk driving while underage is license revocation for six months.
Contact a DUI Lawyer Near Me
Getting caught while drunk driving in Florida could bring a toll on your life. For instance, you could lose your driving privileges for months or years, the court could impose fines that break your financial status, and future attempts to get a job could get compromised.
We at the Arnold Law are here to take you through Florida’s DUI laws and help with building good defense strategies or offering the best advice when facing these charges.
We are known in all Florida counties and cities to offer A-class legal counsel to our clients facing DUI charges. Get in touch today with a qualified DUI attorney at 904-264-3627.