What You Need to Know About Florida’s DUI Laws and Penalties
Florida has a relatively good record for drunk and drugged driving. It only ranks 37th in drunk driving fatalities and 47th in DUI arrests. This might seem surprising, given that Florida gets more tourists every year than any state except California.
Part of the reason for Florida’s record may come from its strict DUI laws and penalties. In addition to any criminal penalties for DUI, you will also bear liability for any injuries or property damage you cause in a car accident.
Here is an overview of Florida’s DUI laws and penalties.
Florida DUI Laws
DUI happens when you have control over a vehicle and:
- Your faculties are impaired by drugs or alcohol
- You have a blood alcohol level of over 0.08 grams per 100 milliliters of blood
- You have a breath alcohol level of over 0.08 grams per 210 liters of breath
You commit a DUI when any one of these is true. This means prosecutors have three options to convict you of DUI:
- They can present a blood test over 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC)
- They can present a breath test over 0.08% BAC
- They can present testimony and video showing your impairment
If the prosecutor shows that your driving was impaired, you can be convicted of DUI even if you have a BAC below 0.08%.
Some ways prosecutors can show that your driving was impaired is dashcam video or police officer testimony showing that you were:
- Speeding or driving slowly
- Failing to use headlights or turn signals
But these prosecutions require evidence showing how drugs or alcohol affected your driving. A jury also has the discretion to interpret that evidence to decide whether your normal faculties were impaired.
BAC of 0.08% or Higher
Prosecutors often focus on cases where there was a breath or blood test. If the test shows a BAC of at least 0.08%, prosecutors do not need to present any evidence of your impairment. Instead, they only need to introduce the test results.
The officer who stopped you will not need to testify about your speed, directional control, or judgment. The officer will only need to testify about administering the test and reading its results.
Florida penalizes you if you refuse to take an alcohol test. The state can suspend your license for one year, and prosecutors can use your refusal in a DUI trial.
Penalties for DUI
Florida has strict penalties for DUI. These penalties get enhanced if you cause a DUI accident.
All sentences for DUI include the following six parts.
Imprisonment is a possibility even for a first DUI conviction, but it cannot be for a period of longer than six months. The jail sentence cannot be more than nine months for a second conviction.
Judges have discretion regarding jail sentences. In some cases, the accused can serve jail time in a residential alcoholism or drug abuse treatment program.
DUI convictions have a mandatory minimum fine. For a first offense, the judge must impose a fine of at least $500.
Driver’s License Suspension
After a DUI conviction, the judge must revoke your driver’s license for at least 180 days. The driver’s license suspension will increase in duration if you get subsequent DUIs.
Substance Abuse Course
The court must order you to take a substance abuse course and undergo a substance abuse evaluation. If the evaluation recommends substance abuse treatment, you must attend treatment as a condition of your probation.
The court must sentence you to at least 50 hours of community service.
The court must order the impoundment of your vehicle for at least ten days after you complete any jail sentence.
What to Do After a DUI
If you are charged with DUI, speak with a DUI defense attorney to learn more about your options for facing Florida’s DUI laws.
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