If you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida, learning about the law and your rights can go a long way toward helping your case. Laws exist to keep us safe, but they also exist to protect our rights. Failing a field sobriety test (FST) or blood alcohol content (BAC) test does not automatically make you guilty, even if you have been convicted before.
Police and law enforcement officers have strict rules and procedures to follow to ensure that any arrest, conviction, and penalty is lawful. Understanding the laws and penalties of a DUI in Florida can help you take an active role in your defense and work more closely with your legal team.
That’s why we’ve made this guide to Florida DUI laws, penalties for first and subsequent offenses, and how an experienced DUI lawyer can help you.
What Florida Law Says About Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol
Florida law for a DUI is explained in statute 316.193. This part of the law states that a person is driving under the influence of either alcoholic beverages or harmful chemical substances when that consumption impairs a person’s faculties. Specifically with alcohol, someone is legally driving drunk if their blood alcohol level (BAC) is at or over 0.08. BAC can vary according to factors including physical characteristics such as height, weight, gender, metabolism, and how many drinks a person has consumed.
If law enforcement has probable cause to suspect that someone is driving under the influence while conducting a traffic stop or after an accident, they can request that the driver perform an FST. Failure of the FST, or noncooperation, can be grounds to perform a breathalyzer test to confirm BAC.
Florida has implied consent laws for undergoing a breathalyzer, which means that refusing this test results in a license suspension of one year, even though it isn’t technically required. Subsequent BAC test refusals can result in an 18 month or longer license suspension.
Florida DUI Penalties — Repeat Offenses Make a Difference
Penalties for a DUI are designed to be harsh and act as a deterrent. As part of this, penalties increase with each DUI conviction. A BAC of .08 or above is enough for a DUI conviction as long as the circumstances around the arrest were lawful.
Penalties for a first DUI conviction can include:
- Fines of no less than $500, or $1,000 if BAC is over .15
- Up to six months of jail time
- 180 day license suspension
- One year probation
- Enrollment in a DUI program
Particularly for a first conviction, a judge can look at factors including previous criminal record, level of cooperation, BAC level, and whether or not there was reckless driving, property damage, or injury when determining the sentence. In a large number of cases, first-time DUI offenses do not result in jail time, but the other penalties can still be life-altering.
The penalties for a second DUI are very severe in Florida, and consist of the following:
- Fines of no less than $1,000, or $2,000 if BAC was above .15, or if there was a minor in the vehicle
- Nine months of imprisonment, or 12 months for BAC above .15, or if there was a minor in the vehicle
- Mandatory imprisonment of at least 10 days, with at least 48 hours of consecutive confinement, if the second conviction was within five years of a prior conviction
- Minimum license revocation of five years if less than five years from the first conviction
- Loss of license for 180 days if more than five years from the first offense
A third DUI can actually be charged as a felony in Florida if it is within 10 years of a prior conviction, punishable by a $5,000 fine and a five year prison sentence. If the third conviction is more than 10 years after previous convictions, it could still result in a fine between $2,000 and $5,000, and up to a year in jail. As with any DUI conviction, severity of penalties for a third DUI is dependent on BAC level, whether a minor was in the vehicle, and whether there was an accident, property damage, and/or injury.
While harsh, these penalties don’t represent the full picture of potential costs of a DUI conviction. Being charged and convicted of a DUI comes with court costs, substantially increased insurance rates, decreased job opportunities, and a range of other difficulties.
Charged With a DUI? Our Attorneys Can Help Whether It’s Your First, Second or Third Offense
A DUI arrest in Florida can seriously impact your life, which is why you need an experienced attorney to help protect your rights and help you get the best outcome. Working with a lawyer may result in getting charges dropped or significantly reduced. During the discovery process for a case, a skilled lawyer will ask questions to begin building your defense, including:
- Were you driving at the time of the arrest or accident?
- Were FSTs administered correctly and fairly?
- Was the breathalyzer equipment in working order and was the test administered correctly?
- Was the traffic stop legal, and was there probable cause for the stop?
- Were you fatigued, taking prescription medications, or have footwear issues?
These and other factors can make a huge difference in your case, potential penalties, and your long-term future.
Contact Clark Law If You’ve Been Charged With a DUI in Tampa Bay
In any DUI defense case, your legal team should be working hard to ensure your rights are fully protected and you’re being treated fairly. Attorney Jeremy Clark was a public defender in the Sixth Judicial Circuit. This means he and his team fully understand the laws surrounding DUI in Florida. With our deep experience and expertise, we can respond effectively to the arguments the state of Florida typically uses in DUI cases, whether it is the first, second, or third offense.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.