Florida’s DUI Laws
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in three traffic deaths in the U.S. involves an alcohol-impaired driver. The CDC reports that in Florida, between 2003 and 2012, 8476 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver. Florida law treats driving under the influence (DUI) as a serious offense. If you are facing DUI charges, the implications for your future and your ongoing ability to drive can be significant.
The legal standard for DUI
Under Florida law, the legal blood alcohol limit is .08. If a police officer stops you on suspicion of DUI, you are required to comply with his or her request to take a blood, urine, or breath test. This is because of Florida’s Implied Consent Law, which states that when you accept the privilege of driving on state roads, you are deemed to have given consent to submit to sobriety testing. The penalty for refusing a test is suspension of your license for at least a year, depending on whether your license has previously been suspended or not.
For drivers under 21, the legal blood alcohol limit is even lower. Under the Zero Tolerance Law, if you are under 21 with a blood alcohol level of .02, your driver’s license will be suspended automatically for 6 months. The website for Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicles explains that this low limit means that a driver cannot have even one drink and drive.
Potential penalties for DUI
For any DUI conviction in Florida, you will lose your driver’s license. How long you lose it for depends on your individual case and whether you have any prior DUI convictions. At a minimum, your license will be revoked for 180 days. Other penalties you may face for a first offense include:
- Fines ranging from $250 – $500;
- 50 hours of community service;
- Up to a year of probation;
- Up to six months in jail (unless a minor was present in the car, which can lead to a sentence of not more than nine months); and
- 12 hours of DUI school.
The penalties increase with each successive DUI incident. (See the official website of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.) Of course, the penalties are also stiffer if property damage or injury to a person is involved. In addition, repeat offenders face felony charges which could lead to up to 5 years in prison.
Moreover, if you have lost your license due to a DUI conviction, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle before your license will be restored to you. This device monitors your alcohol level when you drive. You must blow into it to start the car, and then again five minutes after that. Thereafter, the device beeps approximately every 30 minutes and you must breathe into it again. There is a cost to install the device, and it must be recalibrated on a monthly basis. It transmits the information it records to the Florida DMV.
Consult a Florida DUI defense lawyer
If you are facing DUI charges, even if it is your first offense, your best first step is to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. The skilled Winter Park attorneys of Cotter & Zelman, P.A. defend clients against a wide range of drunk driving and related charges. We can provide the strong defense you need. Contact us for a consultation about your case today.