Understanding Florida’s DUI Laws

Police officers have heard every excuse in the book when they catch someone in the act of drunk driving, also known as driving under the influence. Justifications such as “cabs are too expensive” or “I only had a couple of drinks” might sound logical to a mind impaired by alcohol, but they won’t excuse you from facing DUI charges.

The most prudent approach is to never sit behind the wheel with an ounce of alcohol in your bloodstream, but if that ship has already sailed, you probably have questions about how DUI laws in Florida work and whether you need a criminal defense attorney to represent you.

This article will shed some light on the body of law concerning DUIs in Florida in everyday relatable language.

What Constitutes a DUI in Florida?

Florida, like most states, defines driving under the influence of having a blood alcohol concentration (also referred to as BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, consuming alcohol is not the only thing that can result in a criminal conviction. You can also get a DUI if you’ve ingested illicit or prescription drugs that have impaired your faculties.

Penalties for First and Repeat Offenders

Whether it’s your first DUI or your fifth, the penalties can be harsh. Understandably, subsequent DUIs come with harsher penalties. The goal is to deter drivers from making the same mistake twice (or more) by making it more expensive and disruptive to continue committing this traffic violation.

To understand the range of penalties you could face, we’ve created a chart for your reference. This information is up to date as of 2022. Also note that the upper end of the penalties constitute situations where there was a minor in the vehicle or BAC levels of 0.15% or higher, which is nearly double the legal limit.

The egregiousness of these levels combined with the elevated risk of danger to people and property is the state’s justification for instilling more severe consequences.

1st conviction

2nd conviction

3rd conviction

4th conviction

Fines $500 to $2,000 $1,000 to $4,000 $2,000 to $5,000 $2,000 or more (no limit)
Jail Time 0 to 9 months 0 to 12 months (mandatory imprisonment may be required) 30 days to 12 months Up to 5 years
License Revocation 180 days to 1 year 5+ years (hardship reinstatement eligible after 1 year) 10+ years (hardship reinstatement eligible after 2 years) Permanent revocation

Other Penalties Associated with Florida DUIs

In addition to fines, potential jail time, and license revocation, there are other penalties to be aware of. While the courts may have limited or no discretion in some of these areas, having a criminal lawyer on your side can weigh the odds in your favor, increasing the chances of reduced penalties.

Felony Charges

In Florida, the first and second DUI charges are generally labeled a misdemeanor. However, there are exceptions if there has been an injury, even if it’s your first DUI. If a passenger, another driver, pedestrian, bicyclist, or other bystander is injured as a result of your impairment, it could result in felony charges.

DUI Manslaughter or Vehicular Homicide Charges

Motor vehicle accidents happen even under “normal” conditions, but when alcohol or a controlled substance is involved, the criminal court may not look kindly on the impaired driver. If someone is killed as a result of the accident, the charge is often a second-degree felony, which is one degree separated from a murder charge.

The charges can further escalate to first-degree murder if the driver leaves the scene.

Vehicle Impoundment

Because your license will likely be revoked, your car will also be either impounded or immobilized for a specified period of time. This can range from 10 to ninety days, depending on whether you’ve had any prior DUI convictions. If the vehicle is the only form of transportation for your family, then it could be released early or not held at all.

DUIs for Underage Drivers

Even though we all know it’s considered morally wrong to drive under the influence, mistakes in judgment happen. People under the age of 21, who may not be accustomed to alcohol consumption, can be especially vulnerable to making these mistakes. When a lack of driving experience is combined with alcohol, the results can be catastrophic. As such, Florida law is even stricter when underaged persons choose to drink and drive.

An underage driver can be charged with a DUI if their BAC is 0.02% or higher, which is drastically lower than the standard 0.08%. Though a DUI in someone underaged is not classified as a criminal offense, it does result in the consequence of a six-month license suspension. Penalties may be harsher for higher blood alcohol content levels or refusal of blood, urine, or breath tests.

Charged with a DUI? Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney for Help

DUI charges can have dire consequences for your life, career, and reputation. If you or a loved one is facing DUI charges, call for a meeting with criminal attorney Ron Chapman at (561) 832-4348. Mr. Chapman will discuss your situation with compassion and empathy and can advise you on the next steps.


Copyright© 2022. Ronald S. Chapman, P.A. All rights reserved.


The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Ronald S. Chapman, P.A.
400 Clematis St. Suite 206
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
(561) 832-4348

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400 Clematis St. Suite 206, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Desde 1990, el Sr. Chapman ha representado a personas que han sido acusadas de cometer delitos de varios tipos, tales como DUI, violencia doméstica, posesión de armas, posesión de drogas, eliminación de antecedentes penales, infracciones de tránsito, asesinato, homicidio involuntario, abuso infantil, delitos sexuales, abuso de personas mayores, apelaciones y violaciones de libertad condicional.
Abogado de Defensa Criminal en West Palm Beach, FL

© Propiedad Intelectual 2024. Abogado Penalista en Florida. Todos los Derechos Reservados.

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