What is a DUI in Florida?
A DUI or Driving Under the Influence in Florida is the offense of operating a vehicle after ingesting an intoxicating substance. These inebriating substances include alcohol, harmful chemicals, or controlled substances that may distort the user's mental, auditory, and visual processes.
Like other states in the U.S, Florida has legal blood/breath alcohol content limits. Motorists who flaunt these limits violate the State Uniform Traffic Control laws and must face legal consequences as specified in the state's traffic control laws and criminal code. Depending on the severity of the offense, the court ascribes penalties to guilty offenders, including imprisonment, fines, license forfeiture, probation, suspension of the offender's license, and other penalties laid out in the state's sentencing guides. When offenders are convicted, records of DUI offenses are usually included in their Florida criminal records.
What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in Florida?
DUI and DWI can mean different things. The first difference is the meaning of both acronyms: DUI refers to Driving Under the Influence, while DWI refers to Driving While Intoxicated. DWI may also mean Driving While Impaired. Both involve operating vehicles while intoxicated or impaired due to the ingestion of alcoholic beverages, or drugs, whether prescription or recreational. Both are also severe offenses that can result in harsh penalties.
Some states have separate DUI and DWI laws, but the adopted legal term in Florida is DUI (Florida Statute §316.193). A Florida motorist may be guilty of a DUI if the person's blood alcohol content is greater than the state limit. Law enforcement agents may test blood or urine samples to determine the motorist's blood alcohol or use breathalyzers to determine blood alcohol content.
Florida DUI Laws
Florida Statute §316.193 outlines Florida's DUI laws. According to the code, a motorist is guilty of driving under the influence if they operate a vehicle while:
- Under the influence of any substance, to the extent that impairs the person's normal faculties, including controlled substances, alcoholic beverages, chemical substances, or liquids that contain chemical substances like nitrous oxide and ethyl acetate.
- Their blood-alcohol level is at least 0.08g per 100ml of blood
- Their breath alcohol level is at least 0.08g per 210 liters of breath
Florida has DUI rules (Florida Statute §322.61) for commercial driver's licenses and learner's permit holders. It is an offense for such persons to:
- Drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or controlled substances
- Drive a commercial vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.4g or higher in their blood or urine
- Refuse to submit to an alcohol concentration test
It is also an offense in Florida for a person under the influence of alcohol or other substances to operate a vehicle and, in the process, cause property damage, serious bodily injury, or death to another person.
In association with the courts, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department (FHSMV) works to maintain traffic laws in the state and penalize offending motorists.
DUI Penalties in Florida
In Florida, the severity of a DUI offense and the offender's criminal history determine the penalty ascribed. Except for repeated offenses and cases that involve serious bodily injury to another person or property, death, and other aggravating circumstances, DUIs are misdemeanors in Florida. Repeated offenses and offenses that involve aggravating factors are typically felony offenses. Typical penalties ascribed to persons convicted of DUI offenses are listed in Florida Statute §322.61, and they include:
- Incarceration in a county jail for up to six (6) months
- Fines of between $500 and $1,000
- A revocation of the offending driver's license for a minimum of 180 days and a maximum of one (1) year.
- Installation of an ignition lock device, typically at the offender's expense, for up to six (6) months.
What Happens When You Get a DWI in Florida?
A DWI is not a separate offense in Florida; the legal term for all offenses related to driving while impaired or under the influence of alcohol is DUI. All offenses in the DUI category are penalized according to Florida Statute §322.61. As the prosecuting party, the burden of proof is on the state. The court and law enforcement agents must prove that a motorist is indeed guilty of a DUI. Consequently, before law enforcement agents arrest a motorist for a DUI, the motorist will be subjected to tests if the arresting officer has reason to believe that the motorist is driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances.
Florida's Implied Consent Law states that anyone who operates a vehicle within the state is deemed to have given consent to approved physical or chemical tests such as physical or chemical breath tests, urine tests, blood tests, and others. Motorists who refuse to submit to tests may have their licenses revoked for at least one year.
Persons arrested for DUIs in Florida get traffic tickets or citations, which may result in fines, a court hearing, and a conviction. The motorist may choose to pay the fine or contest the ticket. However, some DUI cases can only be resolved in court. Such cases require the offender to employ an attorney to help contest charges.
What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time in Florida?
A first-time DUI offender in Florida may have their driver's license confiscated by law enforcement agents, especially if they refuse to submit to testing or have a breath/blood alcohol level of at least 0.08%. The arresting officer may issue a temporary permit (valid for ten days) if the offender is eligible for driving privileges. Offenders will also receive notices of suspension. The FHSMV receives offender test results within five (5) days. If the offender's alcohol level is above the legal limit, the department will suspend the offender's driver's license. The offender may then request an administrative hearing for a formal or informal review of the license suspension within ten (10) days of the issue of the notice of suspension.
The offender may submit any relevant documents to the department for a formal review. The arresting officer must then submit an affidavit stating the reasonable cause for arresting or charging the offender with a DUI. Law enforcement agents must also submit test results, copies of crash reports, recordings of administered tests, or attempts to administer tests. The hearing officer will then use the available materials to decide the offender's license status.
Unlike formal reviews, informal reviews do not require the presence of witnesses or the arresting officer; the hearing officer only examines materials that the offender and the arresting officer submit. The FHSMV must notify a petitioner of the hearing officer's decision within seven (7) days of the hearing.
As an alternative to suspension, review hearings are also possible. The offender may request that the department review their eligibility for restricted driving privileges (Florida Statute §322.271). Following a first-time DUI offense, offenders can expect to pay a minimum fine of $500 and a maximum fine of $1,000. If there are aggravating circumstances, such as the presence of a minor in the vehicle or a blood/breath alcohol level of at least 0.15%, the offender can expect to pay no less than $1,000 and no more than $2,000.
Apart from administrative penalties such as fines and license suspension, the court may also penalize first-time DUI offenders with imprisonment for up to six (6) months. If the offender's blood/breath alcohol level is at least 0.15% or the offender had a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense, the offender can expect to serve up to nine (9) months in jail (Florida Statute §316.193). The offender may be required to complete up to 50 hours of community service. The FHSMV may impound the offender's vehicle for up to 10 days, except in cases where the offender or the offender's family has no alternative means of transportation.
What is the Penalty for a Second DUI in Florida?
In Florida, a second DUI occurs within ten (10) years of the first conviction. This type of offense can result in administrative penalties such as license suspension for a minimum of 180 days and a maximum of one (1) year. For a second DUI offense, license suspension begins from the point of arrest, and the FHSM issues a notice of suspension to this effect. Offenders can expect to pay fines of no less than $1,000 and no more than $2,000. However, if there is a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense, or if the offender's blood alcohol level is at least 0.15%, the offender can expect to pay a fine of no less than $2,000 and no more than $4,000.
Second-time DUI offenders may also face penalties that the courts prescribe. They may be sentenced to jail for up to nine (9) months. If a minor is present in the vehicle at the time of the offense, or if the offender's blood alcohol level is 0.15% or higher, the maximum imprisonment term is 12 months. However, if the offender gets a second conviction within five (5) years of a first offense, the offender faces mandatory imprisonment for at least ten (10) days. The license revocation period for this category of offenders is a minimum of five (5) years. Unless the offender or their family has no alternative means of transportation, the FHSMV may impound the offender's vehicle for up to 30 days.
According to Florida Statute §316.193, second-time DUI offenders may be required to install ignition interlock devices for at least one (1) year. As soon as the offender qualifies for a restricted license, all the offender's vehicles, whether leased, owned, or routinely used individually or jointly by the offender, must have ignition interlock devices. The installation is entirely at the offender's expense.
What Happens After a Third DUI in Florida?
In Florida, a third DUI offense that occurs within ten (10) years of a second conviction is deemed a third-degree felony. A third-degree DUI felony is punishable by imprisonment for up to five (5) years, according to Florida Statutes 775.082. The offender can expect to pay fines of up to $5,000 (Florida Statutes 775.083) and have their licenses revoked for a minimum of ten (10) years. Where there is a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense, or the offender's BAC is 0.15%, and above, the minimum fine is $4,000. Florida courts may also order mandatory placement of an ignition interlock device at the offender's expense for a minimum of two years.
The FHSMV may also impound the offender's vehicle for up to 90 days, except the offender or their
family does not have alternative means of transportation. For third DUI offenses that occur more than ten years after a prior conviction, a minimum fine of $2,000 and a maximum fine of $5,000 applies. The court may also sentence the offender to imprisonment for one (1) year.
How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Florida?
In Florida, criminal DUI convictions stay on the offender's criminal record for life unless the court seals or expunges the records. Additionally, DUIs stay on the offender's license for up to 75 years. DUI records are public in Florida, which means that apart from the court, law enforcement agencies and the subject of the record, any member of the public may request or access the records. It is best to avoid DUI convictions altogether because Florida DUI laws are stringent.
DUI Expungement in Florida
Florida laws provide for the expungement of criminal records. When the court orders the expungement of a record, it must be physically destroyed. In cases where a department is required by law to retain copies of the record, the record is confidential and only available to any person or entity by court order. Subjects of expunged records can lawfully deny the record or arrests that the record covers.
In Florida, it is not possible to delete records of DUI convictions. It is only possible to delete DUI arrest records. Persons seeking to expunge DUI arrest records must first apply for a certificate of eligibility from FHSMV. Applicants must submit certified, written statements from the state attorney that confirm their eligibility. A processing fee of $75 may also be required. The certificate of eligibility is valid for 12 months, after which the petitioner must apply for a new certificate.
Petitioners must submit the certificate of eligibility, along with a personal sworn statement to the court and the petition for expunction. Interested parties may file the petition for expunction in the district court. The petitioner must also submit additional copies of petition documents to the state attorney's office. Florida courts only issue expungement orders for one arrest or criminal incident at a time.
How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in Florida?
Jail time is not likely after a first DUI in Florida. According to state laws, the maximum sentence for a first DUI is six (6) months; however, sentencing is at the court's discretion. Fines and probation are more common penalties for first DUIs, but the court's ruling will depend on the severity of the offense. Jail time is more likely if the offense includes the following aggravating factors:
- The offense caused property damage worth more than $500
- The DUI caused death or serious bodily injury to another person
- The offense endangered a minor
What is the Average Cost of DUI in Florida?
DUI offenses in Florida can cost the offender up to $12,000. Court fees, fines, and other associated costs can run into the tens of thousands. The minimum fine for a DUI offense in Florida is $500, while the maximum fee can be as much as $5,000, depending on the severity of the offense. Attorney fees also depend on the severity of the offense, but DUI attorney fees typically range from $1,500 to $7,500. The cost increases in proportion to the severity of the offense. Other DUI costs include:
- Up to $350 for DUI classes
- Up to $600 per year in community service monitoring fees
- $150 for vehicle impoundment storage
- Up to $200 for counseling, alcohol treatment, and evaluation
How Much is Bail for a DUI in Florida?
Persons arrested for DUI in Florida typically spend one night in jail. If an offender is awaiting trial or case resolution, the court may release the offender on bail. Bail frees an offender to carry on normal living while awaiting trial. Sometimes, the court may release an offender without bail. This is referred to as "release on recognizance," which means that the court released the offender with only an order to return on a particular date. In Florida, each court determines bail amounts based on offense severity. For example, the bail amount for a first DUI offense is about $100, while bail for a third DUI offense costs up to $10,000
How to Get My License Back After a DUI in Florida?
License revocation is one of the severe penalties DUI offenders face in Florida. The FLHSMV revokes the licenses of people who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, persons who lie about ownership and operation of motor vehicles, and persons who refuse to take breath or blood alcohol tests. Offenders with revoked licenses may need to apply for new licenses to drive if they meet the state's eligibility requirements. Applicants must pay a $75 reinstatement fee in addition to the cost of requesting a new license.
How Does a DUI Affect Your Life in Florida?
Apart from administrative and court penalties, a DUI can affect an offender's life in other different ways. Unless DUI records are sealed or expunged, the records are public information and are available to members of the public and potential employers. A DUI could limit the offender's employment opportunities. For example, professionals who work with licensing boards may lose their licenses or take counseling and treatment to be considered for reinstatement. DUIs can also cause an increase in the offender's insurance premiums.
Can You Get Fired for a DUI in Florida?
Yes, getting fired for a DUI in Florida is possible, even though it may not be prevalent. Whether or not an offender gets fired for a DUI in Florida depends on their employer's view of DUIs. As an at-will employment state, Florida laws allow employers to terminate employees at any time and for any reason except discrimination. Some industries take a more rigid stance on DUIs than others. For persons who work in these fields, a DUI conviction or charge could result in termination and the loss of licenses or certificates. Examples of these industries include:
- Real estate
- Driving for a cab company
It may be possible for DUI offenders who work in other fields to get fired, but there is less likelihood of it happening.
How Do I Find DUI Checkpoints in Florida?
DUI checkpoints are legal in Florida, and motorists must stop at checkpoints at a law enforcement agent's request. Law enforcement agents must abide by specific regulations and rules to operate a DUI checkpoint. Since Florida DUI checkpoint locations are sometimes made public, interested parties may use available search engines and third-party websites to find DUI checkpoints in Florida.
Which is Worse, DUI vs. DWI?
Typically, a DWI is considered worse than a DUI. A DWI is a more serious offense, resulting in harsher penalties. Some states distinguish between DWIs and DUIs, but Florida does not. The state uses the legal term "DUI" to represent all offenses that pertain to driving or controlling a vehicle in an inebriated state. Law enforcement officers carry out field sobriety tests or chemical tests to determine whether a motorist has blood alcohol levels above the permitted limit. Persons found guilty of DUI may be penalized with fines, imprisonment, and other administrative penalties.