Florida DUI Penalties & Procedures
The social implications of drinking and driving are not to be taken lightly, this explains why the legal penalties for someone caught driving while intoxicated are severe. In Florida, penalties for DUI (driving under the influence) are different based on whether the offense was committed for the first time, the amount of alcohol found in the blood, and the driver’s willingness to cooperate with the police.
Suspension Of Your License
If you refuse to take an alcohol test, whether it is a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test, the Department of Highway Motor Vehicles (DMV) may impose upon you a suspension of your license for a certain period of time. For a driver who refuses to take the test for the first time, the DMV may suspend his license for six months, while a driver who refuses for the second time and the succeeding instances is deferred of his license for as long as 18 months. If your license has been suspended for the first time because of a refusal to take the test, you can apply for a hardship license or a business purposes license, which expires after 42 days, after 90 days of hard (no driving) suspension. It is during this period that your DUI attorney can gather all evidence to prove that the police lacked probable cause to arrest you for DUI.
If you have taken one of the alcohol tests and your blood alcohol content is more than 0.08, the DMV will suspend your driving license immediately after 10 days during your arrest. This applies to all drunk driving offenders, whether it is their first time to be arrested for DUI or not. License suspension lasts for up to six months. After 30 days or approximately one month of hard suspension, where the driver is prohibited from driving, you can apply for a hardship license or business purposes license to plead the DMV to allow you to drive for business purposes for up to 42 days, provided you show proof that you have attended DUI school during the period of hard suspension.
Apart from administrative suspensions imposed by the DMV, a person who is convicted of DUI also suffers from statutory penalties that are enforced by the court. A first conviction leads to imprisonment of not more than six months. Imprisonment is not commonly spent in jail, but in an alcohol rehabilitation center or drug abuse treatment facility. A fine of $500 to $1,000 is also levied and a license revocation (separate from the administrative suspension that begins 10 days after the arrest) of six months to one year. If the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and the driver was tested to have a blood-alcohol-concentration of 0.04, he is disqualified from driving a CMV for one year. Persons convicted of DUI are also required to serve a mandatory 50 hours of community service or pay $10 for each hour of community service. Probation of up to one year is also necessary. For persons who are tested to have BAC of 0.15 or higher and those who committed DUI with a minor inside the vehicle, enhanced penalties are executed.
Second convictions are, understandably, more severely penalized the first convictions. The court requires a person convicted with a second DUI to pay a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000. The court may also oblige the convict to serve not more than nine months in an alcohol rehabilitation center or a drug abuse treatment facility. If the second DUI is committed within five years after the first conviction, jail time of not less than 10 days is mandatory, 48 hours of which should be served consecutively. The court also has the power to revoke the offender’s license for a minimum of five years, provided the second conviction took place within five years after the first conviction. A hardship license or business purposes may be given after one year of serving the revocation.
Florida law imposes more severe penalties for persons who have been convicted for the third time. Imprisonment, which is equivalent to time spent in an alcohol rehabilitation center or a drug abuse treatment facility, is up to 12 months. Up to 30 days of mandatory jail time is also required, with 48 consecutive hours in jail mandatory. If the third conviction took place 10 years after the second conviction, a fine of not less than $2,000 or more than $4,000 is levied. License revocation may take up to 10 years and the offender may only start applying for a hardship license or business purposes license two years after serving the suspension.
Ignition Interlock Device
The court has the power to order the installation of an ignition interlock device into the offender’s vehicle upon the reinstatement of his driver’s license. This period varies based on the situation. For a first conviction, ignition interlock is required for up to six months, at least one year for the second conviction, and at least two years for the third conviction. Mostly, ignition interlock is imposed when the driver’s BAC is 0.20 or more or when he was found to have been driving with a minor inside the vehicle. Ignition interlock requires the driver to breathe into the device for the vehicle to start and five minutes into the ride. Every 30 minutes, the device beeps, signaling the driver to breathe into the device again. The data that is collected by the device is recorded and sent to the DMV headquarters in Florida. The offender is responsible for shouldering the expenses of installing, maintaining, and monitoring the ignition interlock device.
Florida law exercises zero tolerance for minors, or persons under the age of 21, who have been caught driving with a blood-alcohol-content of 0.02. Administrative suspension of driver’s license is effective immediately after arrest, with the first offense requiring six months of suspension, the second and subsequent offenses up to one year. If a minor refuses to take an alcohol test, suspension of license lasts up to one year and 18 months for the second refusal. If the minor was tested with a BAC of 0.05, his license is only returned only after he has completed DUI training school. This violation is not considered a criminal offense, nor is being detained considered an arrest.