Driving Under the Influence In Florida Isn’t Worth the Risk

Whether it’s sipping a cocktail and watching the waves roll in or guzzling a cold beer after a long day of fishing, adults often enjoy relaxing with a cold drink in their hands. There’s nothing wrong with having a drink or two. Sometimes, it’s even perfectly legal to get behind the wheel, even after a beer.
Driving Under the Influence:- There’s something about the Sunshine State that can make you want to kick back, relax, and enjoy a nice drink.[Pixabay]
Driving Under the Influence:- There’s something about the Sunshine State that can make you want to kick back, relax, and enjoy a nice drink.[Pixabay]

By Susan Melony

There’s something about the Sunshine State that can make you want to kick back, relax, and enjoy a nice drink. 

Whether it’s sipping a cocktail and watching the waves roll in or guzzling a cold beer after a long day of fishing, adults often enjoy relaxing with a cold drink in their hands. There’s nothing wrong with having a drink or two. Sometimes, it’s even perfectly legal to get behind the wheel, even after a beer. 

However, impaired driving is one of the most common causes of vehicular collisions and this is a statistic you don’t want to be included in. The penalties for driving under the influence are severe and the consequences can be catastrophic.

What is a DUI in Florida

Driving under the influence (DUI) is never excusable behavior. In other words, if you’re pulled over for a DUI, don’t expect to be able to talk your way out of legal trouble. Under current Florida law, if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher you are considered legally impaired.

Even though a DUI often refers to alcohol intoxication, you can also be charged with the offense if you’re under the influence of a controlled or chemical substance. Some examples include prescription medication and illegal drugs like cocaine, and you can even get a DUI charge if marijuana is found in your system.

Something to note regarding illegal drugs; if your DUI is the result of a drug intoxication, you may be facing additional criminal charges. For example, possession of a controlled substance, and this may mean you’re facing additional felonies, along with the DUI charge.

The law is a little different for minors and individuals operating commercial vehicles, as anyone under the age of 21 can be charged with a DUI if their BAC is only 0.02%. The difference is that it’s typically illegal for minors to consume alcohol in Florida. However, there are a few exceptions; a minor can have alcohol at home if their parents or guardian provides it. But, if the minor leaves the home, they can be charged with a DUI or being intoxicated in public.

If you’re wondering if a parent or guardian can also face charges for providing a minor with alcohol, the answer is yes. If the minor is charged with a DUI, the parents or guardian can also be held responsible, and they can face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Commercial drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.04% and higher can face DUI charges if they get behind the wheel.

Potential Penalties for a DUI in Florida

If you do decide to drink and drive, you’re risking the possibility of being hit with hefty fines, prison time, vehicle impoundment, and even the loss of your driving privileges. The severity of your penalty typically depends on whether it’s your first or umpteenth offense. 

If an accident occurs, you may be dealing with automatic criminal charges as decided by the court and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Penalties for Your 1st DUI Conviction

If this is your first DUI offense, you’re not going to get off too lightly. You may end up paying a $130 administrative fine and have your driver’s license suspended for anywhere from 180 days to one year, which also means you need to pay a driver’s license reinstatement fee. 

You may also find yourself paying for DUI preventative classes and having an Interlock device installed in your vehicle. If you’re not sure what an Interlock device is, the device prevents your engine from starting if alcohol is detected on your breath.

Additional penalties are also possible for first-time DUI offenses;

  • Up to one-year probation. If you violate probation, you may end up spending the remainder of your time in jail

  • Mandatory 50 hours of community service

  • Having your vehicle towed and impounded

You may also find yourself facing additional fines ranging from $500 to $1,000. This is on top of the original $130 fine. Fines also increase to anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 if a minor is present in your vehicle or your BAC is 0.15% and higher.

Penalties for a 2nd DUI Conviction

Sometimes, drivers continue to drive under the influence even after paying off fines associated with their first offense. If you find yourself back in court for a second time, you should expect to receive stiffer fines and penalties.

The administrative fee is still $130, and you’re probably going to have an Interlock device installed in your vehicle. Oh, and don’t forget about the DUI classes, you’re probably going to find yourself taking the course again.

Your driver’s license may be suspended for five years if it’s been less than five years since your first DUI conviction. Additional criminal penalties can include:

  • Having your vehicle impounded for up to 30 days

  • Up to 9 months in jail. Your jail time can be extended to one year if your BAC is 0.15% and higher or a minor is in the vehicle at the time of your arrest. If your BAC is above 0.15% or a minor is present, your fines can range anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000.

Penalties for a 3rd DUI Conviction

By the time you head back to court for your 3rd DUI charge, you should expect to lose your driving privileges for up to 10 years. The same administrative fee still applies. When you get your license back, you’re probably going to need to pay for an Interlock device.

Your potential criminal penalties include a mandatory 30-day jail sentence though it can be extended up to one year. Fines range from $2,000 to $5,000 regardless of if a minor is present. However, you should expect to pay a higher fine if a minor is in the vehicle.

Don’t Go to Court without Legal Representation

Facing a DUI charge in Florida is pretty serious since it's treated as a criminal offense. You definitely don't want to go to court without legal representation, regardless of whether the charge is your first or third, or even if you think the charge is justified or not. 

Consulting with an attorney is key to protecting your legal rights when you go to court. A seasoned and experienced lawyer can offer guidance, help mitigate potential penalties, and ensure that you navigate the complexities of the legal system as effectively as possible.

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