Florida DUI Laws

Florida DUI Laws

by Corie Lynn Rosen, December 2009

An arrest in Florida for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) will give rise to two separate cases. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will handle one of these cases. The outcome of this case will determine to what extent and for how long the person's driving privileges will be restricted or suspended. In order to limit, or at least improve, the punishment handed down by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, a person charged with DWI or DUI in the state of Florida should immediately request a special hearing with the department. If the outcome of this special hearing is favorable, a person charged with DUI may be able to hang onto his or her driving privileges.

Of course, there are no special hearings that can prevent a person charged with DUI from being prosecuted for the offense. According to Florida law, there are two theories that a Florida prosecutor can use to prove DUI. One theory is impairment of normal faculties due to substances. The other is a per se theory that finds a violation based on the body chemistry of the charged party at the time of his or her arrest. The per se violation is the easiest to understand, since it occurs any time a person is found driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more. The BAC of an arrestee is determined by a breath or blood test administered at the time of the arrest. If a person refuses to take a breath, blood, or urine test at the time of his or her arrest, the state may deal more harshly with that person in prosecution, license revocation, and ultimate sentencing.

The theory based on impairment of normal faculties relates to the arresting officer's judgment of whether or not the person charged was able to operate the vehicle normally at the time of the arrest. The standard applied is a reasonably capable person in the same circumstance, and the standard is intended to bring to light instances of impairment where the driver's BAC may be lower than .08 percent or in which the driver may be impaired due to the use of other substances. Regardless of which theory is used, a person convicted of DUI in the state of Florida will face harsh penalties.

Florida sentencing guidelines distinguish between cases in which the driver has a minor passenger in the car and those cases in which there are either no passengers in the car or the passengers are all adults. A fine for a first offense with no passengers or adult passengers will fall between $250 and $500. The same offense will carry a fine between $500 and $1,000 if there was a minor in the vehicle at the time of the infraction. Florida law keeps DUI convictions on a person's record for ten years. Although the first and second DUI offenses carry no mandatory jail time in Florida, a judge may order up to nine months of jail time for both the first and second offense. Additionally, a person convicted of a DUI offense in Florida may be required to enter a residential treatment center for drugs or alcohol. This sentencing is at the discretion of the court and its use will vary from case to case.