Most people who are arrested for or charged with driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol (DUI) in the state of Florida have a number of questions and concerns. At First Coast Criminal Defense, we understand that you need answers. Take a look at our DUI frequently asked questions in Florida to learn more about your rights, your options, and what to expect from the DUI process in Florida.
What is the Legal Limit for Alcohol?
In the state of Florida, the legal limit for alcohol in a person’s system is .08% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). This legal limit also applies to drivers who hold a commercial driver's license (CDL) and those under 21 years of age.
For commercial drivers, the legal BAC limit is set at .04%. A conviction for driving with a BAC above this level could result in multiple penalties: suspension or revocation of both their CDL and personal driver’s license, installation of an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, and potential jail time.
Those under 21 years of age are subject to Zero Tolerance laws including a zero-tolerance policy for operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of at least .02%. The penalties for being found guilty of violating this policy can include suspension or revocation of their license, fines, and other consequences.
What Is BAC?
BAC, or blood alcohol concentration, is a measure of the amount of alcohol present in someone's bloodstream. It can be used to determine how long it is safe for someone to operate a motor vehicle. In Florida, BAC must stay below 0.08% in order to lawfully drive; if BAC is above that limit, they are considered intoxicated and may face serious charges due to their actions behind the wheel.
Read More About BAC
What Is an Administrative License Hearing?
The Florida DHSMV allows you to request a formal or informal hearing to challenge your driver’s license suspension after a DUI arrest. It is crucial that you act quickly if you wish to challenge the automatic suspension of your driver’s license, as you only have 10 days from the date of your DUI arrest/citation to do so.
Your request for an informal or formal license suspension hearing must be made in writing and must include the following information:
- Your name, birth date, driver’s license number, and address
- The date that you received notice of your driver’s license suspension
- The county where you received notice of your driver’s license suspension
This request must then be filed with the proper county clerk within 10 calendar days.
If you request an informal hearing, you will be allowed to submit materials supporting your belief that your driver’s license should not be suspended. The hearing officer will weigh these materials against evidence provided by the arresting officer and will decide on whether or not to uphold your driver’s license suspension or reinstate your driving privileges.
In a formal hearing, however, you (and/or your attorney) are permitted to provide testimony, including witness testimony, and other evidence to support your position. Though it is separate from the criminal DUI process, a formal license suspension hearing can be helpful for gathering evidence that may also be useful in your criminal DUI trial.
Am I Allowed to Drive to the ALR Hearing if My License Is Suspended?
Yes, you can continue to drive for the first 10 days after being arrested/cited for DUI on the temporary driving permit issued to you by the arresting officer at the scene.
If, however, your license is suspended, it is not only illegal to continue driving but also highly ill-advised. If you are arrested for driving on a suspended license, you face even harsher penalties. If you wish to appeal the Florida DHSMV’s decision to uphold the suspension your license, you may do so.
Contact the Jacksonville DUI defense lawyers at First Coast Criminal Defense to learn more.
Will I Go to Jail if I Am Arrested for DUI in Florida?
If you are pulled over for DUI in Florida and you fail the breathalyzer test (or another chemical test, such as a blood test), meaning your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher, you will be arrested and taken to jail for a period of at least 8 hours. Following this, you face additional jail time if you are ultimately convicted for DUI.
The amount of jail time you face depends on a variety of factors, including:
- Your BAC
- Whether or not there was a minor present in your vehicle
- If you were involved in a crash that resulted in injuries and/or fatalities
Generally speaking, without additional factors such as these, you face jail time according to the following measures:
- BAC was between 0.08% and 0.15%: Up to 6 months in jail
- BAC was higher than 0.15%: Up to 9 to 12 months in jail
- Minor in the vehicle: Up to 9 to 12 months in jail
The only way to possibly avoid this jail time is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can fight to reduce your charges, have your charges dismissed, or pursue alternative penalties on your behalf.
Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?
While technically you can refuse a breathalyzer test in Florida, doing so comes with serious repercussions. Under Florida’s implied consent laws, you consent to chemical tests (breath, blood, urine) for the purpose of evaluating your BAC when you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI.
Refusing a breath test or any other chemical test will result in the automatic one-year suspension of your driver’s license, plus an additional 18-month suspension for subsequent refusals. Additionally, if you refuse a breathalyzer or another chemical test, the prosecution can use this against you during your DUI trial and may try to claim that this proves your guilt.
Will I Lose My Driver’s License if I Am Convicted for DUI?
Yes, if you are convicted of DUI in Florida, your driver’s license will be suspended. The length of the suspension will depend on a number of factors—including whether you have prior DUI convictions in the past 5 to 10 years, your BAC when arrested, and more—but, in general, you face losing your license for anywhere from 180 days to 6 months or up to 10 years for the most serious offense.
Additionally, immediately upon being arrested for DUI, your license will be revoked, and you will be issued a temporary driving permit that is valid for 10 days. If you wish to challenge your driver’s license suspension, you must request a formal administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV) within 10 days. If you fail to do so, your license will be suspended on the 11th day after your arrest.
How Much Are the Fines for DUI in Florida?
Fines for DUI in Florida range depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest. That being said, you can expect to pay:
- First-time offense: $500 up to $1,000 in fines
- Second or subsequent conviction: $1,000 to $4,000 in fines
What Is an Ignition Interlock Device?
An ignition interlock device, or IID, is essentially a breathalyzer. If ordered by a judge, the IID will be installed on your vehicle and you will be required to blow into it to test your BAC before being able to turn your vehicle on. If the IID measures your BAC at or above the legal limit, you will not be able to start or operate your car.
What Happens if I’m Arrested for DUI a Second or Third Time?
The penalties for DUI in Florida increase with each subsequent conviction. In order to be convicted of a second DUI offense, your prior offense must have occurred within the past five years (with some exceptions). For a third offense, your prior two convictions must have occurred within the past 10 years (again, with some exceptions).
How Do I Get Out of a DUI in Florida?
If you find yourself facing a DUI charge in Florida, you may be wondering if there is any way to get out of the charges you face. Fortunately, there are several legal defenses that you can use in Florida DUI cases.
One common defense is challenging the initial traffic stop itself. You may be able to argue that the police had no reasonable cause to pull you over and performed an illegal search and seizure, and as such, any evidence obtained during the stop should not be admissible in court. A criminal defense lawyer can review the facts of your case and determine whether this is a viable option for dismissal or reduction of your charges.
You may also challenge any field sobriety tests administered during your arrest. These tests are subjective by nature and often open to interpretation from both the police officer and the court. An attorney can assess the evidence to determine if any of these tests were administered or interpreted incorrectly, or if there were other factors that may have affected your performance.
Finally, you could challenge any of the results from the breathalyzer or blood tests taken during your arrest. Breathalyzers are known to be inaccurate if not maintained or calibrated properly, or administered correctly by a certified technician. Similarly, certain medications or medical conditions can affect the accuracy of blood test readings as well. A skilled DUI lawyer can thoroughly investigate how the devices were handled and how the tests were conducted by law enforcement officials to get your charges dismissed or reduced.
It's important to remember that fighting a DUI charge is never easy. In order to have the best chance at success, it is recommended to work with an experienced DUI attorney who understands local and state laws, has handled DUI cases similar to yours, and can review the facts of your case and help you develop a strategy for success. Your attorney can be invaluable in helping you get out of a DUI charge in Florida.
With each additional conviction, you face steeper fines, longer jail sentences, and longer driver’s license suspensions. Click here to learn more about multiple DUI convictions in Florida.
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