A Guide To Florida DUI Offenses And Hiring An Attorney To Protect Your Rights, And Future
Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, P.A., located in West Palm Beach, provides criminal defense for all DUI and Drunk Driving offenses.
If you or a loved one is facing drunk driving, driving while impaired or a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charge, it is a serious offense that can result in loss of driver’s license, heavy fines, increased insurance premiums and other penalties. Your vehicle may be immobilized and/or impounded. You should seek the assistance and guidance of an experienced DUI defense attorney.
DUI Offenses in Florida
Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), is a serious, criminal offense in Florida. An offender’s “normal faculties” are considered “impaired” if he or she has been driving a personal vehicle with a blood or breath alcohol level (BAL) of .08 or above. If an offender is driving a commercial vehicle, he or she is considered impaired with a blood alcohol level of .04 or above. Persons under age 21 are considered impaired with a blood alcohol level of .02 or above.
Field Sobriety Tests in Palm Beach County
If you are stopped by a Florida law enforcement officer because he or she suspects that you are driving under the influence of alcohol, the officer will likely administer a Field Sobriety Test. You will be asked to perform simple mental acuity tests and tasks that require physical coordination. If the officer determines that you are exhibiting signs of intoxication, you may be asked to submit to a breathalyzer exam and/or a blood or urine alcohol test. Holders of Florida driver’s licenses must agree to submit to these exams. Refusal to comply will result in a license suspension for a period of one year. Refusal to comply for a second time in your life will result in an 18 month suspension and a possible misdemeanor charge.
If the evidence shows you are intoxicated, you will be arrested and charged. Your car will be impounded and you will not be released until you are no longer under the influence of alcohol, your blood alcohol level is below .05, or eight hours have passed since your arrest.
Florida DUI Suspensions
In Florida, any person arrested for DUI is supposed to be offered a breath test as an incident to arrest. At the point where the person is offered a breath test, either the breath test operator or the arresting officer must read the Implied Consent warnings in order for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to suspend the license of a motorist who refuses to submit to testing. Florida’s Implied Consent law is set forth in Florida Statute 316.1932.
How do I reinstate my license after a suspension for refusal to submit to a breath/urine test in Palm Beach County Florida?
After the person whose license has been suspended has served 90 days of the suspension, the person is then eligible to apply for a hardship license on the first suspension. The person seeking a hardship license MUST provide proof of enrollment in a DUI School to the Administrative Reviews Office (see listing “Under Suspension – Need Driver License for Work”) for consideration for a hardship license. At the time of reinstatement, whether for a hardship license or a full license, the person seeking a hardship license or reinstatement MUST take the required examination, and pay an Administrative fee and suspension reinstatement fee and any license fee required. The person seeking a hardship license or reinstatement MUST show proof of the appropriate required coverage of bodily injury liability insurance if convicted of the DUI charge.
How do I reinstate my license after a suspension for having a Blood-Alcohol Level or Breath-Alcohol Level of .08 or Above in Palm Beach County Flordia?
After the person whose license has been suspended has actually served 30 days of the suspension, the person becomes eligible to apply for a hardship license. The person whose license has been suspended will be eligible for a hardship license on the first and any consecutive suspension, unless the person has been convicted of DUI two or more times. Anyone seeking a hardship license MUST provide proof of enrollment in a DUI School to the Administrative Reviews Office (see listing “Under Suspension – Need Driver License for Work”). Anyone seeking reinstatement after the license revocation period ends, MUST provide proof of DUI School enrollment or completion to the driver license office. Failure to complete the course within 90 days after reinstatement will result in cancellation of the person’s driver license until the course is completed. At the time of reinstatement, whether for a hardship license or a full license, the person seeking the license MUST take the required examination, and pay an Administrative fee and suspension reinstatement fee and any license fee required. The person seeking a hardship license or reinstatement MUST show proof of the appropriate required coverage of bodily injury liability insurance if convicted of the DUI charge.
Definition of a DUI Offense
Under Florida law, DUI (drunk driving) is one offense, proved by impairment of normal faculties or unlawful blood alcohol or breath alcohol level of .08 or above. Typically, law enforcement attempts to determine if someone is under the influence of alcohol by administering a roadside sobriety test, followed by a blood alcohol (breathalyzer) test. DUI charges may involve one or more of the following:
- Multiple DUI
- Vehicular Manslaughter
- Breath & Blood Tests
- Field Sobriety Tests
- Suspended License
To learn more about the inner workings of the legal process in Palm Beach County, relating to DUI charges, watch the “The Legal System” featuring our own West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney Michelle Suskauer.
Potential Punishments for a DUI Offense
The penalties upon conviction are the same, regardless of the manner in which the DUI offense is proven. Penalties (misdemeanor or felony) will vary depending on whether it is one’s first, second, third, fourth or subsequent DUI / drunkin’ driving conviction and whether the incident involved an accident that caused property damage, personal injury (bodily injury), DUI manslaughter or vehicular homicide. Individuals could face fines, community service, probation, imprisonment (jail / incarceration), vehicle impoundment, loss of drivers license, DUI school and installation of an ignition interlock device. In some cases, time spent in an alcohol / drug rehabilitation center will count toward jail time sentenced.
DUI Penalties – Fines
If you are convicted of a DUI offense in Florida, either by pleading guilty or being found guilty, you will be sentenced according to state law, in addition to any discretionary penalties that may be imposed, depending upon the jurisdiction in which the offense took place. In the State of Florida, a conviction of a DUI will remain on your record for 75 years.
Florida Statute 316, stipulates the following conditions and penalties for a DUI conviction:
- First Conviction: Not less than $500, or more than $1,000. With Blood/Breath Alcohol Level (BAL) of .15 or higher or with a minor in the vehicle: not less than $1,000, or more than $2,000.
- Second Conviction: Not less than $1,000, or more than $2,000. With a BAL of .15 or higher, or with a minor in the vehicle: not less than $2,000, or more than $4,000.
- Third Conviction-(more than 10 years from second): Not less than $2,000, or more than $5,000. With BAL of .15 or higher or with a minor in the vehicle: not less than $4,000.
- Fourth or Subsequent Conviction: Not less than $2,000.
In addition, if you are a first-time offender, you will be required to serve a mandatory 50 hours of community service or an additional fine of 10 dollars for each hour of required community service. You may also be placed on probation and/or imprisoned for a total period of one year with a maximum prison sentence of six months.
DUI Penalties – Imprisonment
At the court’s discretion, sentencing terms may be served in a residential alcoholism or drug abuse treatment program, credited toward the term of imprisonment.
- First Conviction: Not more than 6 months. With a BAL of .15 or higher or with a minor in the vehicle: not more than 9 months.
- Second Conviction: Not more than 9 months. With a BAL of .15 or higher or with a minor in the vehicle: not more than 12 months. If the second conviction is within 5 years, mandatory imprisonment of at least 10 days. At least 48 hours of confinement must be consecutive.
- Third Conviction: If a third conviction is within 10 years, mandatory imprisonment of at least 30 days. At least 48 hours of confinement must be consecutive. If the third conviction is more than 10 years, imprisonment for not more than 12 months.
- Fourth or Subsequent Conviction: Not more than 5 years or as provided in Florida Statute 775.084, as a habitual/violent offender.
Other DUI Offenses
According to Florida statute:
- Any person who causes property damage or personal injury to another while driving under the influence is guilty of a First Degree Misdemeanor, with a penalty of not more than $1,000 fine or one year imprisonment.
- Any person convicted of a third DUI within 10 years or a fourth or subsequent DUI commits a Third Degree Felony with a penalty of not more than $5,000 fine and/or five years imprisonment.
- The death of any human being or unborn child commits DUI manslaughter, which is a Second Degree Felony with a penalty of not more than a $10,000 fine and/or 15 years imprisonment.
- DUI Manslaughter/Leaving the Scene: A driver convicted of DUI Manslaughter who knew or should have known an accident occurred, and failed to give information or render aid, is guilty of a First Degree Felony, with a penalty of not more than $10,000 fine and/or 30 years imprisonment.
- Vehicular Homicide is a Second Degree Felony with a penalty of not more than a $10,000 fine and/or 15 years imprisonment.
- Vehicular Homicide/Leaving the Scene: A driver convicted of vehicular homicide who left the scene of an accident is guilty of a First Degree Felony with a penalty of not more than a $10,000 fine and/or 30 years imprisonment.
Vehicle Impoundment /Immobilization
Unless the family of someone convicted of a DUI offense has no other transportation, state law provides for the impoundment or immobilization of all of the offender’s vehicles according to the following schedule:
- First DUI conviction – 10 days
- Second DUI conviction within 5 years – 30 days
- Third DUI conviction within 10 years – 90 days
- Fourth DUI conviction – 90 days
The impoundment or immobilization must not occur concurrently with the incarceration of the defendant and must occur concurrently with the revocation of the offender’s driver’s license.
Except for a first offense conviction (unless the BAL is .15 or over) ignition interlock devices are mandatory for all DUI convictions. The period for an ignition interlock is between six months to two years, depending upon the number of offenses.
Ignition interlock devices are mechanical devices that attach to a car to ensure that the driver is not drinking while driving. Before the vehicle’s motor can be started, the driver must first give a breath sample by breathing into the device. If the result shows that the driver has alcohol on his or her breath, the device prevents the engine from being started.
DUI School is mandatory for every DUI offense. DUI School is made up of classroom sessions and referral treatment. In the Level One class, a convicted offender is taught how alcohol affects driving and how to be more responsible in the future. All first offenders are sent to the Level One class. The Level Two class is longer and is reserved for repeat offenders and those convicted of DUI Manslaughter or DUI with Bodily Injury.
Each offender also goes through a screening process to determine if there is a need for additional drug or alcohol counseling. If an offender’s BAL is over .15, counseling will be ordered for a period of 16 weeks. If the BAL is less than .15, there may be fewer sessions ordered. An offender has 90 days from the completion of a class to enroll in treatment.
Failing to complete DUI School and/or any recommended follow-up treatment will result in a hold being placed on the offender’s driver’s license record. He or she will not be able to re-instate his or her license if these matters are not completed and properly reported to the state authorities.
Driver License Suspension/Revocation
In addition to any fines and penalties invoked for a DUI conviction, an offender’s driver’s license will be suspended or revoked according to the schedule specified in Florida Statute 322:
- First Conviction: Minimum 180 days revocation, maximum one year.
- Second Conviction Within 5 Years: minimum five years suspension to revocation. (May be eligible for hardship reinstatement after one year.)
- Third Conviction Within 10 Years of the second conviction: minimum 10 years suspension to revocation. (May be eligible for a hardship reinstatement after two years.)
- Fourth Conviction, regardless of when prior convictions occurred; and murder with a motor vehicle: mandatory, permanent revocation. (No hardship reinstatement allowed.)
- DUI with Serious Bodily Injury: minimum three years to revocation.
- DUI Manslaughter: mandatory, permanent revocation. (If no prior DUI related convictions, may be eligible for hardship reinstatement after five years.)
Administrative License Suspension for Persons Under the Age of 21
Florida law authorizes a law enforcement officer having probable cause to believe that a motor vehicle is being driven by a person under the age of 21 while under the influence of alcohol, to detain this person and request that he or she submit to a test to determine his or her BAL. This violation is not considered a criminal offense and the driver will not be arrested. However, the Statute requires the following administrative license suspension:
- First Suspension for Persons Under the Age of 21 With An Alcohol Level .02 or above – 6 months.
- Second or Subsequent Suspensions – 1 year.
- First Suspension for Refusal to Submit to Breath Test – 1 year.
- Second or Subsequent Suspensions for Refusal – 18 months.
The suspension is effective immediately. If the breath or blood alcohol level is .05 or higher the suspension shall remain in effect until completion of a substance abuse evaluation and course.
Exemptions from License Suspension/Revocation
In some cases, an offender may be eligible for a “hardship” or “business purpose only” (BPO) license. A BPO license allows a convicted driver to drive to work, school, or court while his or her license is suspended. Certain conditions must be met, and BPOs are not usually issued until the offender has completed DUI School.
Diversion Programs and DUI Courts
Some jurisdictions in Florida maintain Diversion Programs for first time offenders. These programs can keep a DUI charge from showing up on an offender’s record. As long as he or she follows the program’s rules and requirements, the State may either dismiss the DUI charge or amend it to reckless driving.
DUI Courts are designed to address multiple DUI offenders with programs that help repeat offenders deal with their drug or alcohol addictions. The programs may include random drug or alcohol testing, mandatory jail time, therapy and counseling sessions, and/or regular meetings with a probation officer. If the offender completes all conditions, he or she “graduates” from the program. In some jurisdictions this means that DUI charges are dropped. In others, it means that the offender is no longer required to go to jail or be on probation.
Three Reasons to Turn to Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, P.A. for DUI Defense
- Our lawyers are active in the West Palm Beach and Florida legal communities and remain abreast of the latest laws, techniques, and strategies surrounding criminal defense. The reputation that we have with judges and prosecutors is a benefit to our clients.
- Our defense attorneys have served thousands of clients, including many DUI cases in Palm Beach County for more than 15 years.
- Our lawyer is a former Public Defender in Palm Beach County’s Fifteenth Judicial Circuit.
If you are arrested for DUI, you should seek legal counsel immediately. While many DUI penalties are statutorily mandated, a knowledgeable attorney can help you mitigate certain sanctions and help you with your defense. In most cases, a judge has a certain amount of discretion and can impose or withhold certain conditions depending upon the nature of the offense. Often, alternative sentencing can be arranged as part of a plea deal between your attorney and the prosecutor.
We understand Florida’s DUI statutes and stand ready to aid you, should you find yourself facing a DUI charge and arrest. If you have questions regarding DUI or criminal defense litigation, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation and case evaluation. We are happy to meet or speak with you anytime. Our legal team is experienced, aggressive, compassionate, and will fight for your rights!