The State of Florida, like most states, has zero tolerance for underage drinking and especially underage Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Although most people are more familiar with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol, Florida also makes it a crime to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both. Because drunk drivers tragically kill so many innocent people each year in DUI accidents, Florida prosecutors are aggressive, and they always seek maximum punishments. An experienced, underage DUI defense lawyer from Musca Law fights hard to protect clients charged with a DUI to avoid the severe consequences of a DUI conviction in Florida. At Musca Law, we fight to win a dismissal of the criminal case, fight to win the trial or fight to plea bargain down a charge to a lesser offense with the state's attorney.
Florida Underage DUI Laws Statute Section 316.193
Florida's underage DUI laws are located in Florida Statute Section 316.193. In the State of Florida, an intoxicated driver is defined differently according to the age of the offender. In Florida, an offender under the age of 21 is considered "legally" impaired and is in violation of Florida's DUI laws when the underage driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02% or more. Conversely, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of an individual 21 years of age or older is 0.08% BAC.
In Florida, law enforcement officers are not restricted to chemical testing to charge a suspected underage driver with a DUI. As long as the driver is under the age of 21, and the law enforcement officer surmises the underage driver has been consuming alcohol, the driver may be arrested and charged for DUI. Florida law enforcement officers are authorized to charge an underage driver with Driving Under the Influence as long as the arresting officer has eye witness statements, or the law enforcement officer made observations leading the law enforcement officer to suspect the underage driver has been consuming alcohol. A law enforcement officer is authorized to stop an underage driver solely based on the law enforcement officer's belief that a driver is under 21, and that driver is intermittently braking, swerving, touching the line, caused an accident, or is incapable of maintaining a steady speed.
Once the law enforcement officer has performed a traffic stop, the law enforcement officer might ask the driver, "Have you been drinking alcohol?" Then the law enforcement officer will be looking for signs of impairment. These signs of impairment include the smell of alcoholic beverages, fumbling of paperwork, stumbling, red eyes, and slurred speech. The police officer will use note these observations to determine whether or not the driver is driving while under the influence of alcohol. If the law enforcement officer believes the driver has been drinking or admits to drinking alcohol, the law enforcement officer will ask the driver to step out of the car to perform some field sobriety tests.
The Penalties of an Underage DUI Conviction in Florida
If an underage driver is arrested and charged for driving under the influence in the State of Florida, the driver faces two different cases against them. One case deals with the criminal charge, while the other case deals with the driver's license. Under Florida Statutes Section 316.193, if the underage driver is found guilty of DUI, he or she will face the same criminal penalties as drivers 21 or older.
Underage First-Time DUI Penalties
In Florida, a first-time DUI, without other charges or enhancements, is a misdemeanor. In Florida, the criminal penalties for a first-time DUI offense is up to six months in jail, a legal fine of at least $500.00 and no more than $1,000.00, a one-year driver's license suspension, 50 hours of community service, probation, and the judge could issue an order to impound your vehicle.
In the State of Florida, a conviction for driving under the influence will remain on your criminal record permanently. Although a first-time DUI is usually a misdemeanor offense, having a criminal conviction on your criminal record will hurt your prospects of obtaining educational opportunities and negatively affect your ability to obtain a good job.
The law enforcement officer has the option of not arresting an underage driver if the officer suspects the driver has been drinking alcohol, but the driver is below the legal limit. In those circumstances, the law enforcement officer may just prevent the underage driver from returning to the road. In these cases, the law enforcement officer is authorized to physically detain the underage driver. This procedure is not an arrest. It is a temporary detention. If the law enforcement officer has reason to believe that the underage driver is impaired or the driver's BAC is 0.08% or higher, this temporary detention could late become an arrest. If the underage driver's BAC shows a percentage between 0.02% and 0.05%, then the law enforcement officer won't place the driver under arrest or issue a citation. If there is no arrest or citation given, then there will not be a permanent criminal record created. However, this event will appear on the operator's driving history.
Automatic License Suspensions
If an underage driver is found to have a minimum BAC of 0.02% in their system, this automatically triggers special administrative penalties according to Florida Statutes Section 322.2616. If the law enforcement officer sends the underage driver's breathalyzer test results to the Florida Department of Highway Safety, the driver's license will be automatically suspended for a mandatory minimum of six months. If the underage driver refuses to perform a roadside breath test, this triggers an automatic suspension of the driver's license for eighteen months.
If the underage driver's BAC falls between 0.05% and 0.079%, the Florida Department of Highway Safety will require that the driver attends and passes an educational substance abuse course. Then the driver must pass a substance abuse evaluation to get their driver's license back.
Underage Aggravated DUI in Florida
If a driver has a BAC of 0.15% or higher, the driver will be charged with aggravated DUI. The punishments for aggravated DUI in Florida increase depending on the circumstances of the event. A conviction of aggravated DUI is punishable with up to nine months in jail for a first offense and a fine of between $1,000 and $2,000. These punishments increase for each successive offense.