Title XXIII, 316.193 of the Florida Statutes establishes the crime of driving under the influence (DUI) and its attendant penalties. A conviction for a fourth DUI in Florida carries mandatory jail time, probation, fines, fees, installation of an ignition interlock device, and potential impoundment of the motor vehicle the offender drove at the time of her or his arrest upon suspicion for DUI. 

Proof of DUI

Like all criminal charges, the state’s attorney acting on behalf of the government has the burden of proving the underlying charge of DUI beyond a reasonable doubt against the alleged offender before assessing the penalties for a fourth offender DUI. Failing to prove the allegations of DUI beyond a reasonable doubt results in an acquittal on the case for the alleged offender. 

The elements of the crime of DUI in Florida, according to 316.193(1), require the government to prove that the alleged DUI offender was driving or was in control over a motor vehicle, and

  1. Alcohol beverages, illicit narcotics, or pharmaceutical drugs, or a combination thereof, exerted an influence over the alleged offender’s normal faculties; 
  2. The alleged offender had in his or her blood 0.08 grams of alcohol for every 100 milliliters of blood; or
  3. The blood-alcohol level of the alleged offender equaled or exceeded 0.08 grams of alcohol per every 210 liters of breath.

Potential Penalties for Fourth Offense Conviction for DUI

Section 2 of 316.193 governs sentencing for those convicted of the offense of DUI in Florida. Section 2(b)(3), specifically, dictates the sentence the judge presiding over the case must impose in the event of a conviction for a fourth offense DUI in Florida. As recited in section 2(b)(3), the Florida legislature considers a fourth offense DUI to be a felony in the third degree. However, unlike an offender facing a DUI third charge, the statute does not include a look-back provision in which the court must consider the length of time between DUI convictions when ruling upon a sentence.  Instead, a fourth DUI violation may be considered a lifetime look-back and, therefore, any conviction, no matter how long ago, is competent evidence sufficient to prove three previous DUI convictions.

Statutes 775.082, 775.083, and 775.084 of Title XLVI frame the possible sentence scheme for a third-degree felony in Florida. Section 775.082 instructs the sentencing judge that the maximum penalty the law allows for a fourth DUI conviction is a five-year term of incarceration in the state penitentiary. Notwithstanding the maximum potential penalty the judge may impose, 316.193(6)(c) indicates that the judge must sentence the four-time offender to at least 30 days in jail if the last offense for which the offender was convicted was within the previous ten years. Therefore, the person convicted of a fourth DUI in Florida faces a possible minimum sentence of 30 days in jail, 48 hours of which must be served consecutively, up to five years in prison, unless the state’s attorney decides to prosecute the person as a habitual offender.

Florida’s habitual felony offender statute, sometimes referred to as the “Three Strikes Rule,” is outlined in 775.084. The statute allows the government to pursue enhanced penalties against offenders due to the serious nature of their prior criminal conduct as a habitual felony offender or a habitual violent felony offender. Therefore, a person convicted of a fourth offense DUI in Florida who has a serious felony record and who offends within a five-year window after completing probation or parole for a previous felony conviction, such as a third offense DUI conviction, may face a habitual felony offender charge. The maximum possible penalty for a fourth DUI conviction under Florida’s habitual felony offender law is 10 years. The judge may decline to impose the mandatory penalty if the court sets out its reasoning in writing or orally on the record. However, the offender’s record could warrant a 10-year sentence with no early release until five years has been served.

Fourth Offense DUI Collateral Consequences

Section 316.193 requires the sentencing judge to impose a mandatory $2,000.00 fine. However, 775.083 allows the judge to impose a fine not exceeding $5,000.00 for a third-degree felony. In addition, §316.193 compels the court to assess at least $50.00 in court costs against the convicted offender. The judge has discretion to order the offender to perform community service while on probation in lieu of paying any fines and fees if the person is without sufficient funds to pay the fines and fees. 

In addition to the fees and fines a court must assess, the judge must place the offender on probation. The period of probation will commence after release from incarceration. While on probation, the court must impound the offender’s vehicle. The offender shall enter and complete a DUI training program, as well. Also, the four-time convicted DUI offender shall enter and complete a certified substance abuse treatment program. The program must be a residential alcohol or substance abuse program and one that consistently monitors and tests residents for alcohol and drug use. 

Any time spent in a certified substance abuse treatment program benefits the offender. Under 316.193(6)(m), the judge may sentence the offender to attend the program and, the time in which the offender spends in the program must be counted toward the period of incarceration.

In Florida, convictions for multiple DUI offenses trigger the mandatory ignition interlock device law as well as impoundment or immobilization of the offender’s vehicles. The offender bears the expense of installing and maintaining an ignition interlock device. The offender must install an ignition interlock device when the offender becomes eligible to regain his or her driving privileges or when he or she obtains a hardship license for use in business. The ignition interlock must be installed for five years as a condition of a hardship license. 

The court may order the offender’s vehicles, or the vehicles he or she was operating at the time of his or her arrest, to be impounded or otherwise immobilized. The period of impoundment may not exceed 90 days and cannot take place while the offender is incarcerated, but only after the person regains eligibility to have his or her driving privileges reinstated.