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Florida DUI Laws and Penalties

Florida’s legislature devised a comprehensive statutory scheme designed to combat the evils of driving under the influence (DUI). By now, people understand that having too much to drink and then driving is dangerous. Driving after just having a “couple of drinks” slows down the operator’s ability to control the car, have clear vision, maintain proper speed, react to dangerous situations in a timely fashion, and make safe decisions.

DUI is a crime that requires no intent to commit. Whereas nearly all criminal charges in Florida require evidence of a guilty mind, Florida’s DUI statute does not require the prosecuting authority to prove that the driver had the intent to drive while under the influence. Florida law requires the person to be in control over a vehicle or driving to be guilty of the crime.

DUI is sometimes known as “every man’s crime,” meaning at one point in time or another, most people have driven after having one too many or while being “buzzed.” Buzzed driving is still a crime if the operator cannot handle the vehicle safely, or the blood alcohol concentration of the person in control over the vehicle is 0.08% or above. One does not have to legless or blackout to be charged with DUI in Florida.

Florida’s DUI Law

Florida Statutes Section 316.193 of the Florida Statutes clearly defines what driving under the influence means in the state. The Florida DUI statute indicates that a person could be convicted of DUI if:

  1. he or she is driving or is physically in control over a motor vehicle;
  2. the operator is impaired from alcohol consumption or ingestion of drugs to the extent that the individual is suffering from impairment of his or her normal functions;
  3. the driver has a BAC of 0.08% or more per 100 milliliters of blood; or
  4. the driver has a BAC of 0.08% or more per 210 liters of breath.

The government must prove each element, or component, of the case against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt to sustain a conviction. If the prosecution fails to prove just one element of its case in chief beyond a reasonable doubt, then the alleged offender must be found not guilty.

Florida DUI Penalties

Possible penalties for DUI convictions increase based on the number of offenses or the severity of the offense. A conviction for a first offense DUI is a misdemeanor. The potential penalty for a first offense DUI in Florida carries a possible six-month jail sentence, $500.00 to $1,000.00 fine, and probation. The court must place the offender on probation for at least one year. The offender must perform community service for at least 50 hours. The total time between a jail sentence and a probation sentence cannot be longer than one year. The court has the authority to impound all vehicles driven by the offender for up to ten days.

Florida’s DUI statute imposes more severe penalties for a conviction for a second offense DUI. A second conviction for a DUI offense could impose up to nine months of incarceration at the county jail. The court must impose a condition that the convicted individual install an interlock device on his or her ignition. If the previous conviction occurred within the five years preceding the most recent conviction, then the offender must receive a ten-day jail sentence at a minimum. The convicted offender must serve 48 hours out of the ten-day sentence consecutively. Moreover, the court shall order all vehicles driven by the offender to be impounded.

A third DUI conviction in Florida is a third-degree felony if the last offense falls within ten years of the most recent conviction. A conviction for a third-degree felony carries with it a maximum five-year state prison sentence. If the previous offense falls outside of the previous ten year period, then the charge becomes a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by incarceration in the county jail for a determinate period not to exceed one year. The three-time convicted DUI offender must serve 90 days in jail, and at least 48 hours of that minimum sentence must be served consecutively.

Additionally, the person convicted of a third offense must install an ignition interlock in his or her vehicle for two years. The court must impose a fine between $2,000.00 and $5,000.00. The court shall also order all vehicles driven by the offender to be impounded for no longer than 90 days.

Fourth and subsequent offenses are third-degree felonies in Florida. The person convicted of a fourth offense DUI charge could serve up to five years in state prison, irrespective of when the previous offenses occurred. The fine imposed by the court must be at least $2,000.00.

The sentencing judge has the discretion to order any time the accused spent in a qualifying rehabilitation program could count as credit toward any jail sentence the offender must serve.

Enhanced Florida DUI Penalties

Florida’s DUI statute confers significant latitude upon a sentencing judge to punish the offender, prevent future DUI arrests, and protect the public. Florida’s DUI statute permits a judge to order a person accused of DUI whose BAC was 0.08% or greater to install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle for at least six months.

Furthermore, an offender charged with having a BAC of 0.15% or higher faces stiffer penalties, even for a first offense or has a person eighteen years or younger with them in the vehicle. The potential incarcerated sentence is nine months for a first offender and twelve months for a second conviction.

Florida’s DUI laws also impose significant sanctions for driving under the influence and crashing a vehicle. Any person who is driving while intoxicated and is involved in a crash or somehow contributes to a vehicle crash that causes property damage or bodily injury is a first-degree misdemeanor. A crash that causes another to sustain a serious bodily injury may be punished as a third-degree felony, which carries a potential five-year prison term. Also, a vehicle crash that causes or contributes to the death of another or an unborn child is DUI Manslaughter. DUI Manslaughter is a second-degree felony. The maximum penalty for a second-degree felony in Florida is fifteen years. However, Florida’s DUI mandates that at least four years must be served as a minimum mandatory sentence.

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