Florida Underage Driving Under the Influence (DUI) – Laws, Penalties, and Defenses
Teenagers and young adults under the age of twenty-one (21) are typically in college and on their way to beginning a career. Most teenagers and young adults will drink from time to time before reaching the legal drinking age of twenty-one years, and many will do so without consequence. However, for some individuals, underage drinking can become a very serious situation when driving is involved. Even without alcohol, teenage drivers are more likely to commit traffic offenses, such as speeding, running a red light, or failing to yield, among others. Teenage drivers are also more likely to be involved in accidents. The involvement of alcohol only makes the situation worse. According to www.responsibility.org, 2017 data reveals that 21.6 percent of all driving fatalities in Florida involving individuals under the age of twenty-one were associated with alcohol-impairment.
While driving under the influence (DUI) can place drivers and others at risk, a DUI charge does not need to ruin a young adult’s life. In many cases, underage DUI charges are unsupported by the evidence, and grounds may exist to dismiss such charges. Simply being charged with underage DUI can feel like a conviction. Not only are young adults already afraid of being arrested and taken to jail, they feel uncertain about what will happen next. Because of the sensitive nature of underage DUI charges and the consequences of being convicted of even more serious charges (depending on breathalyzer test results), anyone facing underage DUI charges should consult with a Florida Underage DUI Defense Lawyer right away to discuss legal options.
Florida DUI Laws for Individuals Under the Age of Twenty-One (21) Years
Under Florida law, pursuant to Florida Statute Section 322.2616(1)(a), “it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 who has a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of 0.02 or higher to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.” The standard for what is considered “impaired” is much lower for individuals under the age of twenty-one, as the legal limit for drivers twenty-one years of age or older is 0.08. As such, underage drivers who have even one sip of alcohol are at risk of facing underage DUI charges that carry many negative consequences.
Additionally, if the underage individual had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) result of 0.08 or higher, he or she may be subject not only to the underage DUI laws but also the standard DUI laws that apply to drivers of legal drinking age. Conviction of a standard DUI under Florida law can lead to jail time, fines, probation, and additional court-ordered requirements, such as community service, drug and alcohol counseling, and the installation of an ignition interlock device, among others.
Penalties for Underage DUI in Florida
The process for prosecuting underage DUI cases is a little different than the process for an ordinary DUI in Florida. For underage DUI, a law enforcement officer with probable cause to believe a person under the age of twenty-one is driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol can detain the individual and ask the individual to submit to a breathalyzer test. If the individual complies and his or her BAC reading is 0.02 or higher, he or she faces a charge of underage DUI.
The penalty for underage DUI is not considered criminal unless the BAC result is 0.08 or higher, and in such cases, Florida’s standard DUI laws will apply. Conviction of any DUI can lead to jail time and substantial fines. The following penalties apply to underage DUI offenses:
- First offense with BAC between 0.02 and 0.07 – Six-month driver’s license suspension
- Second or subsequent offense with BAC between 0.02 and 0.07 – one-year driver’s license suspension
- Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer for first alleged offense – one-year driver’s license suspension
- Second or subsequent refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test – eighteen-month driver’s license suspension
- The requirement to complete a substance abuse evaluation and education course if the BAC result is 0.05 or greater, and the driver’s license will remain suspended until the course is complete.
All DUIs are serious charges under Florida law, and even though underage DUI does not truly result in a criminal conviction (so long as the BAC is 0.07 or less), the burden of having a suspended driver’s license as well as the potential for increased insurance rates take a much greater toll than many people realize.
Defending a Florida Underage DUI Charge in Florida
Underage DUI cases might be relatively minor if the accused individual had a small amount of alcohol in his or her system. However, many DUI charges involving individuals under the age of twenty-one allege BAC levels of 0.08 or greater. In such cases, the accused individuals face the prospect of both underage DUI charges as well as Florida’s standard DUI charges. The consequences of jail time and fines are extremely harsh for teenagers and young adults. Going to college with a DUI conviction can be catastrophic as many schools may impose their own penalties, such as suspension.
Because the consequences of underage DUI can be dire for a young adult’s future prospects (as a DUI can affect nearly all aspects of a person’s life), those facing underage and/or standard DUI charges in Florida should look for an attorney who can fight the prosecution head-on to seek a resolution that avoids the devastating consequence associated with DUI convictions under Florida law.
Examples of specific defenses that can help individuals fight underage DUI and standard DUI charges in Florida include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:
- The BAC results were inaccurate;
- The accused individual was not driving and/or in physical control of a vehicle at the time of being stopped by a law enforcement officer;
- The law enforcement officer did not have sufficient probable cause to believe the accused individual was driving and/or in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol; and
- The accused individual did not commit any traffic violation, which gave rise to the initial stop.
An accused person’s defenses will be shaped by the unique facts of his or her case.
Musca Law Routinely Handles Serious DUI Charges, Including Florida Underage DUI Crimes
At Musca Law, our Florida Underage DUI Defense Attorneys decades of combined experience representing clients from all portions of Florida. We have multiple offices across the state to accommodate most clients, and our attorneys are always happy to meet with clients wherever it is most convenient. Unfortunately for many clients, this first meeting may be at the police station. When working with Musca Law, our clients receive superior legal representation that is aimed to reach the best possible result given the specific facts of the situation. One extreme example is if an underage DUI incident involved an accident that resulted in the death of another person, a person should expect to face jail time if he or she is convicted.
However, many underage DUI cases do not lead to jail time, and Musca Law has been successful in helping individuals avoid long-term suspension of their Florida driver’s license. While a public defender or any other licensed attorney in the state of Florida can go to court to represent a person’s rights and fight the penalties associated with underage DUI, choosing to work with a firm like Musca Law helps to ensure the person facing allegations has all resources at his or her disposal. The Florida Underage DUI Defense Lawyers of Musca Law possess the necessary experience, dedication, reputation, advocacy skills, compassion, and proven results to help clients fight tough criminal charges.