Drinking and driving (or driving while high on drugs) is illegal in every state, including Florida.
This behavior is a crime, not a traffic violation, and in some instances the state can prosecute it as a felony.
“DUI” stands for “Driving Under the Influence,” while “DWI” stands for “Driving While Intoxicated.”
DUI vs. DWI in Florida
Some states call it DUI, while others call it DWI. It’s all the same. So what is the status of DUI vs. DWI in Florida? Is Florida a DUI state or a DWI state? Florida is a DUI state, although Floridians use “DWI” in common parlance just about as often as they use “DUI.”
Regardless of what any given state calls the offense, the legal blood alcohol level is a basic standard that is exactly the same across the country. At 0.08% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), you are presumed to be legally too impaired to drive.
In some cases, Florida can prosecute you for a BAC even lower than 0.08%. There is no formal standard for drugged driving. Any amount of drugs in your bloodstream could serve as the basis for a DUI arrest.
DUI Penalties in Florida
Florida DUI penalties are more severe than they are in most states. To understand the penalties, you must first understand what an “aggravated DUI” is in Florida. You commit aggravated DUI if there is a minor (under 18) in the car with you, or if your BAC is at least 0.15%. Following is a summary of Florida DUI penalties.
Penalties for your first offense can include up to six months in jail, a fine of $500 to $1,000 and six months to one year driver’s license suspension.
If aggravated, you face up to nine months in jail, $1,000 to $2,000 in fines, six months to one year driver’s license suspension, and up to six months Ignition Interlock Device (IID).
Regardless of whether the DUI is aggravated, a first-offense DUI will also include at least 50 hours of community service, a 10-day impoundment of your vehicle, and both alcohol-related and victim-impact education.
For your second offense within 5 years you can be sentenced to up to nine months in jail, a fine of $1,000 to $2,000, six months to one year driver’s license suspension, and two years IID. If aggravated, you face up to 12 months in jail, $2,000 to $4,000 in fines, six months to one year driver’s license suspension, and two years IID.
A third offense (in your entire driving history) carries up to 12 months in jail, $2,000 to $5,000 in fines (minimum $4,000 if aggravated), six months to one year driver’s license suspension, and two years IID.
If you have at least one DUI within the past 10 years, even in another state, a third DUI can be charged as a felony in Florida.
Penalties are 30 days to 5 years incarceration, $2,000 to $5,000 in fines (minimum $4,000 if aggravated), 10 years to lifetime driver’s license suspension, and two years IID. Further offenses trigger even more serious penalties.
Common DUI Defenses
Following are some of the most popular DUI defenses in Florida:
- The margin of error defense—If the police officer measured your BAC at 0.82%, you could argue that the margin of error for the breathalyzer test was so large that a reading of 0.82% is not enough to establish that you were legally intoxicated. In any case, that might be enough to secure a favorable plea bargain.
- The “rising BAC” defense—If you drank a lot immediately before you were pulled over, and the police officer measured your BAC a few minutes later, it could be that you were drunker at the time you took the test than you were behind the wheel. Indeed, backwards extrapolation might prove that you were not legally drunk at the time you were pulled over.
- Illegal traffic stop—The police officer had no probable cause to pull you over in the first place. The officer might have been racially profiling you, or they might have pulled you over based on a defective arrest warrant, etc.
- Lack of a Sufficient Observation Period — In Florida, law enforcement officers are required to observe DUI suspects for a 20-minute period before giving them a breath test. The purpose of this observation period is to ensure that the DUI suspect does not regurgitate anything from their stomach or put anything into their mouth that could contaminate the test. Many times, law enforcement officers fail to comply with this requirement. When they do, that failure can provide a basis to have a breath sample excluded from evidence.
Hundreds more potential defenses might be available, depending on your circumstances. Contact the team at OrlandoDefense.com today to see what defenses might apply to your case.
If Your Driver’s License Was Issued by Another State
Florida hosts more than its share of out-of-state vacationers. Suppose you are convicted of DUI while holding a New York driver’s license. Can Florida suspend your New York driver’s license? No, all it can do is suspend your right to drive in Florida under any license. And that much Florida will surely do.
Florida will also notify New York of your DUI conviction in Florida. New York will likely deal with your driver’s license just as it would have if you had been convicted of DUI in New York (New York calls it DWI, by the way).
You might get lucky if your license was issued by Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee or Wisconsin, because these states are not members of the information-sharing Driver License Compact.
Let OrlandoDefense.com DUI Lawyer Jeffery Higgins Fight for You
Do not try to defend yourself against a Florida DUI charge, even if it is your first offense. You are going to need an experienced DUI lawyer with extensive knowledge of Florida DUI law.
They can protect you from the clutches of the Florida criminal justice system and devise a winning defense strategy. Or, as a last resort, your attorney can negotiate to get charges reduced and secure a favorable plea bargain for you.
OrlandoDefense.com is led by Jeffery Higgins, and Jeffery Higgins has successfully defended hundreds of Florida DUI clients.