Florida Drunk Driving Laws, Statistics, Penalties and DUI Attorney
Can a person be guilty of drunk driving if he only had one drink?
The crime of drunk driving is generally defined in two ways: (1) having a blood alcohol content above the limit set by law, or (2) driving under the influence of alcohol. To find a person guilty under the first definition, a jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeded a certain amount. In most states the legal limit is .08 (or 8 percent). Therefore, if it is proven that the person’s BAC at the time of the incident was .08 or greater, he or she can be convicted of drunk driving, regardless of how much alcohol was actually consumed (source).
In contrast, the second definition does not refer to any particular BAC; it focuses on the driving behavior of the person. If the person’s driving is impaired by the consumption of alcohol, he or she can be found guilty of drunk driving. Instead of presenting evidence of the BAC to a jury, the prosecution seeking a conviction under this definition generally presents testimony about the person’s driving and consumption of alcohol. A police officer will often describe the impaired driving that lead him to pull the person over and the person’s ability (or lack thereof) to perform field sobriety tests, such as walking a straight line. Evidence is also usually presented concerning the person’s consumption of alcohol. If the jury then concludes that the prosecution has met its burden of proof, it will convict the person of drunk driving. A susceptible person may exhibit impaired driving after one drink and therefore be convicted of drunk driving.
DUI Traffic Stops
If a Florida law enforcement officer suspects that you are driving under the influence of alcohol, you will be pulled over. The officer will likely begin by administering a Field Sobriety Test. This is the test that you’ve seen countless times on television. The officer will observe your eyes for signs of alcohol use, ask you to perform simple mental acuity tests and perform physical tasks requiring coordination that easily demonstrate the signs of intoxication. If you fail this test, you may be asked to submit to a breathalyzer exam and/or a blood or urine alcohol test.
Holders of drivers licenses must agree to submit to blood, breath and urine exams. If you refuse to comply, your drivers license will be suspended for one year. If you refuse to comply for a second time in your life, you will receive an 18-month suspension and you may be charged with a misdemeanor. Additionally, the police may forcibly draw blood if the accident involved serious injury or death.
Drunk Driving Penalties in Florida
If you drink alcohol and drive you dramatically increase your chance of being in a crash. In addition, if you are pulled over and the officer asks you to take a blood, urine or breath test you are required to comply. Florida has the “Implied Consent Law”. When you sign your drivers license you have agreed to take these tests upon request. Refusal to take any of the tests will result in an immediate suspension for one year. A second refusal will result in an 18 month suspension.
2011 DUI Statistics
According to Florida DMV records there were 33,625 DUI convictions in Florida in 2011. Of the 55,722 DUI tickets issued in Florida in 2011 – 9,328 were issued by the FHP, 23,649 were issued by police departments in Florida, and 21,868 were issued by Florida Sheriffs departments.
2010 Florida DUI Convictions in the large Florida Counties
Hillsborough County (Tampa) – 3,256
Miami-Dade – (Miami) – 2,274
Duval County – (Jacksonvile Area) – 2,222
Pinellas County (St Petersburg) – 1,824
Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach) – 1,561
Orange County (Orlando) – 1,383
Brevard County (Melbourne) – 1,072
Broward County (Fort Lauderdale) – 985
Florida law mandates that any driver convicted of a second DUI have an Ignition Interlock device installed in their vehicle. A judge may order an Interlock installed on first convictions depending on circumstances. Read the details of the Florida Ignition Interlock program.
No one can drink alcohol and still drive safely. Drinking and driving causes accidents and deaths every day and therefore the penalties in Florida are very tough. If you drink and drive the result may be jail time, loss of your Florida drivers license, heavy fines, and much higher auto insurance rates. And a conviction will stay on your Florida driving record for 75 years.
Zero Tolerance for Drivers under 21
Florida has a Zero Tolerance law for drivers under 21. This means that any driver under 21 that is stopped by law enforcement and has a blood alcohol level of .02 or higher will automatically have their Florida drivers license suspended for 6 months. The .02 limit really means that you cannot have a single drink and drive. And that’s the idea.
For drivers over 21 the legal limit in Florida is .08. Regardless of your age be aware that drinking and driving is considered a serious offense. Below we have summarized the penalties in the state of Florida for a first offense DUI, but the average cost including legal defense, fines, and auto insurance increases is $8000.
Florida Penalties for DUI First Conviction
Fine – $250 to $500
Community Service – 50 Hours
Probation – Not more than 1 Year
Imprisonment – Not more than 6 Months
Imprisonment with BAL of .08 or higher with a minor in the vehicle, not more than 9 months
License Revocation – Minimum of 180 days
DUI School – 12 Hours
Addtional DUI Convictions
The penalties listed above are for a first DUI conviction. With each additional DUI conviction the penalties in Florida are more severe. Complete details on Florida DUI penalties can be found in the Florida drivers manual.
DUI/DWI Attorney in Palm Beach County
The most important thing in DUI/DWI cases is early intervention by your attorney. This preliminary involvement will help you avoid the consequences of a conviction, which are very serious in Florida. We will also represent you at your hearing before the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles in order to protect your right to drive.
There are defenses in DUI accident cases, which an experienced and capable lawyer can use. Even if you made a statement to police during your arrest, our lawyers can usually get that evidence thrown out of court. Any statement you give officers cannot be used against you due to the Florida accident report privilege.
Free consultation 24/7: Call West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine, P.A. at 561.880.4300. Se habla español.
Protecting your right to drive
Unless your request a DMV hearing within 10 days of arrest, you will lose your driver’s license. Even if your license is revoked, we can apply for a hardship license, which is usually immediately granted to you. We have never had a hardship license denied to one of our clients.