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Florida’s Driving Under The Influence Laws: A Deep Dive

Driving under the influence in Florida is a serious offense. Many Floridians are charged with driving under the influence each year, and the penalties for impaired driving can be substantial and far reaching. The following is what you need to know about the laws prohibiting driving under the influence in Florida.

Basics

Under Florida law, impairment is judged by blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Whether an individual is actually unable to drive or not, Florida statutes make no distinction if his or her BAC is above certain levels.

Florida’s “per se” threshold for impairment is a BAC of 0.08 percent. However, if an individual’s BAC is 0.15 percent or higher, it is considered by statute to be an enhanced penalty or aggravated level.

For minors, Florida has a “zero tolerance” BAC limit of 0.02 percent.

Implied Consent

Florida statute states that individuals with driver’s licenses consented to comply with law enforcement’s requests for field sobriety tests and chemical tests to determine impairment. Although this does not require a motorist to actually comply with such tests, refusing to do so carries other punishment, including possible suspension of their driver’s license.

Penalties

A first conviction of driving under the influence can yield a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of between $600 and $1,200. A second conviction within five years can result in a mandatory jail sentence of five days or as long as one year, or 30 days of community service, and a mandatory fine of between $1,000 and $5,100.

A third conviction for driving under the influence will result in a mandatory 60-day jail sentence, but could be up to one year in jail, and a mandatory fine of between $2,100 and $10,100. A fourth or subsequent conviction is a felony and comes with between one and ten years in prison and a fine of between $4,100 and $10,100.

In addition to fines and possible jail time, individuals convicted of driving under the influence can expect other penalties. For a first offense, a defendant will have his or her driver’s license suspended for six months. A second offense will lead to a driver’s license suspension of one year, while a third driving under the influence conviction will result in suspension of one’s driver’s license for two years.

In all cases, Mandatory Alcohol Education, Assessment and Treatment is typically assigned to the defendant. Confiscation of the defendant’s vehicle is also possible.

Ignition Interlock Device

In Florida, those convicted of driving under the influence may find their vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device. In essence, an IID is a Brethalyzer machine connected to a vehicle’s ignition switch. If the IID returns a BAC test above a certain threshold, the vehicle cannot be started for a period of time. Generally the lock-out period gets longer after every failed breath test.

Some IIDs have a “rolling retest,” which requires the driver to submit another breath test for alcohol while the vehicle is running. Although failing to complete the test or submitting a failed test does not shut off the vehicle, it typically triggers an alarm or activates the vehicle’s horn. Also, many models retain information from a failed rolling retest.

Florida law gives judges discretion in requiring those convicted of a first driving under the influence offense to have an IID installed, except if the defendant’s BAC is above 0.15 percent. However, an IID is mandatory for one year after a second conviction of driving under the influence, and third or subsequent convictions require the judge to sentence a defendant to using an IID for at least two years.

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