Florida DUI Laws Broken Down and Explained


Posted on August 30, 2011 by Jeffrey Feiler

Have you been arrested for driving under the influence? It can be rather scary to consider the potential consequences you may face with a DUI conviction. In Florida, DUI offenses trigger both criminal penalties and administrative actions. Penalties vary depending on several factors. However, one consequence remains the same with any DUI conviction in Florida—your conviction will remain on your criminal record permanently. Hiring an experienced attorney to help you navigate the legal process is essential. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to learn the basics about DUI penalties and Florida law concerning drunk driving.

Criminal Penalties for DUI Convictions
Criminal penalties are consequences or punishments that result from court action. You will be required to go to court for proceedings where the state will present a case to prosecute you. If convicted, a judge will evaluate your case and determine what penalty you will receive.

There are mandatory consequences that much be assessed for anyone convicted of a DUI; however, these differ depending upon prior convictions. In addition, judges can evaluate cases individually when determining sentencing.

First DUI Offense
Florida judges often set one or more of the following criminal penalties for first-time offenders:
  • Fines from $500 to $1000
  • Community service for up to 50 hours
  • Jail for up to 6 months
  • Probation for one year
Fines may be doubled depending upon your BAC (Blood Alcohol Level), or if there was a minor present when you were arrested for DUI. In addition, Florida law mandates the installation of an Ignition Interlock device for any first-time offender with a BAC of .20+ or with a minor present at the arrest.

An Ignition Interlock device forces you to check your BAC before driving, as you must breathe into the device to start the car. Also, every time the device beeps, you must breathe into it. The data from the Interlock is transmitted to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. If you are ordered to get an Ignition Interlock device, you will be responsible for paying for the installation fee and cost of the device.

Second DUI Offense
Penalties for a second DUI may include the following:
  • Fines from $1000 to $2000
  • Jail for 10 days or up to one year
  • Probation for one year
  • Mandatory Ignition Interlock for one year
The consequences for getting a second DUI conviction will be more severe if your BAC is .15 or higher, or if a minor was in the vehicle at the time of arrest. In addition, your penalties will be harsher if your second DUI conviction occurs within 5 years of your first conviction.

Third DUI Offense
With a third DUI offense, you can expect the following penalties:
  • Fines from $2000 to $5000
  • Jail for up to one year
  • Probation for one year
  • Mandatory Ignition Interlock for two years
Again, you will be given harsher penalties if your BAC is .15 or higher, or if you had a minor in your vehicle when you were arrested. Plus, your punishments will be stronger if your third DUI conviction occurs within 10 years of your prior convictions.

Fourth DUI Offense
A fourth conviction for DUI counts as a 3rd degree felony in the state of Florida, regardless of when the prior convictions occurred. In addition to the consequences for prior offenses, there are mandatory penalties for this type of offense:
  • Fines of up to $5000
  • Jail for up to 5 years
  • Mandatory Ignition Interlock for 2 years
Administrative Penalties for DUI Convictions
Administrative actions are those that are given by the Division of Motor Vehicles. These penalties are mandated by Florida law and cannot usually be altered.

If you would like to challenge the administrative actions through a hearing, you must request a hearing from the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days of your arrest. Failure to do so will result in at least a 6 to 18 month license suspension.

It is important to note that Florida has a Zero Tolerance Law for drivers under the age of 21. This means that any driver under 21 with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02 or higher will automatically have a six-month suspension of their license. This is the approximate BAC of one single drink.

First DUI Offense
  • License suspension for 180 days up to one year
  • Must complete 12 hours DUI school before license reinstatement
Second DUI Offense
  • License suspension for 180 days up to one year; suspension will be 5 years if second DUI conviction is within 5 years of the first offense
  • Must complete 21 hours DUI school before license reinstatement
Third DUI Offense
  • License suspension for one year; suspension will be 10 years if third offense occurs within 10 years of prior convictions
  • Must complete 21 hours of DUI school before license reinstatement
Fourth DUI Offense
  • License suspension for 10 years or may be permanent
  • Must complete DUI school program and have favorable recommendation from the Special Supervision Services Program in order to have license reinstated
Getting through the Legal Process
Knowing the laws in Florida and the penalties that can be assessed for DUI convictions will help you as you go through the court process and the hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles. But, having an experienced lawyer in your corner is almost always necessary in order to avoid harsher penalties. No information on the Internet can be used as a substitute for the advice and counsel of a good lawyer, so be sure to get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible after a DUI arrest.

Jeffrey Feiler is a well-known Miami criminal defense lawyer and Miami DUI Lawyer who has been successfully defending the rights of clients for over 20 years. Mr. Feiler and the Feiler Law Firm are compassionate to individual's needs, while simultaneously obtaining desired resolutions and judgements.

Disclaimer: The names of all persons, including Police, have been changed to fictitious names in the case of blog posts about actual cases handled by Jeffrey Feiler and the Feiler Law Firm. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience. This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal, legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.