A Detailed Look at DUI Laws and Penalties in the State of Florida
Pleading guilty or no contest to the crime of driving under the influence (DUI) in the state of Florida has statutory minimum mandatory penalties that must be imposed by the court. That means the lawmakers up in Tallahassee have decided to take away some of the discretion of the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach courts in determining what sentence to give to someone pleading to or found guilty of driving under the influence.
Note that these are minimums for a Florida DUI conviction. The court can impose more; in fact, for a DUI, the court can impose jail. However, understand that these Florida statutory minimums are required only when convicted of a DUI.
If the DUI attorney negotiates a reduction of the charge from a DUI to, say, reckless driving, then the minimum mandatory penalties do not apply. If the DUI attorney negotiates a dismissal of the case, then the penalties do not apply. If the DUI attorney wins the case at trial, then the penalties do not apply.
Below I have listed the possible penalties associated with a DUI conviction in the state of Florida.
Possible Jail Time
A standard first time DUI conviction can result in up to 180 days in the county jail. If the blood alcohol content (BAC) was over a .15, or if a minor was in the vehicle at the time of the incident, then the maximum jail time is increased to 270 days. If there was damage to another person or his property, the maximum jail time is 365 days in county jail.
A second DUI conviction is punishable by up to a year in jail. A third DUI conviction within ten years of a previous DUI can be a felony, if the prosecutor so chooses, and is punishable by up to five years in prison. A fourth or subsequent DUI conviction is also punishable by up to five years in prison.
For first-time DUI offense in Florida, the prosecution oftentimes does not seek jail time. However, when there is an accident involved, or some other aggravating conduct by the defendant, the prosecutor may seek a term of incarceration as part of the sentence for the DUI.
For a second-time DUI conviction in Florida that is within five years of a previous DUI conviction, there is a minimum 10 days required in the county jail. A third-time DUI within 10 years of a prior DUI conviction in Florida requires a minimum of 30 days in the county jail.
Fines and Court Costs
The fine for a first time DUI in Florida is between $500 and $1000. If a .15 or higher BAC is obtained, or there is a minor in the car, then the fine is between $1000 and $2000.
A second DUI conviction within 5 years of a previous prior DUI conviction will result in a fine of between $1000 and $2000. If there is a .15 or higher BAC or a minor in the car, then the fine is between $2000 and $4,000. A 3rd DUI conviction or more will result in a fine between $2000 and $5000.
Probation and Cost of Supervision
A DUI conviction will often include a probationary term of up to one year for a misdemeanor and five years for a felony. Cost of supervision while on probation is not cheap; usually $50 to $60 dollars a month during the period of probation. The other penalties of the DUI conviction, like DUI school and monetary fines, are considered conditions of the probation.
If the conditions are not completed while on probation, the probationer can be violated. If violated, the probationer could face up to the entire term of incarceration he was facing before being put on probation. For a first-time DUI, that means violating probation could result in up to 180 days in county jail.
Ignition Interlock and Impoundment
The ignition interlock is another costly condition of probation that might accompany a DUI conviction. Specifically, a first-time DUI conviction with a BAC of over .15 will result in a 6-month ignition interlock requirement. A second DUI conviction in Florida with a BAC over .15 requires 24-months of the ignition interlock device.
In Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, the device costs roughly $200 to install, and has a monthly service fee of between $50 to $100. Note: The interlock device is required even if you do not own a vehicle! Just the other day, a Judge in Broward stated on record that this requirement never made sense to her. A lot of judges have stated the same, but the legislature has made it statutory.
Any second or subsequent DUI conviction in Florida will result in impoundment of the vehicle, unless doing so would be a hardship to the family of the driver. Exceptions may apply if the vehicle is operated for business purposes.
Driver’s License Suspension
Even though the Florida DMV has likely already administratively suspended the license after an arrest, a DUI conviction results in a separate and distinct driver’s license suspension. On a first DUI conviction, the court will order a 6- to 12-month license suspension. A second within five years of a prior DUI conviction will result in a five-year suspension. A third DUI within 10 years of any one prior DUI is also a minimum of a five-year driver’s license suspension. A third DUI within ten years of convictions for any two prior DUI’s in Florida is a ten-year suspension. The fourth conviction is a lifetime Florida license revocation.
The driver is eligible for a hardship license immediately on a first-time DUI if the DUI school is complete. On a second DUI within 5 years of a prior conviction, the driver is eligible for a hardship license after 12 months. On a third conviction within 10 years of a prior DUI conviction, the driver is eligible for a hardship license within 12 months. On a third within ten years of two previous prior DUI convictions, the driver is eligible for a hardship license after 24 months. On a fourth DUI conviction, no possibility exists for a hardship license.
DUI School and Community Service
Every Florida DUI conviction will require DUI school. The first conviction will require completion of Level 1 DUI school. A second or subsequent DUI conviction requires multiple offender school. Any substance abuse treatment deemed appropriate must also be completed as a condition of probation. And of course, the probationer must pay for all this.
Every conviction requires 50 community service hours. These can sometimes be purchased with an additional fine paid to the court.
An Option to Convert Jail Time to Treatment Time
If you are facing mandatory jail time for any of the above DUI categories, there are cases where the jail sentence may be converted into treatment time in a residential rehab setting. Defendants will usually have to admit that they have an alcohol or drug problem and are eager to seek treatment for a substance abuse problem.
In most cases the amount of time in residential treatment in Florida must be greater than the amount of jail time offered. For example, if the state is asking for 60 days’ jail time, a lawyer would normally propose a 90-day treatment plan in lieu of jail time.
The decision is strictly up to the discretion of the court with the consent of the State Attorney’s Office.
Images Courtesy of iStock