Florida’s DUI Penalties
In Florida, the police may charge you with DUI, even if you were not actually driving at the time of the incident. If you are intoxicated and behind the wheel of a vehicle, you are “in actual physical control” of the vehicle under the law, even if the keys are not in the ignition. Florida law defines DUI as being under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or chemical substances if your blood or breath alcohol level is 0.08 percent or higher, or if your actions show that you are under the influence.
Florida law outlines the penalties for driving under the influence. The police may charge the defendant with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the defendant’s prior DUI record.
First and Second Convictions
A first conviction for DUI could result in a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to six months, or both. A second conviction for DUI could result in a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to nine months, or both. If the court convicts a person for the second time, the defendant must pay for and use an ignition interlock device on any vehicle that he or she owns, jointly owns, or drives.
Third convictions have different penalties, depending on how recently an individual’s first and second convictions occurred.
Within 10 Years of Last Conviction
If someone receives a third DUI conviction within 10 years from a prior conviction, the prosecutor will charge him or her with a felony. A third conviction will result in a court order of a minimum two-year period of using an ignition interlock system.
If It Has Been More Than 10 Years Since the Last Conviction
If someone receives a third DUI conviction more than 10 years after his or her most recent conviction, he or she will receive a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to 12 months. The defendant must also pay for and use the ignition interlock device for at least two years.
If the court convicts the defendant of a fourth DUI in his or her lifetime, the court charges the defendant with a third-degree felony. The fine is at least $2,000 but not more than $5,000. The defendant must also pay for and use the ignition interlock device for at least six months and faces up to a five-year prison sentence.
DUI Penalties and Damage to Property or Person
If a defendant is convicted of DUI and causes damage to someone’s property or person, he or she will receive additional penalties. If the defendant caused serious bodily injury as a result of driving under the influence, the court may charge the defendant with a third-degree felony. If the defendant causes the death of someone, including an unborn child, the court may charge the defendant with a second-degree felony.
If a defendant knew that he or she was under the influence and could potentially cause a wreck, the court could charge the defendant with a first-degree felony. If the court convicts the defendant of DUI manslaughter, the minimum prison time is four years. Even though the penalties for driving under the influence are severe, people still drive after they’ve been drinking or doing drugs.
A court may also convict the defendant of driving under the influence if he or she was driving erratically after taking prescription medications that impaired his or her actions.
Florida law also provides additional penalties if a defendant’s blood or breath alcohol level is 0.15 percent or higher, or if the defendant was driving under the influence with someone who is under 18 years of age in the vehicle. For the first conviction, the fine is at least $1,000 but not more than $2,000. For a second conviction, the penalty is at least $2,000 but not more than $4,000, and for a third, fourth, or subsequent conviction, the fine is at least $4,000. The prison terms are up to nine months for the first conviction and up to 12 months for the second conviction.
In 2018, Florida courts heard 43,715 DUI charges. Of those, 25,848 defendants were convicted. A good DUI attorney can prevent you from joining those 25,848.
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2017 there were 43,899 DUI charges issued, and of those, 28,686 defendants were found guilty. An experienced attorney can help you avoid the fate of those 28,686.
Punitive Damages and DUI Cases
If you were hit by a drunk or drugged driver, you might receive payment for damages from your insurance company, the defendant’s insurance company, and/or the defendant, depending on the coverage you and the defendant had at the time of the accident. However, if the court finds that the defendant acted grossly negligent in his or her behavior, it may order the defendant to pay punitive damages, as well.
Because the defendant knew or should have known that drinking and driving could cause an accident that would result in injuries or death, you have a better chance of getting punitive damages, which are awarded over and above past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
If your injuries are expected to be long-term or permanent, the court may also order the defendant to pay additional compensation to cover your future medical needs. If the award is more than what your insurance company and the defendant’s insurance company will pay, the court will enter a judgment against the defendant.
Contact an Attorney if You Have Questions About Your Case
If you suffered injuries in a drunk driving accident or you lost a loved one in a crash with a drunk driver, do not give your insurance company any information about the accident other than the location of the wreck—not until you seek legal advice. Seek medical attention immediately, even if you do not feel as though you were hurt. Some injuries may take a day or two to manifest.
If you’re facing DUI charges, you need to protect your rights. Contacting a DUI attorney as soon as possible will help you do just that.