The Legal Corner: Florida DUI Laws and Penalties

Myles Schlam

Florida DUI Laws

Penalties for a DUI in Florida
Pleading guilty or no contest to the crime of Driving under the Influence 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 level 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. If there was damage to another person or his property, the maximum jail time is 365 in the 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 a first time DUI 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 of 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 $500.00 and $1000.00. If a .15 or higher blood alcohol content is obtained, or there is a minor in the car, then the fine is between $1000.00 and $2000.00.
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 50-60 dollars a month during the period of probation. The other penalties of the DUI conviction, like the DUI School and the 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 that he was facing before he was put on probation. For a first time DUI, that means violating probation could result in up to 180 days in the county jail.

Ignition Interlock and Impoundment
The ignition interlock is another costly condition of probation that conviction with blood alcohol content of over .15 will result in a 6 month ignition interlock requirement. A second DUI conviction in Florida with blood alcohol content over .15 requires 24 months of the ignition interlock device. In Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, the device is roughly $200.00 to install, and has a monthly service fee of between $50.00 -100.00. 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 the impoundment of the vehicle, unless doing so would be a hardship to the family of the driver. There are exceptions that 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 the 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 -12 month license suspension. A second within 5 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
Every Florida DUI conviction will require DUI school. The first conviction will require Level 1 DUI School. A second or subsequent DUI conviction requires multiple offender school. Any substance abuse treatment deemed appropriate must be completed as a condition of the probation. The probationer must pay for all of this.

Community Service
Every conviction requires 50 community service hours. These can sometimes be purchased with an additional fine to the court.

Finally: If you are facing mandatory jail time for any of the above DUI categories, there are cases where the jail time may be converted into treatment time in a residential rehab setting. The Defendant will usually have to admit that they have an alcohol or drug problem and are eager to seek treatment for their substance abuse problem. In most cases, the amount of residential treatment time must be greater than the amount of jail time offered. For example, if the State is asking for 60 days jail time, we would normally propose a 90 day treatment plan in lieu of jail time. This is strictly up to the discretion of the Court with the consent of the State Attorney’s Office.