man in vehicle testing breathalyzer

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a very serious offense that can have big consequences on your life. In Florida, where there’s a lot of sunshine and people often get together to have fun, it’s really important for every driver to know the specific DUI laws in the state.

What Constitutes a DUI in Florida?

In Florida, DUI is defined by Florida Statute 316.193 as either driving or being in control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances. This means you can get charged with a DUI even if the car isn’t moving, as long as you’re sitting in the driver’s seat and intending to drive.

The most common way to prove someone is driving under the influence is through a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) test. In Florida, the legal limit for BAC is .08% for drivers who are 21 years old or older. If a breath or blood test shows your BAC is .08% or higher, you’ll be arrested for DUI. However, according to a criminal defense attorney in Riverview, it’s important to know that you can still get a DUI charge even if you refuse to take a BAC test. Law enforcement officers can do other tests to check if you’re impaired, like field sobriety tests. Plus, if you refuse a breath test, your license can be suspended automatically in Florida because of implied consent laws.

Levels of DUI Offenses in Florida

The seriousness of a DUI charge and the consequences you might face depend on different factors, like your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and any other factors that make the situation worse. Here’s what you might face for different levels of DUI in Florida:

First Offense (BAC: 0.08% – 0.14%): This is seen as a misdemeanor, which means it’s not as serious. You could get fined between $500 and $2,000, spend up to six months in jail, have your license taken away for six months to a year, be required to complete DUI school, and have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) put in your car. The IID makes you blow into a breathalyzer before you can start your car.

Second Offense (BAC: 0.15% – 0.19% or within 10 years of a previous DUI): This is also a misdemeanor, but the penalties are tougher. You could get fined between $1,000 and $2,000, spend up to nine months in jail, have your license taken away for one to two years, still have to complete DUI school, and likely have to use an IID.

Third Offense (Any BAC within 10 years of a previous DUI) or Fourth Offense (Any BAC): These are more serious because they’re considered felonies. You could face big fines, possibly over $5,000, spend up to five years in prison, lose your license for up to ten years, and you’d still have to complete DUI school and use an IID.

Additional Factors You Should Know in a DUI Case

Several factors can really affect what happens with your DUI case:

Accidents: If your DUI causes an accident where someone gets hurt or killed, the consequences get a lot more serious. You might face extra criminal charges for causing the accident.

Open Container: If there’s an open alcohol container in your car, even if you haven’t been drinking, it can be used as evidence to support a DUI charge against you.

Underage DUI: If you’re under 21, there’s a zero-tolerance policy. That means any amount of alcohol in your system (even just a tiny bit) is seen as a DUI. You could lose your license, get fined, and have to do community service.

There are also things that might help your case, like not having any past DUIs, showing you’re sorry, or finishing DUI programs the court tells you to do.

What to Do if You Are Pulled Over for Suspected DUI

If you’re pulled over because the police suspect you of driving under the influence (DUI), it’s really important to stay calm and cooperate with them. Be polite and answer their questions directly but briefly.

In Florida, there are implied consent laws. This means that by driving on the state’s roads, you’ve basically agreed to take a breath test if an officer asks you to. However, you have the right to say no to a field sobriety test. These tests aren’t always accurate, and saying no to one doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get a DUI conviction.

The most important thing to do if you’re arrested for DUI is to ask for a lawyer right away. A lawyer can tell you about your rights, help you through the legal process, and maybe work out a deal to lower the charges or penalties.

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