DUI Laws in Florida

Been arrested for DUI? Rehab might help. In this article, we review DUI laws in Florida and the penalties you may face if you’re caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW:Have you recently been charged with a DUI in Florida? You’re not alone. We’ll let you know what happens in the legal process and how rehab might help. This article reviews laws penalties, and general legal procedures for DUIs in Florida.



When people refer to a DUI, they’re saying “driving under the influence”. When people refer to a DWI, they’re saying “driving while intoxicated [1]. Both acronyms are used when someone drives under the influences of a psychoactive substance.

In the state of Florida, there usually is no difference between a DUI or DWI. Both terms refer to alcohol or drug-related driving incidents.

If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or more or if you drive while impaired on drugs…you can be arrested. The legal BAC for anyone over 21 is 0.08%. If you’re under 21, then the legal limit is 0.02%. By not following these laws, you will be charged with a DUI or DWI.

Some people become confused by the two definitions. Some states use a DUI when strictly discussing driving under the influence of alcohol while a DWI refers to driving while intoxicated on drugs. This is true in Florida, as well. What you’re charged with entirely depends on the county you’re in and the circumstances of your situation.


In the state of Florida, you may run into a checkpoint while driving, especially on a night associated with partying, such as Friday or Saturday. Sobriety checkpoints give police permission to stop vehicles at specific, highly visible locations to see whether or not the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An officer may give out breath tests if s/he has a suspicion that the driver is intoxicated.

What happens if you run into this situation?

If you’re pulled over, you’ll need to comply with the checkpoint protocol. If you refuse a test altogether, administrative license revocation or suspension laws give officers the right to arrest you. If your breathalyzer test reveals you have a BAC higher than the legal limit to drive, you’ll be arrested.

Legal Process

When arrested for a DUI, the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend and take away your license. From there, you’ll be given the chance to a hearing in a court of law. The outcome of this hearing entirely depends on your situation. The following penalties are most common:

  • Completion of DUI School
  • Delay in Driver’s License
  • Fine
  • Jail time

Whatever penalty you receive as well as the charge already made against you will be placed on record. This is for the sake keeping Florida state courts informed if you were to be convicted again in the future. When you already have one DUI under your belt, penalties worsen upon consecutive DUIs.

A “Wet Reckless” Plea Bargain

Upon going to court, it’s in anyone’s best interest to lessen their offense. In Florida, many people attempt the plea bargain of wet reckless. This is a conviction of reckless driving involving alcohol and can result in lesser consequences [2].

A wet reckless is offered when:

  • No accident occurred.
  • The amount of alcohol was barely illegal.
  • The defendant has no prior DUI or criminal record.

You’ll need to talk to a lawyer to see if you’re liable for a wet reckless. Though you’ll still have to pay some price for driving under the influence, this can be your opportunity to receive a lesser consequence, learn from your mistake, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Misdemeanor or Felony

The classification of your DUI will depend on the circumstances of your situation. Any DUI can result in either a misdemeanor or a felony. However, most DUIs are typically classified as a misdemeanor which results in:

  • A fine
  • Community service
  • Counseling
  • Jail time
  • Probation

A case usually only results in a felony if someone else is either hurt or killed in an accident due to driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohols. However, it is helpful to know that DUI felonies and misdemeanors alike are divided into classes to better fit various crimes [3]. For example, if your DUI results in the death of another, you hold the great risk of a second-degree felony which can result in a $10,000 fine and 15 years in prison.

1st DUI

Like many states in the country, Florida wants to do all it can to prevent you from breaking the law in the future. Therefore, it’s in their best interest to teach you rather than punish you.
Upon receiving your first DUI in Florida, you’ll receive a misdemeanor which can result in the following consequences [4]:

  • A 180-day to 1-year license suspension
  • A fine between $500 and $2,000
  • Jail time of up to 6 months
  • Required interlock ignition device

2nd DUI

Upon receiving a second DUI in Florida, you’ll again be charged with a misdemeanor which can result in the following consequences:

  • A 5-year license suspension that can be reduced to 1 year
  • A fine between $1,000 and $4,000
  • Jail time of up to 9 months
  • Required interlock ignition device

3rd DUI

Upon receiving a third DUI in Florida, you’ll again be charged with a misdemeanor which will give you the following consequences:

  • A 10-year license suspension that can be reduced to 2 years
  • A fine between $2,000 and $5,000
  • Jail time between 30 days and 5 years
  • Required interlock ignition device

Jail Time

Will you receive jail time for a DUI in Florida?

Again, it entirely depends on your situation. However, jail time IS a strong possibility. In fact, there’s a more likely chance for jail time if the following is attached to your DUI:

  • Someone was hurt due to your DUI.
  • You refuse checkpoint testing.
  • You enter a plea bargain.

If you’re facing a first offense DUI, chances are your facing little to no jail time, up to 6 months maximum. If DUIs begin to pile up, then you’ll start to see heavier jail sentences. People tend to be at risk for a higher jail sentence for the following reasons:

  • They are under the age of 21.
  • The have a BAC over 0.15%.
  • They had a child under the age of 14 in the car.
  • They were driving over the speed limit.

If your DUI is the cause of someone else’s death, you’ll automatically be charged under Florida Statute 782.071 with either vehicular homicide or manslaughter. If your offense is considered a 2nd degree felony, you will receive 15 years in a Florida State Prison. However, if it’s considered a 1st degree felony, you can receive anywhere from thirty years to life in prison.

The best way to get an idea of how much jail time you’ll be facing, you will want to discuss the matter with a lawyer. As mentioned, jail time entirely depends on the circumstances of your situation. A lawyer will know these circumstances and have the ability to give you the best estimate.

Classes and DUI School

Within the Sunshine State, there are two types of DUI classes [6]:

  • Level I for first-time offenders with 12 hours of classes
  • Level II for a person with multiple offenses, a minimum 21 hours of classes

The goal of DUI school is to teach you the dangers of driving under the influence and how to practice safe driving techniques. In Florida, the majority of these classes will not exceed 15 students, creating a more personal learning environment. For those who have multiple offenses, DUI school will focus on where that offender continuously makes mistakes and attempt to resolve the issue.

The cost for DUI school varies from county to county. In order to get an idea of how much you’ll have to pay, you’ll need to call the DUI school of your county and ask. You can find a list of DUI programs within their respective counties here.

To give you a general sense, first-time offenders are likely to pay around $275.00 for a DUI class while second-time offenders average around $420.00 for courses. [7] If you’re required to have either an ignition interlock device or a DUI special supervision service, your price will definitely rise. Furthermore, some DUI offenders must register with the Victim Awareness Program which costs around $45.00.

Statute of Limitations

In Florida, if you’re charged with a second degree misdemeanor or less, then the district attorney has 1 year to file charges. If you have a first degree misdemeanor, the district attorney has 2 yearsto file charges. A second degree felony gives the district attorney 3 years while a first-degree felony allows for 4 years.

Those limitations mean if the prosecutors don’t file criminal charges within the timeframe, you won’t be prosecuted for your crime. The legal reason for a statute of limitations is to protect you from inaccurate prosecution. Eyewitness memory weakens over time, as does evidence.

These statute of limitations are primarily for first-time offenders. Though a person who offends multiple times may run into the same statute of limitations, there’s a chance his or her statute lasts for a longer period.It should also be noted, the charge you receive for your crime will remain on your record for 75 years.


DUI charges and convictions remain on your public record for 75 years in the state of Florida. Considering that a DUI will stay on your record for practically your whole life, many people look for expungement options.

One option is to seal your DUI records. When you seal the record, you’ll prevent most private employers from gaining access to your records through employment background checks and hold onto your rights to not disclose the information. In order to request expungement or to seal your records, you’ll need to hire a DUI lawyer.

DUI Lawyer Costs

Most DUI situations that occur in the state of Florida will range from 6 to 12 months [8]. Attorney fees will average around $2,000 with other costs adding an addition $4,000+. Though the price you pay will depend on your situation, the average 6 month DUI case in Florida will cost you around $6,500.

Furthermore, the type of lawyer you get will affect cost. Asmi-experience DUI lawyer will be cheaper than an experienced one. So, depending on your budget, you may want to consider your options.

When considering these options, it’s important to remember that there will be other payments necessary while going through the DUI process. These payments include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Courts and fines which can add up to around $2,000.
  • DUI School which can cost you anywhere from $275 to $1,000.
  • Your insurance rates will go up to a potential $2,500 per year.
  • You might receive an ignition interlock device which can cost $500 or more.

Is Rehab an Option?

It’s in Florida’s best interest to offer people the help they need. DUI offender within the Sunshine state have the potential to benefit from drug courts. In these specialized courts, you’ll gain access to options for treatment and rehabilitation rather than traditional penalties.

The overall purpose of a drug court is to:

  1. Decrease the likelihood of a criminal re-offending and drug abuse amongst those who offend.
  2. Increase the chances of offenders successfully reach sobriety through treatment.

It’s important to note that drug courts aren’t open to everyone who receives a DUI. If your DUI is classified as a felony, you’ll most likely not be allowed access to a drug court. However, if you’ve only received a misdemeanor, it may be an option for you.

In order to find out, you’ll want to speak with your lawyer for more information.

Your Questions

Have any questions about DUI laws in Florida? Or do you have any questions about how to get treated for alcohol addiction? If yes, don’t hesitate to ask! We try to respond to each comment in a prompt and personal manner.

Reference Sources: [1] NHTSA: Drunk Driving
[2] Online Sunshine: The 2018 Florida Statutes
[3] DMV Florida Traffic Laws: DUI
[4] Driving Laws: Florida Drunk Driving Fines & Penalties
[5] Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: DUI and IID
[6] Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: Licensed DUI Programs in Florida
[7] Florida Safety Council – DUI Courses
[8] Laywers.com: Does a DUI Lawyer Give You a Better Outcome? Is It Worth the Cost?
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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