In Florida, a driver of any age can be convicted of a standard driving under the influence (DUI) offence. A DUI is defined as driving with a blood alcohol level (BAL) of 0.08 percent or more, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).
Florida also has administrative suspension laws called zero tolerance or underage DUI laws, which are civil offenses that do not carry penalties involving incarceration. Florida’s underage DUI laws apply to drivers under 21. Florida Statutes 2019 Section 322.2616 prohibits a driver under the age of 21 from driving with a BAL of 0.02 percent or more.
Penalties for Underage DUI
It is not a crime for a person under 21 to drive with a BAL of between 0.02 and 0.08 percent. It is a civil offense, and the penalty is driver’s license suspension. The penalty for a first offense of an underage drunk driver is six months. The penalty for the second or subsequent suspension for an underage drunk driver is one year.
The penalty for a first refusal to submit to a breath, urine or blood test is one year. The penalty for second or subsequent refusals is 18 months. If the driver’s BAL is 0.05 percent or higher, the suspension will remain in effect until the person completes a substance abuse evaluation and course.
A driver’s license suspension for an underage DUI is effective immediately or at the time of arrest. The law enforcement officer will issue the driver a temporary permit valid for 10 days from the date of the arrest if the driver is eligible. For persons under 21, the temporary permit is not valid until 12 hours after the time it is issued. A law enforcement officer may detain and request a breath test from any person under the age of 21 that the officer has probable cause to believe is driving under the influence of alcohol.
Additional Consequences of Underage DUI
A driver who is arrested for underage DUI may face disciplinary hearings at their high school or university. They can be terminated or demoted by their employer, and they will likely have to pay higher auto insurance rates. They will also have to pay the appropriate fines to the FLHSMV to reinstate their license or get a hardship license.
Getting a Hardship Driver's License
A hardship license grants driving privileges for business purposes only. These are activities related to the person’s livelihood, like commuting to and from work or school. The FLHSMV may also issue a hardship license for work purposes only, such as driving a vehicle on the job. Florida Statutes 2019 Section 322.271 provides that an individual is eligible to apply for a hardship license unless they have two or more prior DUI convictions, have committed a serious bodily injury in the course of committing a DUI or have been charged with, or convicted of, vehicular manslaughter or criminal vehicular manslaughter.
To apply for a hardship license, an individual must serve at least 30 days of a driver’s license suspension and enroll in a DUI substance abuse education course. The offender must have an ignition interlock device (IID) on the vehicle during the suspension period.
Requesting a Formal Review Hearing
A driver under 21 who wants to fight a DUI administrative suspension should request a formal review hearing at their local FLHSMV Bureau of Administrative Review (BAR) office. The driver has to make the request within 10 days after notice that a driver’s license suspension has been issued. After a driver requests a hearing, the BAR office will issue a 30-day hardship license until the hearing occurs.
Further, if the FLHSMV continues the hearing at its own initiative, it must issue a temporary driving permit until the rescheduled hearing. An individual who wins the hearing will see mention of the administrative suspension removed from their driving record.
Driving on a Suspended License
An individual who chooses to drive on a suspended license commits a separate offense, the act of driving with a suspended license. Florida Statutes 2019 Section 322.34 defines a first offense of driving with a suspended license as a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500 and a jail sentence up to 60 days.
A second offense of driving on a suspended license is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and a jail sentence up to one year. A third offense of driving on a suspended license is a third-degree felony, punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and a jail sentence up to five years.
Penalties for a Standard First DUI
Underage drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 who commit a standard first DUI (BAL of 0.08 percent or higher) will be penalized in the same manner as drivers 21 or over who commit a standard first DUI. The penalty for a first DUI is a jail term up to six months, a fine between $500 and $1,000, driver’s license revocation of between 180 days and one year, and the requirement to install an IID for up to six months. An individual who suffers a first DUI conviction may also have to serve unsupervised probation for up to one year, complete community service hours, finish a Level I Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle-approved DUI school and undergo a substance abuse evaluation and complete any recommended treatment.
First DUI penalties are increased to nine months maximum incarceration and a fine between $1,000 and $2,000 if the defendant’s blood or breath alcohol level (BAL) was 0.15 percent or higher or there was a minor in the vehicle. The court can sentence an offender to confinement in a residential alcohol or drug abuse treatment program. Time spent in the program is credited toward the term of imprisonment.
How a DUI Attorney Can Help
A Florida DUI attorney can represent an underage driver alleged to have committed an underage DUI in an administrative suspension proceeding. The attorney can subpoena witnesses for a formal review hearing which takes place before a hearing officer employed by the FLHSMV. A Florida DUI attorney can also represent an underage driver alleged to have committed a standard DUI. This case is heard in criminal court before a judge.
- Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: Florida DUI and Administrative Suspension Laws
- Florida Statutes 2019: Section 322.2616, Suspension of License; Persons Under 21 Years of Age
- Florida Statutes 2019: Section 322.271, Authority to Modify Revocation, Cancellation, or Suspension Order
- Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: Application for Hardship/Administrative Hearing
- Florida Statutes 2019: Section 322.34, Driving While License Suspended, Revoked, Canceled or Disqualified
- Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: Bureau of Administrative Review Offices
- Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: Licensed DUI Programs in Florida
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.