It is illegal to drive in Florida while under the influence of alcohol. This is true in every state, and every state has passed laws making it a "per se" DUI to drive with a blood alcohol level (BAL) (known as blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, in other states) above the legal limit. That means that if a chemical test shows a 0.08 percent BAL, the driver is presumed to be intoxicated. Anyone who drives in Florida should understand the state's driving under the influence (DUI) laws including the legal blood alcohol limit in this state.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
A person can be arrested and charged with under Florida drunk driving laws if there is evidence that they are under the influence of alcohol or if a chemical blood or breath test establishes that their blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or above.
Legal Blood Alcohol Limit in Florida
Drunk driving is impaired driving, and those who drive under the influence of alcohol put themselves, their passengers and members of the public at risk. In Florida, the laws about drunk driving and drugged driving are found in the state's Motor Vehicles Code, starting at Section 316.19. The statutes make it illegal for anyone to be in control of a motor vehicle if any of these statements is true:
- The driver is under the influence of alcoholic beverages; any chemical substance set forth in the statutes; or any substance controlled under Chapter 893 when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired.
- The driver has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.
- The driver has a breath alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
That means that a person can be arrested and charged with under Florida drunk driving laws if there is evidence that they are under the influence of alcohol or if a chemical blood or breath test establishes that their blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or above. This is sometimes called the legal limit in Florida.
Read More: What Is a Wet Reckless in Florida?
Lower Legal Limits for Some Drivers
Note that a lower legal limit applies to commercial vehicle drivers, and a very low limit applies to drivers who are under the age of 21 because these drivers are too young to drink legally in Florida. The state has a zero tolerance statute making it illegal for underage drivers to operate a motor vehicle with a BAL of 0.02 percent or above. However, these drivers generally lose their driving privileges, rather than getting criminal penalties for violation of this law.
Per Se DUI Charges in Florida
The law that sets the legal BAL limit at 0.08 percent in Florida is known as the per se DUI law. The term per se is from Latin and means by itself or of itself. This is appropriate, since having a BAL of 0.08 percent or above in Florida is, by itself, sufficient proof that a person's driving is impaired. Section 316.1934(2)(c), makes this blood or breath alcohol concentration prima facie evidence of impairment. That means that no other evidence of impairment is required to arrest or convict the driver.
Contrast this with a regular DUI. The prosecutor must offer evidence that convinces a jury that the driver's ability to operate the motor vehicle was impaired by alcohol. Proof can involve a police officer's testimony about how the person was driving; how they spoke and behaved after they were stopped; and how they performed on roadside sobriety tests. The jury can convict the driver of a DUI only if the evidence convinces them beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was, in fact, driving while impaired by alcohol.
Chemical Testing in Florida
The state of Florida uses three types of chemical tests to determine the BAL level of a driver: blood test, urine test and breath test. Experts agree that blood testing is the most accurate, but it presents more of an inconvenience to a driver, since they must be transported to a hospital or clinic for the blood test. A urine test is reputed to be the least accurate. A breath test, or breathalyzer, can be taken at a police station that has a breathalyzer machine.
Blood or urine testing cannot be imposed on a Florida driver unless the police officers obtain a search warrant. However, a driver who has been stopped for a Florida DUI can request an independent blood or urine test.
Implied Consent to Testing Under Florida Law
The Florida legislature enacted implied consent laws to make it easier for law enforcement to determine the BAL of a driver stopped for a potential DUI. These laws are found starting at Section 316.1932 of the Florida Motor Vehicles Code.
Implied consent laws provide that any person who accepts the privilege extended by the laws of Florida of operating a motor vehicle within the state is, by doing so, "deemed to have given his or her consent to submit to an approved chemical test or physical test." The tests a driver consents to specifically include a breathalyzer, a urine test and a blood test. This consent only applies if the driver is lawfully arrested for driving while under the influence of alcoholic beverages.
If a properly administered chemical test shows that the person had a BAL of 0.08 percent or above, there is a legal presumption of impairment. But the driver can rebut the presumption by showing evidence that the test was not reliable; the operator was not qualified to take the test; or the standards for intoxication are incorrect.
Read More: What Is a Felony DUI in Florida?
Consumption for 0.08 Percent BAL
Many people want to know exactly how many drinks they can consume before they hit or go over the legal limit of 0.08 percent BAL. There is no hard and fast rule about this, as people's bodies are different and other factors come into play, like whether the person was fatigued or stressed before drinking; the amount and type of food the person ate; and/or the effect of any medications they took, as well as the timing of the consumption of alcohol. That makes generalizations about how many drinks a driver can consume and still stay within the legal limits unreliable.
However, the internet is full of general tables that show the amount of alcohol necessary to hit a 0.08 percent BAL. The general rule seems to be that it takes between three to four drinks in an hour for a person to reach a 0.08 percent BAL, depending on the weight of the person drinking, as well as their food consumption and fatigue levels. One drink is considered to consist of 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, 12 ounces of 5 percent-alcohol beer, or 5 ounces of 12 percent-alcohol wine.
Read More: Can You Get a DUI on a Golf Cart in Florida?
DUI Penalties and Fines in Florida
The fines and penalties a person can incur in Florida for a DUI conviction depend in large part on the circumstances of the offense and the person's driving record. For a first offense, a person convicted of driving with a 0.08 percent BAL will have to pay a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and face a driver's license suspension of at least 180 days. If there are aggravating circumstances, the fine goes up. For example, a DUI will bring a higher fine if a passenger in the car is a minor or if the driver's BAL was 0.15 or higher. For a first conviction, imprisonment cannot exceed a period of six months.
In addition to fines and jail time, the court may order someone convicted of a DUI in Florida to install an ignition interlock device for at least six months on all vehicles they own or use regularly.
Read More: Florida's Open Container Law: What You Should Know
- The 2019 Florida Statutes: Motor Vehicles Code Section 316.193
- FindLaw: Per Se DUI Laws
- Enjuris: Florida BAC Laws
- The 2019 Florida Statutes: Motor Vehicle Code Section 316.19323
- DUI Driving Laws: Drink Table
- Sammis Law Firm: Chemical Testing in DUI Cases
- Legal Beagle" Florida DUI Laws: What to Expect, Penalties & Fines
- Legal Beagle: What Are the Penalties & Fines for DUI Convictions in Florida? (With Chart)
- Legal Beagle: Drugged Driving in Florida: Laws & Consequences
- Legal Beagle: Refusing a Breathalyzer in Florida: Laws, Consequences & What You Should Know
- Legal Beagle: Can You Get a CDL With a DUI in Florida?
- Legal Beagle: Florida Underage DUI Laws: What to Expect & Consequences
- Legal Beagle: Understanding Florida's Implied Consent Law
- Legal Beagle: What Is a Wet Reckless in Florida?
- Legal Beagle: Can You Get a DUI in a Motorized Wheelchair in Florida?
- Legal Beagle: Florida Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Laws & Penalties
- Legal Beagle: Florida's Open Container Law: What You Should Know
- Legal Beagle: Florida DUI: What's the Penalty for Your First Offense?
- Legal Beagle: Florida DUI With an Out-of-State License: What to Expect & Next Steps
- Legal Beagle: What Is a Felony DUI in Florida?
- Legal Beagle: Can You Get a DUI on a Golf Cart in Florida?
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.