Florida, like many states, uses a graduated licensing program, which imposes certain restrictions upon teenage drivers but helps them gain valuable driving experience prior to receiving unrestricted licenses. All teens ages 15 to 17 must hold a learner’s permit for at least one year and log at least 50 hours of driving experience before they can apply for a class E operator’s license, or “intermediate license.” With a learner’s permit, a teenager can practice for the intermediate license test under adult supervision.
Driving With a Permit
When driving with a learner’s permit, not only must you drive with an adult, but she must be at least 21 and have her own driver’s license. Also, this licensed adult must sit in the front passenger seat at all times while you are driving. Under no circumstances may the holder of a learner’s permit drive alone. Legally, you can drive only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. for the first three months after obtaining the permit and between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. after that.
Driving Alone With a Permit
In Florida, driving alone with a learner’s permit, or simply driving without a licensed adult in the car, is tantamount to driving without a license—a mere moving violation, usually involving only a civil penalty. However, that civil penalty—in the form of a fine—can run up to $500, not including various small administrative charges. If, in addition to driving without a license, the unlicensed driver is caught speeding in a school or construction zone, the fine, just for the unlicensed driving, can run up to $1000. The presiding judge determines the actual amount of the fine, within the lawful limits. First time offenders often receive lower fines, and the judge may forego a civil penalty altogether in lieu of the offender completing a driver improvement program. However, the judge can do both: order driver improvement school and fine the driver. In addition to the court rulings, all drivers convicted of driving without a license must pay a yearly surcharge of $100 to the state. And you will have to pay to get your vehicle from the impoundment lot unless the ticketing officer allowed a parent to pick it up.
Getting Your Intermediate License
Although a permit-holder caught driving without a licensed adult does not actually get her permit or supervised driving privileges suspended, she will have some trouble getting her intermediate license. The year for which a learner's permit is held must be a year of lawful driving. Any traffic violations, including driving alone with only a permit, will reset that period, and you will have to wait a year from the date of the violation until you can even test for your driver’s license.