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The Basics of Florida DWI DUI

In Florida, drunk driving is a serious crime. Known in the state as a DUI, but also referred to elsewhere as a DWI, a first-time offense can cost you as much as $1,000, 50 hours of community service, and six months in jail, depending on the circumstances of the incident. It is important that you abide by Florida DWI laws, or else you may risk losing your license and injuring yourself and others.

What is a Florida DWI?

DUI stands for driving under the influence, while DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. Both terms refer to the same thing. Because states devise their own DUI laws, some states refer to the crime of drunk driving by different names. The official term in Florida is DUI.

According to Florida DWI law, you are breaking the law of you are operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or more. This means that if a sample of your blood were taken, .08 percent of it would be alcohol.

Your blood-alcohol level may be determined by a breathalyzer test. The police officer at the scene will usually administer this test. A breathalyzer is a device that can measure alcohol concentrations in a person's breath. If your alcohol concentration proves to be above the legal limit, the officer will place you under arrest.

If your blood-alcohol level is at .15 or above, you may face harsher penalties under Florida DWI law. For example, a first-time DUI offense in Florida has a fine range of $500 to $1,000. However, if your blood-alcohol level is at or above .15, this fine range jumps to $1,000 to $2,000.

Refusing to Submit to a Breathalyzer Test

Driving is considered a privilege in Florida, not a right. When you sign your name on your driver's license, you are giving implied consent to various tests of your breath and urine to determine whether you have consumed alcohol or other drugs while driving.

Yet, despite this implied consent, you are allowed to refuse a breathalyzer test as well as blood and urine tests if requested by a police officer. However, doing so can result in serious repercussions.

Refusing to submit to a blood-alcohol test could result in the immediate suspension of your driver's license. In addition, your refusal is admissible in court. This means that if you end up having a DUI trial in Florida, the prosecution can present your refusal as evidence that you had a consciousness of guilt.

Florida DWI Laws for Minors

If you are under the age of 21, you will be arrested for DWI in Florida if your blood-alcohol level is .02 percent or above.

Laws regarding minors who drink and drive are often referred to as zero-tolerance laws because they often entail immediate harsh penalties, such as driver's license suspensions.

In Florida, minors caught drinking and driving for the first time will have their licenses suspended for 6 months. For second offenses, this jumps to one year.

If the blood-alcohol level of a minor is at .05 percent or higher, then the driver must submit to a substance abuse evaluation and course.

Felony DUI

In Florida, a first-offense DUI is almost always considered a misdemeanor. However, there are times when a DWI can be considered a felony. Felony DUIs warrant much harsher penalties, sometimes entailing years in prison and fines that stretch well into the thousands.

Under Florida DWI laws, if you already have two DUI convictions on your record within the past 10 years and you caught drinking and driving again, you will be charged with felony DWI in Florida. If you get caught drinking and driving for a fourth time or more, then you will be charged with felony DUI in Florida regardless of how recent your past convictions were.

Also, if your DUI results in serious property damage or injury to another individual, you could be charged with a very serious felony. In fact, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, if you accidentally kill someone while drinking and driving and do not leave the scene of the crime, you could face a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.

Florida DUI Expungement

Expungement refers to the legal process of either sealing or destroying your criminal records, so that you can conceal a criminal conviction from certain parties. For example, you may not want a prospective employer or university to find out about your past criminal history for obvious reasons.

However, Florida DUI expungement is not possible. Florida law prohibits expungement of DUI convictions.

If you have more questions about Florida DWI laws or about what you should do if charged with DWI, you should contact a Florida DWI lawyer.