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Drunk Driving Defense Laws in Florida

Most people know it’s not just a bad idea to drive drunk, it’s also against Florida law. But throughout Florida, from Miami to Tallahassee and all points in between, a legally drunk driver may be trying to get home from a tailgating party or a party on the beach. Those drivers’ worst nightmare is seeing the flashing lights of a police cruiser in their rearview mirror.

When a driver in Florida is stopped for a traffic stop and the law enforcement officer has suspicions that the driver has been drinking, the driver might be instructed to complete a field sobriety test. This test involves a series of actions that can give law enforcement insight into potential impairment. These tests, however, aren’t foolproof. There are some instances in which a person might fail this test without being impaired.

Blood-Alcohol Concentration Limits in Florida

Checking a driver’s blood-alcohol concentration level through a breath test or a blood test is one way to determine whether a driver is over or under the legal limit in Florida. For drivers who are at least 21 years old, the limit is .08 percent. Drivers who are younger have a limit of .02 percent. Commercial drivers have a limit of .04 percent.

Even when a driver is accused of drunk driving because of these tests there might still be a way to fight the charges in Florida. In order for these tests to be admissible in court, the tests must be performed by someone who has been trained in the test’s administration. The equipment used must be properly maintained and calibrated. If those conditions aren’t met, that information might prove useful in a drunken driving defense.

Florida Drunk Driving Penalties

The penalties for drunken driving convictions in Florida vary depending on a variety of factors. Prior convictions for drunken driving mean harsher penalties. BAC percentages that are over .15 percent or having minors in the vehicle result in harsher penalties.

Generally, a person who has been convicted of drunk driving faces a period of incarceration with a minimum sentence of 10 days on a second conviction and a 30-day minimum on a third. A driver’s license suspension of six months on a first conviction and up to life on a fourth conviction is imposed. A fine of at least $500 on a first conviction, at least $1,000 on a second, and at least $2,000 on third and fourth convictions is required.

Community service hours and mandatory alcohol education courses are possible. In some cases, the vehicle might be impounded. Ignition interlock devices are also used for people with drunken driving convictions.

Plea Bargains for Drunk Driving

Florida allows defendants to plea down to a reckless charge. This means that instead of pleading guilty to a drunken driving charge, a driver might be able to plead guilty to a reckless driving charge. This is usually preferred when possible since a reckless driving conviction usually doesn’t have the harsh consequences of a drunken driving conviction.

The consequences for drunk driving in Florida are severe. Those charged with drunken driving offenses should contact lawyers specializing in drunk driving to help them learn their rights and present defenses against the charges.