Florida Criminal Law: Underage DUI (Driving Under The Influence)
January 18, 2016
Florida has no tolerance1 for anyone under the age of twenty-one who is accused of driving a vehicle after consuming alcohol. You actually become a second class citizen if you are under twenty-one: while Florida’s legal blood alcohol concentration limit is 0.08 percent, if you are under twenty-one, you only need a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent to be charged with underage driving under the influence. The penalties for an underage DUI conviction usually depend on the facts and circumstances of your case; however, in most cases, your driver’s license will be suspended for at least six months. Let’s take a closer look at the law’s punishments.
Penalties for an Underage Driving Under the Influence
If you are under the age of twenty-one and you have a license to drive a vehicle in Florida, when you are arrested on suspicion of DUI, you automatically consent to a test by law enforcement of your breath, or other chemical test such as a blood or urine test to determine whether you have alcohol or drugs in your system. You will be bullied into giving a breath, blood or urine test by the implied consent law2. You have a right to refuse this test; however, if you refuse, you automatically lose your driver’s license for one year. If you take the test, even if your blood alcohol concentration is only 0.02 percent, you can lose your license for at least six months and have given the government key evidence to convict and punish you.
License suspensions can be for a longer period of time depending on whether you have any prior DUI or refusal convictions. If you are under the age of eighteen, in addition to your license suspension, you may also be required to attend addiction evaluation, or to successfully complete an alcohol education program. But alcohol evaluations and treatment based upon them is fairly standard in alcohol related cases generally.
Importantly, if you are under the age of twenty-one and your blood alcohol concentration is found to be 0.08 percent or higher, you can be arrested and charged under Florida’s driving under the influence laws. You would then be subject to the same penalties as drivers who are twenty-one years and older. A first-time DUI conviction that results from a blood alcohol concentration that is greater than 0.08 percent can have greater penalties including hefty fines of up to $1,000, license suspension of up to a year, jail time of up to six months, and community service. This does not include probation fees, court costs and other monetary requirements that are not technically a “fine” or a “cost”. Also, depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, even a first time underage DUI can be considered a felony if you are involved in an accident that causes serious injuries or death to another person. If the accident causes serious bodily injury, penalties can include fines of up to $5,000, and jail time of up to five years. If the accident is fatal, the fines are even more significant, and depending on the circumstances, can include imprisonment of up to thirty years.
Here is a key point that many people miss when they start their research after a DUI arrest: each variant of an under-age DUI type of driving charge has “hidden aggravators” that you will never learn about online. Example: In Walton County misdemeanor traffic cases, Judge David Green routinely sentences first offenders to jail time in addition to probation for “accidents” such as bumping a traffic cone, bumping another vehicle when it causes no damage, or non-accident cases where minors are in the vehicle. You will not find this in any rule book, Florida statute or rule of procedure. Many helicopter parents have flipped out in a courtroom after their under twenty-one son or daughter went to court to “get it over with quickly and take their medicine”, and got unexpected jail time as a condition of probation. This has destroyed a semester’s work, wasted tuition, damaged grades and of course, this usually seems to happen the week of final exams.
Driving under the influence can have serious and long term adverse effects on your day-to-day life and should be taken seriously, especially if you are under twenty-one. An underage DUI conviction can affect your ability to obtain and keep a job, can affect your ability to attend certain colleges or even qualify for a student loan. If you are under the age of twenty-one and have been arrested and charged with DUI, it is important that you speak with a certified, experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At the Cobb Criminal Defense Law Firm we review the facts and evidence in your case with Florida’s discovery rules, looking for evidence admissibility issues of law. We advise you of the best strategy for fighting your DUI charge and use the most advanced plea bargaining methods available where appropriate. Schedule your consultation with Stephen G. Cobb by calling (850) 423-0035 and let a certified, qualified and strategic Destin criminal defense attorney help you fight your underage DUI charge today.
Cobb Law Firm
1992 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 101-B
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547