Drinking alcohol is a privilege regulated by state law. The Florida Legislature has the power to determine who may legally drink alcoholic beverages and has decided that, in Florida, the legal drinking age is 21. Therefore, it is a crime to possess or drink alcohol if you are younger than 21.
DUI Arrests and Florida’s Implied Consent Law
Driving while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a controlled substance (DUI) is one of the most serious traffic violations an individual can commit, and it is also a crime.
If you are arrested for DUI, you will most likely be subject to the “implied consent” law. As a condition of having the privilege to operate a motor vehicle in the State of Florida, you have agreed to take a chemical test if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe you are under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or controlled substance.
Depending on the facts leading to your arrest, law enforcement may request a breath test, urine test, or blood test to find out how much alcohol or what kind of drugs are in your bloodstream. You do not have the right to have an attorney present when you take such a test. If you test above the legal breath/blood alcohol limit of .08 – known as DUBAL, or “driving with unlawful breath/blood alcohol level” – your license will be suspended for 6 months for a first DUBAL offense, or 1 year for a second or subsequent offense.
If you refuse to take the requested test, your driver’s license will be suspended for a period of 1 year for a first refusal and 18 months if your driving privilege has been previously suspended for refusing to submit to such a test. A suspension imposed under the “implied consent” law (an administrative suspension) starts on the date of arrest and is completely separate from any criminal court case. In addition, refusing to submit to a chemical test of breath, blood, or urine for the second time actually is a crime itself. You do have the right to challenge an administrative suspension, but the request must be submitted to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles within 10 days of the date of your arrest.
If you are convicted of DUI, you may be subject to heavy penalties. These penalties include possible jail for up to 6 months, a loss of your driver’s license for up to 1 year (called a revocation, which is different than an administrative suspension for DUBAL or for refusing a test), a fine of up to $1,000 plus court costs, completion of a substance abuse course, 50 hours of community service, and having the vehicle you were driving impounded.
The penalties are even more serious if your blood alcohol level was .15 or higher or if there were passengers in the vehicle younger than 18. In some circumstances where a person has previous DUI convictions or causes death or serious bodily injury to another person, they will be charged with a felony and could face lengthy prison time and a permanent loss of their driver’s license.
If you are impaired by alcohol or a controlled substance, in a vehicle and possessing the keys, you may be charged with DUI even if the vehicle is NOT running. This is because Florida law allows a person to be charged with DUI if they were driving or in “actual physical control” of a motor vehicle. Actual physical control can be established where a person is in a vehicle with the ability to drive, regardless of whether the vehicle is moving or even running. There are many cases where individuals have been charged with and convicted of DUI for sleeping in a car.
Due to the consequences of a DUI arrest and conviction, you may want to immediately consult with an attorney for advice regarding your case and defenses, and to determine whether you are eligible for a “business purposes-only” permit allowing for specified restricted driving during a suspension or revocation.
Open Container Law
It is unlawful for any person to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage while operating a vehicle or while a passenger in a vehicle. Any person who violates this law is guilty of a noncriminal moving traffic violation and can be fined.