Golden sign with gavel and dui law

Frequently Asked Questions About DUIs

Venessa Bornost, P.A. June 27, 2024

Facing a DUI charge can be overwhelming and stressful. If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge in Florida, you're not alone. Many individuals find themselves in similar situations, seeking clarity on what steps to take next.  

My name is Venessa Bornost, and I offer criminal defense representation to individuals in Dunedin and throughout Hillsborough County and Pasco County, Florida. As a former law enforcement officer and criminal prosecutor, I bring a unique perspective to my clients that can help us build the strongest possible defense for their case.   

This article aims to answer your most pressing questions about DUIs in Florida and provide actionable advice to help you make informed decisions. Together, we'll explore what constitutes a DUI, the legal ramifications, and the importance of having knowledgeable legal support by your side. 

Frequently Asked Questions About DUIs 

What is considered a DUI in Florida? 

In Florida, you can be charged with a DUI if you are found driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more. It doesn't stop at alcohol alone; being under the influence of harmful chemical substances or illegal controlled substances can also land you a DUI. The law is clear—if your faculties are impaired, you are considered under the influence. 

Driving under the influence is not just about alcohol. Many people overlook the fact that prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs can impair your ability to drive. Being aware of what you have consumed and how it affects your driving can help you stay on the right side of the law. 

By understanding these definitions, you can better gauge what behaviors to avoid and avoid facing the consequences of a DUI. 

What are the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limits in Florida? 

Florida's legal BAC limit is .08%. However, different thresholds apply to specific groups. For instance, if you are driving a commercial vehicle, the limit drops to .04%. The rules are even stricter for drivers under the age of 21, where the limit is just .02%. 

These lower limits reflect the increased responsibility and potential risk associated with commercial driving and young, inexperienced drivers. By being aware of these distinctions, you can avoid unintentionally breaking the law. Understanding these limits will help you make more informed choices, especially if you hold a commercial license or are underage. 

Can I refuse a breathalyzer test in Florida? 

When you're pulled over for suspicion of DUI, you might wonder if you can refuse the breathalyzer test. In Florida, however, refusing to take the test comes with its own set of penalties. Under Florida's "implied consent" law, refusing a breathalyzer test results in an automatic one-year driver's license suspension for a first-time refusal. A second refusal can lead to an 18-month suspension and possible misdemeanor charges. 

Refusing the test might seem like a viable option, but the consequences can be severe. It's also worth noting that refusal can be used as evidence against you in court. Knowing this, you can weigh your options and make an informed decision if you ever find yourself in this situation. 

What are the penalties for a first-time DUI offense in Florida? 

If you are convicted of a first-time DUI in Florida, the penalties can be harsh. You could face: 

  • Up to six months in jail 

  • Fines ranging from $500 to $1,000 

  • Probation for up to one year 

  • 50 hours of community service 

  • A 10-day vehicle impoundment 

The penalties increase if your BAC is .15% or higher or if you had a minor in the vehicle. The court may also require you to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. These penalties highlight the seriousness with which Florida views DUI offenses. Even a first-time offense can have long-lasting repercussions on your life. 

How long does a DUI stay on your record in Florida? 

A DUI conviction in Florida will stay on your criminal record for 75 years. This means it can impact your job prospects, housing opportunities, and more for most of your life. Unlike other states, Florida does not allow DUI convictions to be expunged or sealed. 

Given the long-lasting effects of a DUI conviction, I strongly recommend that you take any DUI charge seriously and seek legal advice right away.  

Can I get a DUI for driving under the influence of drugs in Florida? 

Yes, you can receive a DUI charge for driving under the influence of drugs in Florida. This includes illegal substances, prescription medications, and even over-the-counter drugs that impair your ability to drive. The law doesn't differentiate between types of substances; what matters is the impairment of your faculties. 

Being aware of this can help you avoid unintentional violations. Always consult your doctor about how medications may affect your ability to drive. 

Will I lose my driver's license after a DUI arrest in Florida? 

Following a DUI arrest in Florida, you will typically face an administrative suspension of your driver's license by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. For a first-time offense, this suspension lasts for six months. If you refuse the breathalyzer test, the suspension extends to one year. 

You have ten days from the date of your arrest to request a formal review hearing to contest the suspension. During these ten days, you can still drive on a temporary permit. If you have recently been arrested for a DUI in Florida, you will want to take immediate action to protect your driving privileges.  

Do I need a lawyer for a DUI in Florida? 

While you are not legally required to have a lawyer for a DUI charge, having one can significantly influence the outcome of your case. A skilled attorney can help you understand your rights, evaluate the evidence against you, and develop a defense strategy tailored to your situation. I have represented many individuals in all types of DUI cases, and the one unifying factor in their success is that they took action and sought legal counsel early.  

Legal representation can mean the difference between a harsh penalty and a more favorable outcome. Given the many variables in a DUI case, it's wise to consult a lawyer to guide you through the process. 

How can I beat a Florida DUI? 

Beating a DUI charge in Florida requires a comprehensive understanding of DUI laws and a strong defense strategy. Some common defenses include: 

  • Challenging the legality of the traffic stop 

  • Questioning the accuracy of the breathalyzer test 

  • Presenting evidence that contradicts the officer's observations 

Each case is unique, and a qualified attorney can tailor a defense strategy based on the specifics of your situation. Knowing your options can empower you to fight the charges effectively. 

Can I plead guilty to a lesser charge to avoid a DUI conviction in Florida? 

In some cases, you may be able to plead guilty to a lesser charge, such as "wet reckless," to avoid a DUI conviction. This option is generally available for first-time offenders and those with circumstances that do not involve aggravating factors like a high BAC or an accident. 

Pleading to a lesser charge can result in reduced penalties but may still carry some consequences. Consulting with a lawyer can help you understand if this option is available and advisable for your case. 

Will a DUI conviction affect my auto insurance rates in Florida? 

Absolutely. A DUI conviction will likely lead to a significant increase in your auto insurance rates. Insurance companies view DUI offenders as high-risk drivers, and this is reflected in their premiums. In some cases, your current insurer might even drop you, forcing you to find new coverage. 

The financial impact extends beyond fines and legal fees. Being aware of this can help you prepare for the long-term consequences of a DUI conviction. 

Can I expunge or seal a DUI conviction from my record in Florida? 

Unfortunately, Florida law does not allow for the expungement or sealing of DUI convictions. This means that a DUI will remain on your criminal record permanently, affecting various aspects of your life. Understanding this limitation underscores the importance of mounting a strong defense from the outset.  

Reach Out for Support with Your DUI Case 

Facing a DUI charge in Florida is daunting, but you don't have to go through it alone. Having knowledgeable legal support can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. With my extensive experience and background in law enforcement, I offer invaluable insight and a strong defense strategy tailored to your unique situation. 

If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge in Dunedin, Florida, don't hesitate to reach out for professional legal assistance. Contact Venessa Bornost, P.A. today and take the first step towards protecting your future.