In Florida, the penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) can be criminal or civil, depending on the circumstances. Criminal penalties involve jail time and fines, while civil penalties may include loss of driving privileges and mandatory alcohol education classes.

In some cases, both types of penalties may apply. It is important to understand the difference between the two in order to make an informed decision about how to handle a DUI charge.

Criminal DUI Penalties in Florida

A criminal charge is when the state government prosecutes an individual for engaging in behavior that goes against social norms. Penalties usually include fines, incarceration, and probation to punish those who break the law.

In the state of Florida, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.08%. Those caught driving with such a BAC may be accused of driving under the influence (DUI) and face criminal charges.

A first DUI offense can lead to imprisonment for up to six months, a financial penalty of between $500 and $1,000, a suspension of the individual’s driver’s license for up to one year, and may require them to install an ignition interlock device in their car (for which they must pay). Penalties become even harsher if there are additional situations that aggravate the situation, such as:

  • Nine months for BAC levels of at least 0.15%
  • Nine months if a traveler is under the age of 18
  • A year if there was an accident with minor injuries or property damage, and
  • Five years in cases where there were substantial bodily injuries.
Keep in mind that these penalties are intended solely to punish the offender and not to provide compensation to future victims. Civil penalties then become relevant in that situation.

The Civil DUI Penalties in Florida

There are various civil consequences that come with a DUI conviction in Florida. These are distinct from criminal penalties and aim to compensate victims for their damages. Civil cases can arise either as a follow-up to a criminal prosecution or at the same time. Examples of common civil consequences include:
  • Insurance Issues: In many cases, the driver’s insurance company will refuse to pay out on any claims related to a DUI. If the drunk driving incident caused any damage, the victims might be forced to take action against the driver to receive compensation personally.
  • License Suspension: In Florida, a DUI conviction can result in the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license. During this period, drivers will be prohibited from operating motorized vehicles, including cars and motorcycles. In some cases, license suspensions may also include special conditions such as community service or mandated participation in an alcohol education program.
  • State Fines and Fees: In Florida, those convicted of DUI are subject to state-imposed fines and fees. The exact amount depends upon the severity of the offense and other factors like prior convictions or aggravating circumstances. Florida requires individuals charged with DUI to pay for the cost of their criminal prosecution and restitution to any victims.
  • Civil Suits: In some cases, those injured or affected by a drunk driver may pursue civil action against the driver. Victims of DUI can sue for damages to cover losses such as medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses related to the incident. In Florida, the offender doesn’t need to be convicted in criminal court before victims can proceed with civil action. 

Contact a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been charged with DUI or suffered damages due to a drunk driver, it is important for you to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Florida.

An experienced lawyer can help protect your rights and advise you on handling the legal proceedings associated with a DUI charge. They also may be able to negotiate a fair settlement that compensates victims for their losses.

If you are facing criminal charges related to driving under the influence, seek advice from qualified criminal defense counsel as soon as possible.