Driver of a car sitting in the driver's seat while opening a beer bottle with a beer bottle opener. An investigation for Driving Under the Influence, also known as DUI or DWI, might begin soon.


Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) are the most common traffic crimes committed by the public. In Florida, sentences for these offenses start as misdemeanors. In time, these charges become felonies. They consider the number of convictions and how often they happen.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Proof of DUI

Most people understand the crime DUI. Although the idea is simple, the law is complex. Here’s the definition. If you drive, or are in actual physical control of a vehicle, and while you drive or are in actual physical control of a vehicle, are under the influence of alcoholic beverages, a chemical substance or a controlled substance to the extent that your normal faculties were impaired; or you had a blood or breath-alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath (BAC), you committed DUI.

Breath or Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

Simply put, the law punishes DUI in two ways: unlawful BAC and impaired normal faculties. To prove unlawful BAC, police test your breath after arrest. To do so, they must follow strict testing protocols. They check Intoxilyzers every time a person takes the breath test. The instrument analyzes alcoholic samples and non-alcoholic samples to confirm the sensors work. They certify operators to handle and understand these instruments. You must wait 20 minutes without drinking or burping before breath testing to keep mouth alcohol from tainting the results.

Police may ask for urine or blood, as you can commit this crime without consuming alcohol. If police fail to follow the rules to obtain these samples, a judge might exclude your test results. Because Mr. Brown knows the rules, he knows when the police made mistakes. Then he’ll use that information to help you defend your case.

Normal Faculties

Besides the technical definition, most people know DUI when they see it. That’s because most people have consumed or seen someone consume too much alcohol. To make things clear for a jury, the law defines normal faculties. Normal faculties include but are not limited to the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, make judgments, act in emergencies and, in general, normally perform the many mental and physical acts of our daily lives. This set of directions broadly describes an impaired person.

Police test your normal faculties by asking you to perform Field Sobriety Exercises. They vary by state, and change in Florida over time. Some of them include the Walk and Turn, One Legged Stand and Finger to Nose. Also, they examine your eyes but the results of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus cannot be admitted in court most of the time.

Other DUI Concerns

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to drive to commit DUI. Actual physical control of a vehicle doesn’t necessarily mean driving. In reality, an impaired person commits DUI by sitting behind the wheel of a car that’s on. Basically, the law punishes attempted DUI as DUI.

Actually, you don’t need to drink or drive to commit DUI. The law treats Boating Under the Influence just like DUI. Likewise, it punishes more than just alcohol use. You break the law driving while impaired by Cocaine, Marijuana and other Controlled Substances.

On a related note, people lawfully arrested for DUI must submit to BAC testing. If a lawfully arrested person refuses to submit to testing having previously refused in the past, he faces a misdemeanor for the refusal. It does not matter if the prosecutor dismisses the DUI charge. The refusal survives the dismissal.

DUI Sentences

DUIs, from the least to most severe, carry statutory penalties. They include a combination of fines, adjudication of guilt, driver’s license suspensions, minimum jail sentences, ignition interlock devices, community service, substance abuse courses and vehicle immobilization. Here, the judge must impose these punishments depending upon the number and timing of DUIs.

Moreover, the length of these punishments changes by situation. For instance, a first DUI conviction requires a 6 month license suspension. A fourth DUI conviction requires a permanent license revocation. Also, a second DUI conviction within 5 years of a first DUI conviction requires a 10 day jail sentence. A second DUI conviction outside of 5 years does not.

Additionally, the law creates two other sentencing factors. There’s a greater penalty for someone convicted of DUI Enhanced, meaning the driver’s BAC equals .15 or higher, or a minor accompanied the driver during the DUI.

While most DUIs are misdemeanors, some constitute felonies. Please check out the page on DUI Manslaughter to learn about the most serious felonies. But two other DUI felonies exist that don’t involve hurting another. If you’re convicted of a third DUI within ten years of a prior conviction, you face a third degree felony. If you’re convicted of a fourth DUI or more, you face a third degree felony.

DUI Administrative Hearing

DUIs require administrative and criminal defense because they take place within two different legal forums. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) governs license suspensions. If you blow over the legal limit or refuse to submit to a breath test, the DHSMV suspends your license. To challenge the suspension, you must formally contest it to the DHSMV within 10 days of arrest. They operate outside the control of the criminal trial court.

If you refuse to submit to a blood or breath test on a second or subsequent occasion, you may be charged with Criminal Refusal, which is a separate offense from DUI. If you drive on a license suspended for a DUI, most prosecutors will offer jail sentences to resolve your DWLS. They also look to revoke your bond and send you to jail.

Driving While License Suspended (DWLS)

Unfortunately, the State of Florida suspends driver’s licenses for tons of reasons. DUI conviction? How about a refusal to submit to a breath test? Did you fail to pay tickets? Maybe too many points for speeding? DWLS convictions lead to 5 year license revocations. Simple misdemeanors become felonies fast.

If you’re convicted of two misdemeanor DWLS offenses, you may face a third degree felony. It depends on the nature of the suspensions. If you’re convicted of 3 criminal DWLS offenses with knowledge within 5 years, you’re a Habitual Traffic Offender. It doesn’t matter if you receive a withhold or are adjudicated guilty of the offense. If you’re adjudicated guilty for a non-criminal DWLS Without Knowledge, that counts toward habitualization as well. DWLS as a Habitual Traffic Offender becomes a felony depending on the nature of the suspensions. DUI and refusal suspensions put you at risk for felony driving offenses.

Fleeing and Eluding

When the police require drivers to stop and they knowingly and willfully fail to stop, drivers risk arrest for Fleeing and Eluding. Fleeing convictions, unlike almost any other second and third degree felonies, mandate adjudication. That means if you’re convicted of Fleeing at trial or plea to the crime as charged, you become a convicted felon. You lose your civil rights. You can’t vote or possess a firearm. Also, the DHSMV suspends your license for at least 1 year.

Fleeing and Eluding punishments vary with the recklessness of your driving. Fleeing is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. If you flee at high speed, or with a wanton disregard for the safety or property of others, you face a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If you drive at a high speed or with wanton disregard and also cause serious bodily injury to someone, you face a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison with a 3 year minimum mandatory prison sentence.

Other Offenses

Some of the other common driving offenses govern licensure, driving patterns and vehicle offenses. Although a driver’s license lets you drive a car, you can’t drive any sort of vehicle. The DHSMV offers different licensure examinations for motorcycles and commercial vehicles. Police can check if drivers have the proper endorsements or commercial licenses in the DAVID database.

Driving Recklessly is punished criminally while driving carelessly is a traffic infraction. It’s a slight matter of degree between a second degree misdemeanor and a civil infraction. On the other end is Racing, a more dangerous driving behavior, which includes a license suspension as a punishment for conviction. Even vehicles must obey traffic laws. It’s a crime to drive a vehicle which isn’t registered with the DHSMV.

Talk to an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney!

Mr. Brown knows these driving offenses and handled lots of them over his career as an attorney. Speak with him immediately after police arrest you. You lose your right to challenge your license suspension if you don’t act fast enough. Before it’s too late, talk to him and see if he can help you best defend yourself! Reach out over the phone at (954) 524-6700 or through the Contact Page if you have any questions.

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