Underage drinking (the consumption of alcohol by persons under the age of 21) is rampant in Florida. A recent study shows that in Florida, underage persons consumed 9.5 percent of all alcohol sold in the state; moreover, an estimated 83 traffic fatalities and 3,345 non-fatal traffic injuries were attributed to driving after underage drinking. One way the state is trying to combat the devastating traffic, health, and social problems associated with underage drinking is through its zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking: in Florida, it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to consume alcohol—even if the drink was provided by a parent or legal guardian and the drink was consumed in the presence of a parent or legal guardian.
Legal Limit for Blood-Alcohol or Breath-Alcohol Level
If a person who is at least 21 years old is driving a motor vehicle and has a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of .08 or above, Florida law considers that person to be legally intoxicated and he or she can be charged with a DUI; however, if a person under the age of 21 is driving a motor vehicle and has a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of just .02 or above, he or she can be charged with a DUI. A person can typically have even one drink and hit this .02 limit—which is the point, given that persons under 21 cannot lawfully consume alcohol in the first place.
Penalties for Underage DUI
- Penalties for driver under the age of 21 with a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of .02 or above: Pursuant to F.S. 322.2616, if a person under the age of 21 was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while having a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of 0.02 or above, then a law enforcement officer or correctional officer, on behalf of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, can suspend that person‘s driving privileges for six months provided it is the person’s first DUI violation. If it is that person’s second or subsequent violation of DUI, then that person’s driving privileges will be suspended for one year. A suspended drivers license is not something that should be taken lightly—if a person is caught driving with a suspended license in Florida, he or she can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether it is a first offense or a second or subsequent offense.
- Additional penalties for drivers under the age of 18 with a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of .02 or above: If a person under the age of 18 was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while having a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of .02 or above, then in addition to a suspension of driving privileges, a law enforcement officer may take the offending person to the addictions receiving facility in the county in which the person was found to be driving under the influence, if the county makes the addictions receiving facility available for such purpose.
- Additional penalties for a driver under the age of 21 with a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of .05 or above: If a person under the age of 21 was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while having a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of .05 or higher, then the suspension of the offender’s driving privileges will remain in effect until he or she has completed a substance abuse course offered by a DUI program licensed by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The offender is responsible for paying the course fees. Also, as part of the course, the program will conduct a substance abuse evaluation; if the offender is under 19, the offender’s parents or legal guardians will be notified of the results of the substance abuse evaluation. If the offender fails to complete the substance abuse course and evaluation, the Department will not reinstate the offender’s driving privilege.
- Penalties for a driver under the age of 21 who refuses to take a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol test: If a person under the age of 21 is charged with a DUI and refuses to submit to a lawful blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol test, then the person’s driving privileges will be suspended for a period of one year for a first refusal or a period of 18 months if the person’s driving privileges have previously been suspended as a result of refusal to submit to a lawful blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol test.
- Additional penalties and consequences for a driver under the age of 21 convicted of DUI: Florida imposes harsh penalties on persons under the age of 21 convicted of DUI. In addition to the penalties described in the above bullet points, penalties for underage DUI also include jail time, probation, steep fines and court costs, community service hours, and a suspended drivers license. Indirect consequences for underage DUI include increased insurance premiums that can last for several years after the DUI conviction. Also, a DUI conviction can limit a young adult’s future educational and employment opportunities as they will likely have to disclose it to their current and future schools and employers. High school and college students may face disciplinary action at their school, which may even include expulsion.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a Florida underage DUI or traditional DUI, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Florida criminal lawyer. Galanter Law’s legal team includes a Miami criminal defense attorney and a Ft. Lauderdale criminal defense attorney who specialize in both underage DUI and traditional DUI and have the experience and knowledge to possibly get the charge dismissed or the sentence lowered. Contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 305-576-0244 or 954-524-6600 for more information or to set up your consultation.
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Don’t delay. You need to contact a traffic crime attorney, today.
If you are charged with DUI and then convicted you could lose your job, driving privileges, and your freedom. A criminal record not only affects you—it affects your family and friends. That’s why choosing the right attorney is critical. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you reduce your charges, or have them dropped. If you need legal help, contact the Law Offices of Yale Galanter, P.A., today. Call Yale Galanter at (305)576-0244 or (954)524-6600, or browse through the rest of our site.
 Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. “Underage Drinking in Florida The Facts.” Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center. September 2011. Web. 10 October 2012. <http://www.udetc.org/factsheets/FL.pdf>.