DUI vs. DWI: Differentiating Offenses and Legal Consequences

Many states throughout the U.S. use the terms DUI (Driving while under the influence) and DWI (Driving while intoxicated) to refer to different offenses that carry different penalties. In Florida, the terms DUI and DWI both refer to the offense of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

However, according to Miami DUI Lawyer – Jonathan B. Blecher, P.A., Florida uses the term DUI primarily for such offenses and doesn’t separate charges. DWI and DUI in Florida ultimately have the same legal meaning. Here is what you should know about DUIs in Florida and their legal consequences:

Offenses and Legal Consequences

DUI Offenses in Florida

A DUI in Florida refers to driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. For individuals under the age of 21, the legal BAC level is 0.02%.

DUI charges can also apply to individuals impaired by drugs, including illegal substances, prescription medications, and over-the-counter drugs that can affect driving ability. Commercial drivers in Florida can be charged with DUI if they have a BAC of 0.04% or higher while operating a commercial motor vehicle.

DUI Legal Consequences

Administrative penalties for a DUI in Florida include driver’s license suspension or revocation. The suspension duration varies based on factors such as BAC levels and prior DUI convictions.

First-time offenders usually face lighter penalties but can have their licenses suspended for up to one year. When it comes to criminal penalties, DUI convictions can result in fines, probation, mandatory DUI programs, community service, and imprisonment.

The penalties increase with the number of DUI offenses and BAC level. Repeat offenders often face harsher penalties. In some situations, individuals convicted of DUI in Florida may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicles. This device measures a driver’s BAC before allowing the engine to start. The IID program aims to prevent repeat offenses and promote responsible driving. 

Other consequences of DUI convictions in Florida might include increased insurance premiums, insurance cancelation, and a permanent criminal record — comes with its own consequences.

First, the offender will likely struggle to obtain employment or professional licenses and face social stigma. Their friends and family may also perceive them differently, leading to many interpersonal relationship issues that are difficult to quantify and predict. In some cases, offenders might also face impoundment or immobilization of their vehicle.

Aggravating DUI Factors

The legal consequences of a DUI in Florida can vary based on factors such as prior DUI convictions, property damage, bodily injury or death to others, and the presence of a minor as a passenger in the vehicle operated by the offender.

Felony DUIs have harsher penalties than misdemeanor DUIs. For example, a third DUI offense in Florida within a 10-year period is considered a felony. If the DUI results in serious bodily injury to another person or death, it can be charged as a felony or DUI manslaughter, which is classified as a second-degree felony.

A misdemeanor DUI conviction can result in fines, probation, driver’s license suspension, mandatory DUI education programs, community service, and possible imprisonment of up to one year.

A felony DUI conviction comes with a lengthy driver’s license revocation, significantly higher fines, restrictions on certain rights, and mandatory imprisonment between five to fifteen years, depending on the circumstances of your case. If you face a DUI conviction in Florida, you should take action and consult with a criminal defense lawyer. They can provide guidance and help you navigate the legal process, which might result in lesser penalties.

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