An underage DUI in Florida requires only a 0.02 BAC level, about one single drink.
Florida’s legal drinking age is 21 as mandated by federal law. That means Florida law prohibits anyone younger than age 21 to consume any alcohol. And unlike some other states that allow for limited exceptions, Florida’s ban on underage drinking provides for no exceptions.
What does all this mean? Anyone under age 21 caught driving a motor vehicle in Florida with even a relatively small amount of alcohol in their bloodstream can be administratively cited for DUI and suffer serious penalties and consequences that will negatively affect other parts of your life.
One Drink Will Give an Underage Drinker a Florida DUI? (BAC 0.02)
The effect of alcohol on the brain was researched extensively before the legal limit for a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was set at 0.08. The science demonstrated that human judgment, reaction time, coordination, and other functions were too impaired at that level to drive safely on public roads. But only legal drinkers are judged by that BAC level.
Underage drinkers can be penalized for DUI in Florida under the Zero Tolerance policy after consuming only one single drink because it is that amount of alcohol that will produce a BAC of 0.02 in an average person. One ounce of hard liquor, five ounces of wine, or eight ounces of beer will usually bring the BAC up to 0.02 until the alcohol dissipates over the course of time at a rate of 0.15 per hour.
Florida Underage DUI Penalties (or Refusal of Chemical Test)
Florida law leaves no wiggle room. If you are under 21 years old, you cannot drink alcohol legally. Because of this absolute rule, underage DUI laws do not need to be based on scientific research as it is for legal drinkers aged 21 or older. Instead, any driver under 21 whose BAC measures 0.02 or higher faces the following consequences:
- DUI 1st offense (BAC between 0.02 – 0.08) 6-month license suspension (instant suspension)
- If BAC is between 0.05 – 0.08, then substance abuse evaluation and completion of any recommended treatment or counseling are required before license reinstatement
- If under 19, results of counseling reported to parents
- REFUSAL 1st offense 1-year license suspension (instant suspension)
- DUI 1st offense (BAC over 0.08) Criminal penalty is the same as for DUI for an older driver:
minimum $500 to $1,000 fine and
minimum 6 months to 1-year license suspension and
vehicle impounded for 10 days and/or
up to 6 months in jail
50 hours of community service
- DUI 2nd offense (BAC between 0.02 – 0.08) 1-year license suspension, community service
- REFUSAL 2nd offense 18 months license suspension
- DUI 2nd offense (BAC over 0.08) penalty is the same as a DUI for an older driver:
minimum fine of $1,000, but no more than $2,000
minimum 6-month to 1-year license revocation
up to nine months in jail
up to twelve months of probation
vehicle impounded for up to 30 days
ignition interlock device upon all vehicles driven or owned by the driver for 1 year
DUI and substance abuse education course
psychological assessment for any needed substance abuse counseling or treatment
successful completion of any counseling or treatment if required
50 hours of community service
Administrative Process – Not Necessarily Criminal
Underage DUI drivers are not handled in Florida’s criminal courts unless their BAC level is measured above 0.08, in which case their case is handled in the same way an over-21 driver’s case would be. But if the younger driver’s BAC is below 0.08, the case is handled administratively by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
The Police Traffic Stop
When an underage person is stopped by police and the officer suspects the driver has been drinking, they may ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests to check their level of impairment. With underage suspected drunk drivers, the police officer can “detain” the driver without counting the detention as an arrest. The officer can take the driver to the station for an alcohol breath test.
If the results of the breathalyzer show a BAC over 0.02 but under 0.08, the officer may immediately issue a notice of administrative license suspension and forward it to the state motor vehicle department. This process is not considered an arrest and will not be considered a conviction if the citation is sustained after a hearing.
However, if the police investigation establishes that the driver’s BAC is 0.08 or higher, then the detention will become an arrest and a criminal prosecution will follow.
Collateral Consequences of Underage DUI
An underage DUI finding by Florida authorities will be recorded on the young driver’s motor vehicle record and affect their insurance rates and their collective points. If a person under 21 is prosecuted for a DUI with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, a guilty finding, even for a first offense, can become a permanent, public record of conviction. For some minors (under 18), expungement of the DUI may be possible in some circumstances.
Any DUI that appears on the public record of a young person can seriously disrupt their path to a successful and fulfilling future. College admissions, job interviews, credit applications, and even apartment rental applications can all be poisoned by the decision maker’s learning of a DUI conviction.
Keep Reading> The Reality of DUI and Underage Drinkers
Defenses to Underage and Other DUI and Refusals
If you or your son or daughter are facing a charge of either Administrative or Criminal DUI or Refusal, Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa will provide an effective and aggressive DUI defense using years of extensive experience defending DUI and Refusal cases in all forums.
As a former DUI prosecutor, Ben Stechschulte knows better than most DUI defense lawyers exactly how the prosecutor will approach your case and what they think of their own evidence. That insight is invaluable to the accused DUI offender because proper assessment of your strength is imperative when making important decisions.
- Were there reasonable grounds to believe the accused was impaired by alcohol or drugs?
- Was there probable cause to detain or arrest?
- Was the breath testing procedure carried out as required?
- Was there a continuous observation of the test subject prior to the test?
- Were all the proper warnings provided to the driver prior to administering the breathalyzer?
- Were field sobriety tests conducted in a proper setting (level ground, proper footwear, etc.)
Ask the right questions to get the correct answers about your DUI case. Call Stechschulte Nell – Tampa’s DUI Defense Lawyers at 813-280-1244.