What is the Legal Limit for Blood Alcohol in Florida?

People who have a number of drinks within a relatively short time can feel the effects of alcohol on their body. But does that mean they’re intoxicated? If someone feels buzzed or woozy after drinking, the best and safest practice is to avoid driving. But how much alcohol is “too much” to drive under Florida criminal law?  

The legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) for most drivers in Florida is 0.08 percent. However, Florida law provides different legal BAC limits for certain classes of drivers, like those under 21, driver’s licenses, and school bus drivers. As experienced DUI defense lawyers in Tampa, we at Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, have represented hundreds of drivers charged with DUI in Florida. We believe every driver should know how the law applies to them, especially concerning drinking and driving. We don’t want anyone to learn about DUI laws the hard way, by being arrested and charged with DUI. 

If you were arrested for DUI in Hillsborough County or Pinellas County, call our office for a full, detailed analysis of your case.  




The Legal BAC Limit in Florida 

In the state of Florida, the legal BAC limit for most drivers is 0.08%. This means that if you’re driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle and your BAC reaches or exceeds 0.08%, you are considered legally impaired, and you can be arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI). 


However, for certain groups of drivers, it’s important to note that Florida has different BAC limits: 


Drivers Under 21 

Florida has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21. Since the legal age to drink alcohol in Florida is 21, anyone under the legal age limit has no business with any elevated BAC. This means that if you’re underage and your BAC measures 0.02% or higher, you can face legal consequences, including a license suspension. What does it take to get a 0.02% BAC? Just about a single standard drink of alcohol, one beer, one glass of wine, or one ounce of distilled spirits. 


Commercial Drivers 

For commercial drivers, including those who operate commercial trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles, the legal BAC limit is significantly lower. In Florida, commercial drivers are subject to a BAC limit of 0.04%. Exceeding this limit while operating a commercial vehicle can result in a DUI charge and serious consequences, including the suspension of your commercial driver’s license. 


School Bus Drivers 

School bus drivers in Florida are held to an even higher standard. Any measurable amount of alcohol in their system while operating a school bus can lead to a DUI charge. 


Criminal Penalties 


If you are arrested and charged with DUI in Florida for exceeding the legal BAC limit, the potential penalties include the following: 


  • Jail Time: While jail time for a first-offense DUI is extremely rare (unless a serious injury or death occurs), a first-time DUI may result in up to 6 months in jail. With a higher BAC (0.15% or more), the driver will face up to 9 months in jail. 
  • Fines: First-time DUI offenders may be fined between $500 and $1,000. Subsequent offenses can lead to higher fines, up to $4,000. 
  • License Suspension: Your driver’s license could be suspended for at least six months for a first offense.  
  • Probation: DUI offenders may be placed on up to one-year probation, including 50 hours of community service and alcohol education programs. 


Administrative Penalties 


In addition to criminal penalties, Florida imposes administrative penalties through the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). The administrative process permits a driver accused of DUI to request a hearing at which evidence will be considered to determine if there is sufficient proof that the DUI charge is well-founded. The administrative penalties ultimately imposed are independent of the criminal process. If a DUI charge is dismissed or results in acquittal in the criminal court, the administrative penalty will remain in effect. 


License Suspension – If you fail a breathalyzer test or refuse to take one, your driver’s license can be suspended immediately. 


Other Negative Consequences of a Florida DUI Conviction 


A DUI conviction in Florida can lead to a significant increase in your auto insurance premiums. Some drivers find that their insurance rates double or even triple after a DUI. 


In Florida, a DUI conviction will remain on your publicly accessible criminal record for decades. The impact such a record of conviction has on a person’s life is hard to quantify because it can create disruption unexpectedly. A DUI conviction may lead to an employer choosing not to hire you. A landlord may choose not to rent to you. And mortgage and loan officers may deny you credit.  


Then, there are the social ramifications. Relatives and friends may see you as less worthy of respect or hesitate before allowing you to drive your kids’ friends to activities.  


Get Experienced DUI Defense for Your Florida DUI 

If you are charged with DUI in the state of Florida, contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer immediately. First, you have only ten days to request an administrative hearing to avoid losing your driving license. Second, the detailed procedures police and prosecutors must follow to win a conviction create many opportunities for them to make mistakes. 


If the police or prosecutors fail to follow the procedural requirements demanded by the law in a DUI case, the evidence against the driver may be discredited or deemed to be entirely inadmissible. The result can often be a dismissal of the charges or an amendment of the DUI charge to a much less severe offense. 


For any Hillsborough County or Pinellas County DUI charges, contact Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law for an experienced and skillful DUI defense. 

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