Drunk driving law terminology can be confusing to Florida drivers.
Understanding DWI vs. DUI helps you to know what to expect if you or someone you know gets arrested for drunk driving. Each state can have its own legal difference between DWI and DUI, so Florida drivers should have the knowledge they need to prepare for potential consequences.
A DUI is Florida’s official legal term that law enforcement and the court system use if you get arrested for having alcohol in your system when you get behind the wheel of a vehicle. DUI is an abbreviation for Driving Under the Influence. If a driver gets behind the wheel with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more, they would be considered to be breaking the law. If the driver is under 21, the State of Florida lowers the standard to a blood alcohol count of .02%.
Anyone can be accused of DUI, but that does not mean a case will be proven. This is why anyone who gets arrested for DUI should consult with an attorney.
DWI is used interchangeably with DUI in Florida laws. DWI is an abbreviation of Driving While Intoxicated (or Impaired). While DWI and DUI in Florida legally mean the same thing, some other states will differentiate the two, using DWI for drug impairment from either prescription or recreational substances. Certain states will also use the term DWI for drivers with very high blood alcohol content.
DWI has the same standards for blood alcohol content at .08% or higher for drivers 21 or older and .02% for drivers under 21.
This is a common question. DWI vs. DUI is utilized differently in criminal law around the country, depending on the particular state, but not here in Florida. So, if a friend calls you and tells you that they were arrested for DWI (whether it is due to alcohol or drugs), the penalties they could potentially face are the same.
The penalties for basic DWI and DUI convictions in Florida are harsh - but depending on the situation that led to the arrest, you can face even more severe consequences.
Different factors can impact the severity of your potential consequences, including your blood alcohol content (BAC), who was in the car with you (e.g., a minor), and your history of drinking and driving, as well as factors such as if there was an accident, or if anyone was hurt or killed, etc.
Penalties for DWI and DUI in Florida include fines, probation, imprisonment, DUI school, community service, impoundment or immobilization of your vehicle, and driver’s license revocation.
Fines – up to $500 (min. $250) for 1st, up to $1,000 (min. $500) for 2nd, and up to $2,500 (min. $1,000) for 3rd. Four or more convictions would be a minimum of $1,000. Fines rise when there is a minor in the vehicle.
Probation – one year mandated by the court for 1st and 2nd convictions. They may order longer probation for three or more. Note: Your attorney may be able to convince the judge to terminate the probation early.
Imprisonment – six months in jail for 1st conviction, but up to but no more than nine months if you have a .20% BAC or higher or have a minor in the vehicle. Note: Most first-time DUIs do not end in imprisonment unless there are aggravating circumstances such as causing a death or serious injury.
For a 2nd conviction, up to 9 months without aggravating circumstances. For the 3rd conviction for DUI or DWI, up to twelve months, but not mandatory. A 4th conviction can go up to five years. Note: Imprisonment time can vary for multiple convictions depending on the time between each arrest.
DUI School – for a1st conviction, the judge must order DUI school. Due to the money, time, and the effect it has on your driving record, you should consult with an attorney prior to signing up. For a 2nd or subsequent conviction, you are required to go to Multiple Offender DUI school. Note: It is also a good idea to talk to an attorney to help you prepare for the evaluation required for Multiple Offender DUI school.
Community Service – 50 hours for your 1st conviction. Note: Although, your attorney may be able to persuade the judge to convert those hours to a fine if you do not have the time to perform those hours.
Impoundment of Vehicle – 10 daysfor a 1st conviction, 30 days for a 2nd conviction within 5 years, 90 days for a 3rd conviction within 10 years. Note: Your attorney could potentially get the impoundment waived if there is an undue hardship to an innocent party.
Driver’s License Revocation – minimum 180 days revocation, maximum 1 year for a 1st conviction, minimum 5 years for a second conviction within 5 years, minimum 10 years for a 3rd conviction within 10 years. Note: Your attorney may be able to help you get a hardship license right away after a 1st conviction, a hardship reinstatement after one year for a 2nd conviction, and a hardship reinstatement after two years for a 3rd conviction.
When you are facing a DWI or DUI, you can trust Bruce Denson. He has many years of experience helping people after they have been arrested for drunk driving and understands what it takes to get the best outcome in a difficult situation.
With the strict penalties you are up against, it is critical to have a legal professional to advocate for you.
Bruce Denson practices criminal law exclusively and understands how the criminal justice system works. He can relieve much of your anxiety by explaining the process and the likely outcome of your case to you. He is a strong investigator, negotiator, and litigator.
Many Florida DUI cases can be successfully defended if the person charged with drunk driving hires a St. Petersburg DUI lawyer immediately to present a strong defense. If you win your case, you preserve your driving privileges and avoid jail time.
Contact The Denson Firm today. Phones are answered 24 hours a day.
Schedule your free initial confidential consultation with an experienced Florida DUI attorney. We return all calls promptly.