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What the Difference between a DUI and a DWI in Florida?


Understanding the Difference Between DUI and DWI in Florida

When discussing impaired driving laws, the terms DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) often come up. However, in Florida, the distinction between these terms is crucial for understanding the legal implications. This section will delve into the specific definitions and differences between DUI and DWI in Florida, helping you grasp the nuances of each.

In Florida, the term DUI is predominantly used to describe the offense of operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other substances. Unlike some states that use DWI to signify a similar offense, Florida law does not differentiate between DUI and DWI. Instead, DUI encompasses all forms of impaired driving, whether due to alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.

What is DUI in Florida? DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence, referring to operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or controlled substances.

To further clarify, Florida Statute 316.193 defines DUI as driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while impaired by substances that impair one’s normal faculties. This includes:

  • Alcohol
  • Chemical substances
  • Controlled substances

Florida law also provides for an alternative method of proving DUI. If a driver’s breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over 0.08%, they can be charged with DUI without needing to show that their normal faculties were impaired. This is often referred to as “DUI per se.”

Understanding these definitions and the legal framework surrounding DUI in Florida is essential for anyone facing such charges. For a deeper dive into the DUI legal process, you can explore our Beginner’s Guide to DUI in Florida.

Additionally, knowing the difference between DUI and DWI can help you better navigate your case. While some states use DWI to denote a more severe offense, Florida uses DUI to cover all impaired driving incidents. This uniform terminology simplifies the legal process but underscores the importance of understanding Florida’s specific laws and penalties.

If you’re facing DUI charges, it’s crucial to understand your rights and the potential consequences. For more information on this topic, you might find our page on Understanding the Direct File Process for DUI Cases in Florida helpful.

 

Florida’s Definition of DUI

Florida law defines DUI as operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or controlled substances. The legal framework for DUI in Florida is outlined in Florida Statute 316.193. This statute specifies that a person is guilty of DUI if they are driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle and:

  • Have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher
  • Are under the influence of alcoholic beverages, chemical substances, or controlled substances to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired

Impairment and BAC Levels

Florida law provides an alternative method for proving DUI through BAC levels. If a driver’s BAC is 0.08% or higher, they can be charged with DUI without the need to demonstrate impaired faculties. This is often referred to as “per se” DUI.

What is “per se” DUI? “Per se” DUI means that a driver can be charged with DUI based solely on their BAC being 0.08% or higher, without needing to prove impairment of normal faculties.

The term “normal faculties” is crucial in DUI cases. It refers to a person’s ability to perform the mental and physical acts of daily life, such as walking, talking, and making decisions. If these faculties are impaired by alcohol or drugs, a DUI charge can be filed.

Florida law also recognizes “actual physical control” of a vehicle. This means that even if a person is not driving, but is in a position to operate the vehicle, they can be charged with DUI. For example, sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition can be considered actual physical control.

For more detailed information on this topic, you can explore our page on Actual Physical Control (APC) in Florida DUIs.

Administrative Suspension

In Florida, an administrative suspension occurs when a driver’s license is immediately suspended by the arresting officer if the driver’s BAC is 0.08% or higher, or if the driver refuses to submit to a chemical test. This suspension is separate from any criminal penalties and can happen even if the driver is not ultimately convicted of DUI.

What is an administrative suspension? An administrative suspension is the immediate suspension of a driver’s license by the arresting officer when the driver’s BAC is 0.08% or higher, or if the driver refuses to submit to a chemical test.

Drivers have the right to challenge an administrative suspension through a formal review hearing. For more information on this process, visit our page on DUI Formal Review Hearings in Florida.

Refusal to Submit to Testing

Refusing to submit to a breath, urine, or blood test can result in additional penalties. Under Florida’s implied consent law, drivers are required to submit to these tests if lawfully requested by an officer. Refusing to do so can lead to an administrative suspension of the driver’s license and can be used as evidence in a DUI case.

The refusal process is documented using the Florida Department of Highway Safety or Motor Vehicle (DHSMV) FORM 78054, also known as the Affidavit of Refusal to Submit to Breath, Urine or Blood Test. This form initiates the process of an administrative suspension after an alleged refusal.

For more details on the implications of refusing a chemical test, visit our page on The Florida DUI Refusal Guide.

Uniform Traffic Citations

When a driver is charged with DUI in Florida, they are issued a DUI Uniform Traffic Citation. This citation is a standardized form used across the state to document the charge and collect various statistics. It includes important information such as the driver’s BAC, the type of chemical test administered, and any refusals to submit to testing.

What is a DUI Uniform Traffic Citation? A DUI Uniform Traffic Citation is a standardized form used in Florida to document DUI charges and collect statistics, including the driver’s BAC and any refusals to submit to testing.

Understanding the details of a DUI Uniform Traffic Citation can be crucial for building a defense. For more information, you can explore our page on DUI Uniform Traffic Citations in Florida.

Field Sobriety Evaluations

Field sobriety evaluations are a series of tests administered by law enforcement officers to determine if a driver is impaired. These tests are standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and include exercises such as the walk-and-turn, one-leg stand, and horizontal gaze nystagmus.

Officers may also use non-standardized field sobriety evaluations to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. These additional evaluations are not standardized by NHTSA but are still used by officers throughout Florida.

For a comprehensive guide on field sobriety evaluations, visit our page on Ultimate Guide to Field Sobriety “Tests” or Exercises in Florida.

Consequences of DUI Conviction in Florida

The penalties for a DUI conviction in Florida can be severe and vary depending on factors such as BAC level, prior offenses, and whether any injuries or property damage occurred. Common consequences include:

  • Fines and court costs: DUI convictions often come with hefty fines and court costs, which can be financially burdensome.
  • License suspension or revocation: A DUI conviction can lead to the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, making it difficult to commute or maintain employment.
  • Mandatory DUI education programs: Offenders are frequently required to complete DUI education programs, which aim to prevent future offenses.
  • Community service: Many DUI sentences include community service requirements, which can be time-consuming and disruptive.
  • Probation: DUI offenders may be placed on probation, requiring regular check-ins with a probation officer and adherence to specific conditions.
  • Jail time: Depending on the severity of the offense and prior convictions, jail time can range from a few days to several years.

Enhanced Penalties for Aggravating Factors

Enhanced penalties may apply if certain aggravating factors are present, such as having a minor in the vehicle, causing an accident with injuries, or having a very high BAC. These factors can lead to longer license suspensions, higher fines, and extended jail sentences.

What are the enhanced penalties for DUI in Florida? Enhanced penalties for DUI in Florida can include longer license suspensions, higher fines, and extended jail sentences if aggravating factors are present, such as having a minor in the vehicle or causing an accident with injuries.

For instance, if a driver is found with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, or if there was a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense, the penalties can be significantly more severe. Additionally, causing an accident that results in serious bodily injury or death can lead to felony charges and even more stringent penalties.

Understanding the specific consequences of a DUI conviction is crucial for anyone facing such charges. For a more detailed overview, you can explore our Florida DUI Penalties Guide.

Impact on Employment and Insurance

A DUI conviction can have far-reaching consequences beyond the legal penalties. It can impact your employment, especially if your job requires driving or holds you to a high standard of conduct. Employers may view a DUI as a sign of irresponsibility, which can hinder your career prospects.

Insurance rates are also likely to increase significantly following a DUI conviction. DUI offenders are considered high-risk drivers, and insurance companies often raise premiums accordingly. This can make maintaining auto insurance coverage prohibitively expensive.

How does a DUI affect insurance rates? A DUI conviction can lead to significantly higher insurance premiums, as offenders are considered high-risk drivers by insurance companies.

For more information on how a DUI can affect your insurance rates, visit our page on insurance costs after a DUI in Florida.

Collateral Consequences

Aside from the direct legal and financial penalties, a DUI conviction can have numerous collateral consequences. These can include difficulties in securing housing, obtaining professional licenses, and maintaining personal relationships. The stigma associated with a DUI conviction can be long-lasting and pervasive.

For a comprehensive look at the collateral consequences of a DUI conviction, check out our Florida Guide to the Collateral Consequences of DUIs.

Long-Term Implications

It’s important to understand that the implications of a DUI conviction can extend far beyond the initial penalties. A DUI can remain on your criminal record for life, potentially affecting future employment opportunities, educational prospects, and even personal relationships.

Moreover, if you are charged with another DUI in the future, the penalties will likely be even more severe due to the prior conviction. This makes it crucial to take any current DUI charges seriously and seek professional legal assistance.

For more insights on the long-term effects of a DUI conviction, visit our page on how a DUI affects your life in Florida.

If you’re facing a DUI charge in Florida, it’s essential to understand the full scope of potential consequences and take proactive steps to mitigate them. An experienced DUI attorney can provide invaluable guidance and representation to help you navigate this challenging situation.

 

How to Defend Against a DUI Charge in Florida

Facing a DUI charge in Florida can be an overwhelming experience. However, understanding the various defense strategies available can be a crucial step towards a favorable outcome. Here, we break down some common defenses that can be employed to challenge DUI charges effectively.

  • Questioning the legality of the traffic stop: One of the first lines of defense is to scrutinize the circumstances under which the traffic stop occurred. If the initial stop was not based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause, any evidence gathered during the stop may be inadmissible in court. This can significantly weaken the prosecution’s case.
  • Challenging the accuracy of breathalyzer or blood test results: Breathalyzers and other chemical tests are not infallible. Factors such as improper calibration, maintenance issues, and operator error can lead to inaccurate results. An experienced DUI attorney can scrutinize these aspects to challenge the validity of the test results.
  • Arguing that the field sobriety tests were improperly administered: Field sobriety tests are often used to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. However, these tests must be administered according to standardized procedures. Any deviations from these procedures can be used to question the reliability of the test results. For more details on this, visit our page on field sobriety tests.
  • Demonstrating that the defendant’s rights were violated during the arrest process: The arrest process must adhere to strict legal standards. Violations of these standards, such as failing to inform the defendant of their rights or conducting an unlawful search, can be grounds for dismissing the charges. Learn more about defending your rights during a DUI stop.

Having an experienced DUI attorney is crucial for navigating the complexities of DUI law in Florida. A skilled lawyer can evaluate the specifics of your case, identify potential defenses, and work to achieve the best possible outcome. For more information on DUI defense strategies, visit our Ultimate Guide to DUI Defenses page.

Questioning the Legality of the Traffic Stop

One of the most effective defenses against a DUI charge is to question the legality of the traffic stop. Law enforcement officers must have a valid reason, such as a traffic violation or reasonable suspicion of impaired driving, to initiate a stop. If the stop was conducted without proper justification, any evidence obtained during the stop may be deemed inadmissible in court.

What is probable cause in a DUI arrest? Probable cause in a DUI arrest means that the officer has sufficient reason to believe that the driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs, based on observable facts and circumstances.

For a deeper understanding of probable cause and its significance in DUI cases, refer to our page on probable cause in DUI arrests.

Challenging the Accuracy of Chemical Tests

Breathalyzer and blood tests are commonly used to measure a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). However, these tests are not foolproof and can be challenged on various grounds:

  • Improper calibration: Breathalyzer devices must be regularly calibrated to ensure accuracy. If the device used in your case was not properly calibrated, the results may be unreliable.
  • Maintenance issues: Regular maintenance is essential for the proper functioning of breathalyzer devices. Maintenance records can be examined to identify any lapses that may have affected the test results.
  • Operator error: The accuracy of chemical tests can also be compromised by human error. The officer administering the test must follow specific procedures, and any deviations can be used to challenge the results.

For more information on the factors that can affect breathalyzer accuracy, visit our page on breathalyzer calibration and maintenance.

Arguing Improper Administration of Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are used to assess a driver’s physical and cognitive abilities. These tests must be administered according to standardized procedures established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Common FSTs include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, the Walk-and-Turn test, and the One-Leg Stand test. If the arresting officer did not follow these procedures, the results of the FSTs may be challenged.

What is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test? The HGN test is a field sobriety test that measures involuntary eye movements, which can indicate impairment by alcohol or drugs.

For a comprehensive look at how field sobriety tests should be administered, check out our Ultimate Guide to Field Sobriety Tests.

Demonstrating Violations of Defendant’s Rights

During a DUI arrest, law enforcement officers must adhere to legal standards that protect the defendant’s rights. Common violations that can be used as a defense include:

  • Failure to read Miranda rights: If the officer did not inform you of your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney, any statements made during the arrest may be inadmissible in court.
  • Unlawful search and seizure: The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. If the officer conducted a search without a warrant or probable cause, the evidence obtained may be excluded.
  • Coercion or intimidation: Any evidence obtained through coercion or intimidation by law enforcement can be challenged in court.

For more information on how to protect your rights during a DUI stop, visit our page on unlawful DUI traffic stops.

Understanding these defense strategies and having a knowledgeable DUI attorney by your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. If you need expert legal representation, contact Leppard Law: DUI Lawyers at 407-476-4111 for a consultation.

DUI Sobriety Test

What is the difference between DUI and DWI in Florida?

In Florida, the term DUI (Driving Under the Influence) is used to describe the offense of operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other substances. Florida law does not use the term DWI (Driving While Intoxicated); instead, DUI encompasses all forms of impaired driving, whether due to alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.

What are the penalties for a DUI conviction in Florida?

The penalties for a DUI conviction in Florida can include:

  • Fines and court costs
  • License suspension or revocation
  • Mandatory DUI education programs
  • Community service
  • Probation
  • Jail time

Enhanced penalties may apply if aggravating factors are present, such as having a minor in the vehicle or causing an accident with injuries.

How can I defend against a DUI charge in Florida?

Defending against a DUI charge in Florida can involve:

  • Questioning the legality of the traffic stop
  • Challenging the accuracy of breathalyzer or blood test results
  • Arguing that field sobriety tests were improperly administered
  • Demonstrating that the defendant’s rights were violated during the arrest process

Consulting with an experienced DUI attorney is crucial for developing an effective defense strategy.

What is Florida’s .08 Per Se Standard for DUI?

Florida’s .08 Per Se Standard for DUI means that if a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher, they can be charged with DUI without the need to demonstrate impaired faculties. This standard allows for a DUI conviction based solely on the BAC level, regardless of the driver’s actual impairment.


Explore additional areas of our legal expertise that may be relevant to your case:

Beginner’s Guide to DUI in Florida Direct File Process for DUI Cases in Florida
Difference Between DUI and DWI in Florida DUI Uniform Traffic Citations in Florida
Actual Physical Control (APC) in Florida DUIs Florida’s .08 Per Se Standard for DUI
Blowing Over the Legal Limit but Not Drunk Should I Get a Lawyer for a DUI in Florida
What to Do After a DUI in Florida Step-by-Step Guide to the Florida DUI Legal Process
How Long Does the DUI Process Take in Florida I Just Got a DUI, What’s Next?
Most Common Questions About Florida DUIs Answered How to Win Your DUI Case
DUI Defense Guide Strengthen DUI Defense

Top-Rated DUI Lawyers Serving Florida

Looking for the best DUI lawyers in Florida? Our distinguished team of attorneys is committed to offering you the best possible defense against your DUI charges.

  • John Vallillo: As a stalwart in the Florida legal scene, John Vallillo has earned his stripes through a consistent record of case dismissals and proactive defense. His background as both a prosecutor and defense attorney enriches his strategic defense planning with invaluable insights.
  • Joe Easton: Renowned for crafting winning defenses, Joe Easton’s approach to legal advocacy in Florida combines thorough preparation with aggressive representation. His notable recognitions and ratings stand testament to his exceptional service and client-focused approach.
  • Joel Leppard: Joel Leppard infuses every DUI case with a level of personal commitment and innovative thinking that sets him apart. His leadership has not only grown Leppard Law into a top-rated criminal defense law firm but also ensured that clients receive empathetic, effective legal care.

Discover What Our Clients Are Saying

At the forefront of our DUI practice is a deep-seated commitment to client satisfaction. Each case is handled with utmost care, as echoed in the appreciative feedback from those we represent. Stellar reviews are what make us one consistently one of Central Florida’s top-rated DUI law firms. You can read more 5 star reviews here: https://leppardlaw.com/reviews/



Take the First Step Towards Your Defense

At Leppard Law, we understand that facing a DUI or DWI charge in Florida can be overwhelming. We are here to provide the support and legal expertise you need during this challenging time. Our team of dedicated attorneys is committed to treating you like family, always putting your best interests first and fighting for the best possible outcome for your case.

Experience the difference: Don’t just take our word for it. See what our clients have to say about our compassionate and effective legal representation. We’ve been ranked among the “Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Orlando” by Expertise from 2016-2024, and our commitment to excellence has earned us numerous accolades.

  • SuperLawyers “Rising Star” (2019-2020): Recognized by SuperLawyers, only 1.5 percent of lawyers are selected by their peers.
  • Awesome Attorneys Orlando (2019-2023): Selected by readers of Orlando Family Magazine and legal peers.
  • Top 10 DUI Attorneys near Orlando, FL (2024): Highlighted by Thumbtack for our outstanding DUI defense services.
  • Best DUI Lawyers in Orlando (2024): Listed by Expertise for our exceptional legal expertise and client service.
  • Client Champion Platinum (2018-2024): Awarded by Martindale Hubbell, less than 1% of attorneys are selected.

We take immense pride in helping our clients navigate through some of life’s most challenging moments. Your trust and support have fueled our commitment to excellence, and we’re honored to be a part of our shared community. While we hope you never face a criminal charge, we want you to know that if the need arises, we’re here for you.

One call can make all the difference: Schedule your consultation today, and let us provide the support and legal expertise you deserve. Contact us at 407-476-4111 or visit our contact page to get started. At Leppard Law, we turn our insider knowledge into your strongest defense. Rest easy and pick up the phone. We’re here to help!

 

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Legally Reviewed by Joe Easton

Experienced Florida DUI Attorney

Legally reviewed by Joe Easton and the content team, this article reflects the firm’s 60 years of combined criminal defense expertise. Joe Easton, with his extensive experience and strategic prowess in DUI and criminal defense, offers more than just legal representation; he brings a commitment to turning legal challenges into triumphs. His approach, combining tenacity in the courtroom with personalized client care, ensures your DUI case is not just defended but championed with dedication and expertise.

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