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The Florida Guide to Under 21 Zero Tolerance DUI License Suspensions




Understanding Zero Tolerance DUI License Suspensions in Florida

In Florida, the Zero Tolerance law for drivers under 21 is outlined in Florida Statute Section 322.2616. This statute mandates that any driver under the age of 21 who is found with a breath-alcohol level of .02 or higher will face an administrative license suspension. This law is designed to deter underage drinking and driving by imposing strict penalties on young drivers.

Key Aspects of Zero Tolerance Law

  • Breath-Alcohol Level: The legal limit for drivers under 21 is significantly lower than for adults, set at .02 BAC. This means that even a small amount of alcohol can result in a license suspension.
  • Administrative Suspension: The suspension is administrative, meaning it is handled by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) and not through the criminal court system. This distinction is important because it affects how the suspension can be contested.
  • Immediate Consequences: Upon being detained, the driver’s license can be suspended immediately, and they may be issued a temporary 10-day permit. This immediate action underscores the seriousness of the Zero Tolerance law.

A violation of Florida Statute Section 322.2616 (often called “the zero-tolerance suspension”) is neither a traffic infraction nor a criminal offense. Being detained under this statute does not constitute an arrest. Actions taken under this statute are recorded in the motor vehicle records maintained by the DHSMV but do not necessarily bar prosecution under Florida Statute 316.193 for DUI.

What is a Zero Tolerance DUI License Suspension? A Zero Tolerance DUI License Suspension is an administrative action taken against drivers under 21 who are found with a breath-alcohol level of .02 or higher, resulting in the suspension of their driver’s license.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) is not permitted to suspend the person’s license under Florida Statute Section 322.2615 and Section 322.2616 for the same episode. This means that if you are under 21 and receive a suspension under the Zero Tolerance law, you cannot be suspended again for the same incident under another statute.

If you received a notice that your driver’s license will be suspended because you are under 21 years old and drove with an unlawful breath-alcohol level of .02 or above, it is crucial to act quickly. You only have ten (10) days to hire an attorney to contest the administrative suspension. Your attorney can request a hearing at the DMV office to ask a hearing officer to invalidate the suspension.

In many of these cases, the under-21-year-old driver is detained on the side of the road until the notice of the zero-tolerance suspension has been issued. Then the driver will be released from the scene, or the young person’s parents will be called to pick them up. But in most cases, the young person is not arrested for any criminal offense.

Many suspensions are invalidated (removed from the driving record) because the rules are so complicated that the officers often make mistakes. Any mistake might mean the hearing officer will invalidate the suspension, saving you money on the reinstatement fees and your insurance for years to come.

For more information on handling license suspensions, you can refer to our guide on DUI formal review hearings in Florida.


Steps to Contest a Zero Tolerance DUI Suspension

If you receive a notice of suspension under the Zero Tolerance law, it is crucial to act quickly. You have only 10 days to request a formal review hearing to contest the suspension. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

The Florida Guide to Under 21 Zero Tolerance DUI License Suspensions

Requesting a Formal Review Hearing

  • Submit a Written Request: File a written request for a formal review hearing with the DHSMV within 10 days of receiving the suspension notice. This step is critical to ensure your case is heard.
  • Pay the Filing Fee: Include the required $25 filing fee with your request. This fee is non-refundable and necessary to process your hearing request.
  • Prepare Your Case: Gather all relevant evidence, including police reports, witness statements, and any other documentation that can support your case. This preparation is crucial for presenting a strong defense.

What is a Formal Review Hearing? A Formal Review Hearing is a proceeding where you can contest the administrative suspension of your driver’s license by presenting evidence and arguments before a hearing officer.

Once you have submitted your request and paid the fee, the DHSMV will schedule your hearing. The hearing is typically held within 30 days of your request. During this time, it’s essential to continue gathering evidence and preparing your defense.

Gathering Evidence and Building Your Case

Building a strong case requires meticulous preparation. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Obtain Police Reports: Request copies of all police reports related to your case. These reports can provide valuable insights into the circumstances of your detention and the evidence against you.
  • Identify Witnesses: If there were any witnesses to your detention or the events leading up to it, obtain their statements. Witness testimonies can be crucial in challenging the officer’s account.
  • Review Breath Test Results: If a breath test was administered, review the results carefully. Look for any discrepancies or procedural errors that could undermine the test’s validity.
  • Consult an Attorney: An experienced DUI attorney can provide invaluable assistance in preparing your case. They can help you identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s evidence and develop a robust defense strategy.

For more detailed information on handling license suspensions, you can refer to our guide on fighting administrative suspensions.

Attending the Formal Review Hearing

On the day of your hearing, it’s essential to be well-prepared and organized. Here’s what to expect:

  • Presenting Your Case: You will have the opportunity to present your evidence and arguments to the hearing officer. Be concise and focused, highlighting any procedural errors or inconsistencies in the officer’s report.
  • Questioning the Officer: The officer who issued the suspension may be present at the hearing. You or your attorney can question the officer to challenge their account and the validity of the evidence.
  • Submitting Documentation: Ensure you have all your documentation organized and ready to present. This includes police reports, witness statements, and any other supporting evidence.
  • Receiving the Decision: After both sides have presented their cases, the hearing officer will make a decision. This decision will be based on the evidence and arguments presented during the hearing.

What Happens After the Hearing? After the Formal Review Hearing, the hearing officer will issue a decision. If the suspension is invalidated, your driving privileges will be restored. If the suspension is upheld, you may have options to appeal or seek a hardship license.

It’s important to note that the outcome of the hearing can significantly impact your driving record and insurance rates. A successful challenge can save you from the long-term consequences of a Zero Tolerance DUI suspension.

For more information on license options after a DUI, visit our guide on post-DUI license options.

Remember, the rules and procedures surrounding Zero Tolerance suspensions are complex. Any mistakes made by the officers or during the hearing process can work in your favor. Hiring a skilled attorney who understands these intricacies can greatly increase your chances of a successful outcome.

If you or someone you know is facing a Zero Tolerance DUI suspension, don’t hesitate to seek professional legal assistance. The right guidance can make all the difference in protecting your driving privileges and future.

For more on the 10-day rule and its implications, check out our detailed explanation of the 10-day rule.


Requirements for the Officer’s Suspension Packet

To trigger an administrative suspension under the Zero Tolerance law, the arresting officer must submit a comprehensive suspension packet to the DHSMV. This packet must include several key documents:

  • Suspension Notice: A copy of the notice of suspension, including a 10-day permit if eligible. This notice informs the driver of the immediate suspension of their driving privileges.
  • Driver’s License: The driver’s license of the person receiving the suspension. This is collected to ensure the individual cannot legally drive during the suspension period.
  • Affidavit: An affidavit stating the officer’s grounds for believing that the person was under the age of 21 and was driving with any breath-alcohol level. This affidavit is critical for establishing the legal basis for the suspension.
  • Breath Test Results: The results of any breath test conducted, or an affidavit stating that the person refused to submit to the test. This documentation is essential for proving the violation of the Zero Tolerance law.

What is an Affidavit? An affidavit is a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, used as evidence in court. In the context of a Zero Tolerance DUI, it outlines the officer’s justification for the suspension.

The officer must ensure that all these documents are accurately completed and submitted to the DHSMV promptly. Any errors or omissions can be grounds for contesting the suspension. This is why understanding the requirements for the officer’s suspension packet is crucial if you plan to challenge the suspension.

Importance of Accurate Documentation

Accurate documentation is vital for the suspension process. Here’s why:

  • Legal Validity: Properly documented evidence ensures the suspension is legally valid. Missing or incorrect information can lead to the suspension being overturned.
  • Evidence Integrity: Accurate and complete documentation maintains the integrity of the evidence, which is essential for any formal review hearing.
  • Transparency: Detailed records provide transparency and accountability, ensuring that the suspension process is fair and just.

For more information on the importance of accurate documentation and how it impacts your case, you can refer to our guide on the DUI arrest process.

Common Mistakes in Suspension Packets

Even experienced officers can make mistakes when compiling suspension packets. Here are some common errors:

  • Incomplete Affidavits: Failing to include all necessary details in the affidavit can undermine the suspension’s validity.
  • Incorrect Breath Test Results: Misreporting or failing to properly document breath test results can lead to the suspension being contested.
  • Late Submission: Delays in submitting the suspension packet to the DHSMV can invalidate the suspension process.

Why is Timely Submission Important? Timely submission of the suspension packet is crucial because delays can invalidate the suspension. This ensures that the process is conducted fairly and within legal timeframes.

If you believe there are errors in your suspension packet, it’s important to act quickly. You can challenge the suspension by requesting a formal review hearing. For detailed steps on how to contest your suspension, visit our guide on DUI formal review hearings.

Steps to Verify the Suspension Packet

To ensure the accuracy of the suspension packet, follow these steps:

  • Request Copies: Obtain copies of all documents included in the suspension packet. This allows you to review the information for any inaccuracies.
  • Check for Completeness: Verify that all required documents are included and fully completed. Missing information can be grounds for contesting the suspension.
  • Consult an Attorney: An experienced DUI attorney can review the suspension packet for any errors or omissions. They can also provide guidance on how to challenge the suspension effectively.

For more detailed information on how to handle a Zero Tolerance DUI suspension, consider consulting with a specialized DUI attorney who can provide expert guidance and representation. For example, our guide on post-DUI license options offers valuable insights into your legal choices.

Remember, the rules and procedures surrounding Zero Tolerance suspensions are complex. Any mistakes made by the officers or during the hearing process can work in your favor. Hiring a skilled attorney who understands these intricacies can greatly increase your chances of a successful outcome.

For more information on how to safeguard your license after a DUI, check out our essential tips for driving after a Florida DUI.



Under Florida’s implied consent laws, drivers under 21 are required to submit to a breath test if requested by a law enforcement officer. Failure to comply can result in additional penalties. The officer must provide a clear warning to the driver about the consequences of refusing the test:

  • Initial Refusal: If you refuse to submit to a breath test, your driving privileges will be suspended for one year.
  • Subsequent Refusal: For a second or subsequent refusal, the suspension period increases to 18 months.
  • Understanding the Warning: The officer must ensure that the driver understands the implied consent warning before proceeding with the suspension.

What is implied consent? Implied consent means that by driving on Florida roads, you have implicitly agreed to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test if suspected of DUI.

Florida’s implied consent laws are strict and designed to deter underage drinking and driving. If you’re under 21 and refuse a breath test, the consequences are severe and immediate. The officer’s warning is not just a formality; it’s a critical part of the process that can significantly impact your driving privileges.

Understanding the Consequences of Refusal

Refusing a breath test under the Zero Tolerance law carries significant consequences:

  • Automatic Suspension: Your license will be automatically suspended for one year for the first refusal and 18 months for subsequent refusals.
  • Record Impact: The refusal will be recorded in your motor vehicle records, affecting your insurance rates and future driving privileges.
  • Limited Defense Options: Refusal can limit your defense options in a formal review hearing, as the refusal itself is grounds for suspension.

For more information on how a refusal can impact your case, visit our Florida DUI Refusal Guide.

Steps to Take If You Refuse the Test

If you’ve refused a breath test, it’s crucial to act quickly to protect your rights and driving privileges. Here are the steps you should take:

  • Request a Formal Review Hearing: You have only 10 days to request a formal review hearing with the DHSMV. This is your opportunity to contest the suspension.
  • Consult an Attorney: An experienced DUI attorney can help you navigate the complex legal process and build a strong defense. For example, our guide on DUI formal review hearings provides valuable insights into what to expect.
  • Gather Evidence: Collect any evidence that can support your case, including witness statements, police reports, and any other relevant documentation.

Why is it important to act quickly? You only have 10 days to request a formal review hearing after receiving a suspension notice. Delaying can result in losing your opportunity to contest the suspension.

Acting promptly and seeking legal advice can significantly improve your chances of a favorable outcome. For more detailed steps on how to handle a refusal, check out our guide on fighting administrative suspensions.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When dealing with a Zero Tolerance DUI suspension, avoiding common mistakes can make a big difference in your case:

  • Ignoring the Suspension Notice: Failing to act within the 10-day window can result in an automatic suspension that is difficult to contest later.
  • Not Consulting an Attorney: Navigating the legal system on your own can be challenging. An experienced DUI attorney can provide the expertise needed to build a strong defense.
  • Incomplete Documentation: Ensure all evidence and documentation are complete and accurate. Missing or incorrect information can weaken your case.

For more tips on how to safeguard your license after a DUI, visit our essential tips for driving after a Florida DUI.

The legal process for contesting a Zero Tolerance DUI suspension involves several steps:

  1. Notice of Suspension: You will receive a notice of suspension from the arresting officer, which includes a 10-day permit if eligible.
  2. Requesting a Hearing: File a written request for a formal review hearing with the DHSMV within 10 days of receiving the notice.
  3. Preparing Your Case: Gather all relevant evidence, including police reports, witness statements, and any other documentation that can support your case.
  4. Attending the Hearing: Present your case to the hearing officer, who will review the evidence and make a determination.

For a comprehensive guide on the legal process, consider reading our expert DUI lawyer’s step-by-step guide to DHSMV hearings.

Why Hire an Attorney?

Hiring an attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Here’s why:

  • Expertise: An experienced DUI attorney understands the complexities of the law and can provide valuable insights and strategies.
  • Representation: Your attorney can represent you at the formal review hearing, presenting evidence and arguments on your behalf.
  • Guidance: An attorney can guide you through the legal process, ensuring you meet all deadlines and requirements.

For more information on the benefits of hiring an attorney, visit our DUI defense page.

Remember, the consequences of a Zero Tolerance DUI suspension can be severe and long-lasting. Acting quickly and seeking legal advice can help protect your rights and driving privileges.

The Florida Guide to Under 21 Zero Tolerance DUI License Suspensions


Infographic depicting the words The Florida Guide to Under 21 Zero Tolerance DUI License Suspensions


What is Florida’s Zero Tolerance DUI law for drivers under 21?

Florida’s Zero Tolerance DUI law mandates that any driver under 21 with a breath-alcohol level of .02 or higher will face an administrative license suspension. This law is outlined in Florida Statute Section 322.2616 and aims to deter underage drinking and driving.

How can I contest a Zero Tolerance DUI suspension in Florida?

To contest a Zero Tolerance DUI suspension in Florida, you must request a formal review hearing with the DHSMV within 10 days of receiving the suspension notice. This involves submitting a written request, paying a $25 filing fee, and preparing your case with relevant evidence.

What are the penalties for refusing a breath test under Florida’s Zero Tolerance law?

The penalties for refusing a breath test under Florida’s Zero Tolerance law include a one-year suspension for the first refusal and an 18-month suspension for subsequent refusals. The officer must ensure the driver understands the implied consent warning before proceeding with the suspension.

What documents are required in the officer’s suspension packet for a Zero Tolerance DUI?

The officer’s suspension packet for a Zero Tolerance DUI must include a copy of the suspension notice, the driver’s license, an affidavit stating the officer’s grounds for believing the driver was under 21 and driving with any breath-alcohol level, and the results of any breath test or an affidavit stating the driver refused to submit to the test.

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Contact Leppard Law for Expert DUI Defense

At Leppard Law, we understand the stress and uncertainty that come with facing a DUI charge, especially under Florida’s stringent zero-tolerance laws for drivers under 21. Our experienced DUI attorneys are here to guide you through every step of the legal process, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive the best possible defense.

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At Leppard Law, 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.

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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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