In Florida, an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) may have lasting repercussions, particularly for individuals who are under the legal drinking age. At Ellis and Bryant, we recognize that an underage DUI case may be the first experience that a young person has with the court system. Our Jacksonville DUI lawyers can address any concerns you may have about the case and provide compassionate legal advice. We have the knowledge and experience to protect your rights and help you defend against an underage DUI and any other criminal charges you are facing.Florida Underage DUI Offenses
It is illegal to drive in Florida if you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level above the legal limit can lead to an arrest and criminal charge for driving under the influence. For most adults, driving with a BAC level of .08 percent or higher constitutes driving under the influence. Florida, however, has enacted a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. Consequently, the legal limit is .02 percent for drivers under the legal drinking age of 21. If a chemical test indicates a BAC level of .02 percent or higher and the driver is underage, the police will likely issue the driver a notice of suspended license for an underage DUI. In addition, an underage driver may face a criminal charge for driving under the influence, particularly if the driver’s BAC level is .08 percent or higher.Underage DUI Penalties
Although a violation of Florida’s zero tolerance statute is referred to as an underage DUI, it is not actually a criminal offense. An underage DUI is essentially an administrative process for driver license suspension. The statute allows a police officer to suspend the license of a driver under the age of 21 if she has a BAC level of .02 percent or higher, or if she refuses to take a breath or blood test.
An underage DUI carries administrative penalties and becomes part of your driving record. A first-time violation may result in a six-month driver license suspension. For any subsequent violations, the suspension period is one year. Refusing a chemical test may result in a one-year license suspension for the first time, and an18-month suspension if the driver has previously had a suspended license due to a refusal.Defenses
Fortunately, a zero tolerance suspension may be contested by requesting a hearing. You are allowed to hire a defense attorney to represent you during the hearing and at any other administrative or criminal proceedings. In some cases, the suspension may be invalidated by the hearing officer. There are many situations that may lead to dismissal, such as a mistake on the part of the police officer, failing to give implied consent warnings to an underage driver, or not following correct documentation procedures.
If an under-21 driver with a BAC level of .08 percent or higher is charged with a criminal offense for DUI, the law is applied the same as for any other adult. A DUI charge may include criminal penalties such as jail time, community service, and fines. It will likely result in a suspended license of at least six months. However, if the defendant’s license was suspended for an underage DUI, it cannot be suspended further for the same incident under the criminal case. In light of the potential criminal and administrative penalties, underage drivers must carefully weigh their options. Defenses to a DUI charge are specific to each case, and may be discussed in detail with your attorney.Retain a Defense Lawyer for an Underage DUI Charge in the Jacksonville Area
If you or your teenaged child have been arrested for an underage DUI in or near Jacksonville, obtaining legal representation may help to avoid penalties and keep your record clear. The criminal defense attorneys at Ellis and Bryant can work aggressively to defend against a conviction and pursue a satisfactory outcome in an underage DUI case. Our defense lawyers serve residents of Jacksonville Beach, Orange Park, Middleburg, and many other communities in Duval and Clay Counties. Contact our office to make your appointment today by calling (904) 551-4120 or submitting our website contact form.