How to Handle a Florida License Suspension
Dear Florida, why are you so mean?
When most of us think of Florida, we imagine warm weather, beautiful beaches, and a vacation we hope will never end.
Sounds like a little piece of heaven, but be warned: get arrested for drunk driving, and it will quickly feel like a nightmare from hell.
Florida has one of the strictest laws in place when it comes to DUI arrests.
It’s called, “get arrested for DUI, your license will be immediately suspended.”
No, that’s not really the name but the policy is accurate.
Even without a conviction, should you be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, you stand a strong chance of having your driving privileges revoked.
Of course, you have the opportunity to contest the suspension, prior to your court date for DUI charges; however, you only have 10 days, and in most instances, suspensions are not lifted.
In 2015, Florida law enforcement made nearly 62,000 arrests for DUI. Florida finished third that year in DUI arrests, behind California and Texas.
What does this tell us?
A lot of Floridians lost their privileges to drive following their arrest.
If you find yourself in this situation, the following will help you understand the law and your options to have your license reinstated.
Why Would My License Be Revoked?
There’s a few reasons why your license would be suspended. You could face a Florida license suspension if you have:
- Failed to comply with traffic summons
- Failed to appear at a summons
- Failed to pay a fine
- Inadequate vision
- Failed to pay child support payments
- Accumulated DMV points
- An inability to drive safely
- A violation that has resulted in the injury or death of another party, not related to DUI, or DWI offenses
How Do You Get Your License Back?
In Florida, license suspension can be contested for almost every other violation, other than DUI, or DWI.
The first thing you need to do is check which department suspended your license.
In most cases, it’s either:
- Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV)
- Motor Vehicle Division (MVD)
You need the letter from the issuing body, or the online database to check the reason for your license suspension. Depending on the reason, you can contest and have your license reinstated. You should consult an attorney to help you understand if you’re eligible. The suspension period depends on why your license was suspended.
If you have failed to pay a fine, your license will be reinstated as soon as you have paid the fines. This applies to child support as well. As soon as the payment has been made, you get your license back. If you have inadequate vision, you need to take an eye test, and prove that you meet the vision requirements.
If you have accumulated DMV points, you will need to take an exam, and prove that you have enrolled in a driving course.
What Happens When You’re Arrested For Driving Under the Influence?
When you’re arrested you will be asked for a breath, blood or urine test.
If you refuse the alcohol test, you face an immediate Florida license suspension.
If you agree to the test, but your alcohol level is over the limit, you face an immediate Florida license suspension.
If you are over 21, then the breath alcohol limit, or BAL is 0.08%. If you’re under 21, the BAL is 0.02%.
There is a 10 day challenge rule. Essentially, this means you’ll have ten days to decide what you’re going to do.
You can continue to drive during the ten days.
The officer will have given you a DUI citation. It acts as a temporary license from the date of your arrest for ten days. You can only drive for business purposes. So you can drive to and from work.
You can’t drive for personal reasons.
You can also decide to do nothing.
If you do nothing, and your alcohol level was over .08, you will lose your license for six months.
After 30 days, you can apply for a limited purpose permit. This means that you can drive to work or school, after you have signed up to DUI school, and agreed to be evaluated for substance alcohol abuse treatment.
If you don’t complete DUI school, and the evaluation, you can’t get your license back, even after your six month suspension.
If you’re under 21, and your BAL is 0.05% or over, then you will need to complete a substance abuse evaluation, and an alcohol course. You can use the citation as your temporary license during the 10 day challenge period.
If you do nothing, and you refused an alcohol test, you will lose your license for twelve months.
You won’t be able to drive for 90 days, and then you can apply for a limited purpose permit.
If you have been arrested for DWI, and refused alcohol tests previously, then the suspension period is eighteen months, rather than twelve.
It’s a much better idea to talk to a DUI attorney.
Your attorney will explain your options and advise you on the best one for you in your individual circumstances. Although, they will usually explain two possible options:
- They can request an extended period for you to drive, and a Formal Review Hearing.
You will get a temporary permit that will last around 45 days, and a court type hearing.
Basically, your attorney will be questioning if the suspension is lawful. They will have access to all reports from your arrest, and they will be able to subpoena the arresting officer, and hear their testimony.
If you win, your Florida license suspension will be revoked, pending the criminal case.
If you lose, then you can apply for the restricted license after the same 30 or 90 day time period has passed. However, your attorney will have heard the officer or officers testimony, which can be helpful for the criminal case.
- The second option is to waive the formal hearing.
Before you can submit a waiver, you need to sign up to DUI school.
You need to do this before the end of the ten day period. However, this option means that you can apply for a restricted license straight away, without the 30 or 90 day hard time suspension.
What are the Criminal Charges?
The criminal charges for driving while intoxicated depend on how many previous DUI offenses you have.
- A first or second offense is usually a misdemeanor.
- A third DUI within ten years is usually a felony.
- A fourth is a felony, as are all subsequent DUIs.
If there’s a minor in the car, or if anyone was injured, or died in the incident, then the charges are more severe.
Your DUI attorney will be able to help you deal with the criminal aspect of your charge.
A DUI, or DWI doesn’t just mean driving under the influence of alcohol. It could be drugs, or other substances. It could even be prescription drugs.
The list of controlled substances is quite exhaustive, and lists many drugs that a doctor would routinely prescribe a patient.
If you have been arrested, you will be asked for a blood or urine test, and a field sobriety test.
The officer will ask you to perform some mental and physical exercises, such as walk and turn, finger to nose, standing on one leg, and reciting the alphabet.
If you have been arrested for DUI due to prescription medications, you should consult an attorney as soon as possible.
The process is the same, the 10 day challenge still applies, but it’s a much more complicated situation than an alcohol related offense.
Prescription drugs affect each individual person in very different ways, and an attorney will be able to advise you on how to contest your license suspension.
2016 Lawsuit of 10 Day Challenge Law
The DUI laws in Florida are strict, and some feel that they’re too strict.
A lawsuit was filed in 2016 with the federal court in Orlando. The class action suit says that defendants are denied due process.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles doesn’t use an independent judge to preside over the formal hearing, but rather an internal hearing officer. This creates a system that is already against the defendant.
The suit is seeking over $50 million from the department, and could represent hundreds of thousands of citizens.
Attorneys at law also have issue with the fact that even if the defendant is found not guilty of DUI, their license remains suspended.
The suit says that statistics show 61,852 people were arrested for DUI in Florida during 2015. This lawsuit could potentially include them, and all arrests from three years previously, as well.
The department has yet to comment on the lawsuit, although some third-party DWI defense attorneys have said that they believe the suit has merit.
Until some changes are made, the situation is that if you are arrested for DUI, you face immediate Florida license suspension.
The worst thing you could do is nothing.
You need to take action, speak to a DUI attorney, and work out what course of action is the best one for your individual case.
Given that you will have your license suspended immediately, the best way to avoid a DUI, is to make sure you don’t drive if you think you may even be near the limit.
If you’ve been prescribed any medications, you should check if it could result in the loss of your license.