DUI is a criminal offense under the Florida Statutes. This means that a person who drives under the influence is simultaneously: (1) guilty of a criminal offense; (2) liable for damages arising from the accident in a civil lawsuit; and (3) guilty of attendant traffic offenses which contribute to the accident.
Defendants under the age of 21 also face long-lasting and costly consequences for underage DUI convictions. These collateral consequences of underage DUI can follow underage defendants into their adult lives for years to come. If you or a loved one has been charged with any form of DUI, it is critical to know your constitutional rights in order to protect them.
Section 322.2616 of the Florida Statutes prohibits persons under the age of 21 from being in physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .02 or higher. If a blood or breath test demonstrates that the driver’s blood level is above .02, his or her driving privileges are revoked for six months. On a subsequent offense, driving privileges are revoked for one year. And yet, this is merely the start of the time, expense, and inconvenience an underage DUI defendant will incur.
The Unexpected Consequences of a DUI
While most defendants understand that they face a combination of fines, jail time, and ignition interlock use, they are painfully unaware of the collateral consequences that an underage DUI conviction can bring. First, the court process is not a simple matter of filling out forms. It requires multiple appearances at the court which often result in missing work. Court-ordered community service and substance abuse classes take more time and can further aggravate the defendant’s employer. Furthermore, the sentenced fine is not the only cost a DUI defendant must pay. There are court fees, administrative fees, attorney’s fees, and other fees which add up quickly. Finally, defendants do not always realize the impact of having a criminal record. This can preclude employment and educational opportunities. Social events and relationships can also be impacted. A defendant’s employment can also be affected by his or her professional licensure. Many licensing entities in Florida require reporting of criminal convictions, and some even require reporting of arrests and other pre-conviction proceedings. An underage DUI offense can cause a defendant to spend many hours attempting to secure his or her professional licensure, even years after the conviction occurred. This, too, can incur more attorney's fees.
Finally, it is important to realize how much time must be spent at the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to reinstate driving privileges after a DUI conviction. A special restricted license must be obtained for the period in which a defendant has an ignition interlock device. When this period is successfully completed, the defendant must obtain the appropriate court order and return to the DMV to have his or her regular driver’s license reinstated. This process is neither fun nor fast.
These and many other consequences of DUI can make an underage defendant’s life difficult long after the court case has been finalized. An experienced Jacksonville DUI defense attorney will both protect a defendant’s constitutional rights, and also mitigate the collateral damage a conviction can bring to a defendant’s life for years to come.