DUI Penalties: License Suspension

Of all of the penalties that can be levied for DUI, one of the most inconvenient is license suspension. There are several scenarios that can lead to the loss of driving privileges in Florida. The first is the refusal of a breath test. Per Florida law, the first time a driver refuses a physical or chemical test, they will lose their license for one year; the second time, they will lose their license for a period of eighteen months. This, however, is only one of the circumstances which can lead to license suspension. The second is to be found guilty of DUI.

For a first time conviction, a driver can lose their license for 180 days to 1 year. For a second conviction, it will depend on how long it has been since your previous conviction. If it has been longer than five years, you will face the same suspension as someone facing their first conviction. If, however, it has been within five years, you will be facing a minimum five year suspension. For a third conviction, you will be facing a minimum of ten years as long as it is within ten years of your previous conviction. For a fourth conviction, it won't matter how long it has been since your previous conviction - you will face a permanent revocation.

Multiple DUI charges, however, are not the only time where a license suspension period can be lengthened. Aggravating factors can cause longer periods of suspension. For someone charged with DUI manslaughter, it won't matter if it's their first or fourth conviction, they will automatically face a mandatory permanent revocation. For someone who is facing charges of manslaughter or a DUI causing serious bodily injury, it will be a minimum of three years.

Florida DMV Hearings & License Suspension

Most people assume that they can only lose their license if found guilty of DUI. This, however, is not true. Beyond the criminal case, those arrested for drunk driving will also be facing a civil case helped by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Following an arrest, you will have a mere 10 days to act. You need to schedule this DMV hearing within 10 days of the arrest; if you don't, your license will be automatically suspended.

If, however, you schedule your formal or informal hearing, you will be giving yourself the chance to fight for your driving privileges. During this hearing, they will not be working to determine the question of your guilt. Instead, the hearing will have a much more limited scope. Depending on whether you are having a formal or informal hearing, there may or may not be witnesses, testimony or the presentation of any evidence.

Regardless, the hearings will be limited to asking the following questions:

  • Did you drive with a BAL over 0.08 percent?
  • Did you refuse the chemical or physical tests?
  • Were you told that refusal could lead to license suspension?

It is important to keep in mind that the DHSMV hearing is completely separate from the criminal case. So the DHSMV may choose to suspend your license, but the criminal case may find you guilty; since they are independent, you being found innocent in criminal court may not affect your previous license suspension. That being said, the DHSMV could choose to not suspend your license; if the criminal court finds you guilty, you could still have your license suspended. It is therefore extremely important that you have a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side during both procedures to fight for your rights.

Regarding Hardship Licenses

If you have had your license suspended, there are some circumstances where you may be eligible for a "hardship license." These basically allow for the individual to drive, however, with a much more limited scope. Someone who is given this type of limited license will be able to drive to and from school and work, as well as errands which are deemed necessary. They may not, however, drive anywhere for pleasure or for entertainment. These types of licenses are available to certain individuals after a certain amount of time has passed.

These are the qualifications that must be met to apply for a hardship license:

  • Second DUI Conviction - May apply after a year.
  • Third DUI Conviction - May apply after two years.
  • DUI Manslaughter Conviction - May apply after five years.
  • Fourth DUI Conviction - May never apply for a hardship license.

It is also important to note that there is a distinct difference between license suspension and revocation. When your license has been suspended, it will only be temporarily - eventually, you will have it returned to you. Should your license be revoked, it will be permanent.

Fighting for Your Right to Drive in Florida

If you have been arrested for DUI, you are also at risk of losing your license in the DMV hearing. For this reason, it is crucial that you get a lawyer who can look after you in both the criminal and civil proceedings. At Thomas & Paulk, P.A., we know what is at stake and will do everything possible to protect your freedom. To learn more, contact us today.

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