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Arrested For a DUI But Need to Drive? Here Is What You Need To Know About Your License

DUI suspensions are convoluted in Florida. Saddle up.

It depends. A person’s driving privilege goes through two separate paths after a DUI arrest. An administrative path and a criminal one.

DUI license suspension

Administrative Case

If law enforcement has (or thinks it has) probable cause to believe a person has been driving while intoxicated (or driving under the influence, same thing) or impaired, that person is read an implied consent form prior to a request to submit to a breath test. If the result is over the legal limit of .08 BAC (different if under 21), the person’s driving privileges are administratively suspended by the FLHSMV effective ten(10) calendar days from receiving the DUI citation.

But a person has a right to refuse the test, and doing so might weaken the prosecution’s case. If refused, law enforcement must re-read the correct form, and also advise the person his driving privileges will be administratively suspended by the FLHSMV ten (10) calendar days from receiving the DUI citation if he refuses again.

Both options trigger the same administrative process, but the punishments for refusal are more severe. Let’s talk about them together, and just distinguish the punishments.

Within those first ten (10) days, the DUI citation will serve as proof of the unrestricted driving privilege. Things only start going away at midnight after the tenth day.

Blowing a .08 BAC or higher, or refusing to take the test, results in a mandatory administrative suspension for twelve (12) months after the ten (10) calendar days from the citation. If it’s a second refusal, the suspension is for eighteen (18) months. A second (or more) refusal is also a first degree misdemeanor in Florida, putting jail time (and other punishments) on the table and not discussed here.

Within those initial ten (10) calendar days, the person has the right to request a formal hearing on the suspension. That is why it is SO IMPORTANT to retain a DUI lawyer AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after receiving the DUI citation.

If requested, the FLHSMV will schedule the hearing within forty-two (42) days. A person may be eligible for a “business purpose only” license for those 42 days. It’s a restricted license, allowing limited driving to things like work, school, medical appointments, church, and a catch all that isn't very clear. It also gives a person time to create a plan.

The formal hearing determines whether the automatic suspension should be upheld. It is not a criminal proceeding. The standards, and burdens, are lower. But in addition to providing time to create a plan, it gives the DUI lawyer an opportunity to not only challenge the traffic stop and investigation, it can force the State to turn over its evidence far earlier than it is required to in the related criminal case. 

If the person wins, the unrestricted privilege comes back. If not, the hardship license expires on the 42nd day. This is the first punishment difference.

By demanding due process, you are punished. 

If the person blew a .08 or over, he must wait thirty (30) days to request a hardship license. If it’s a refusal, the penalty is ninety (90) days. 

The subsequent hardship license, if granted, is required for six (6) months for blowing .08 or over, twelve (12) months if a refusal. If the companion criminal case is not resolved by those dates, the FLHSMV reinstates unrestricted driving privileges.

One last thought before moving on. A person may waive the formal hearing to avoid the “hard time” before requesting a hardship license. It requires proof of signing up for a DUI education program and a few other things, but also means the person suffers the full suspension, regardless of the ongoing criminal case.

Criminal Case

Courts also suspend driving privileges as part of a criminal conviction, in addition to potentially ordering confinement, fines, court costs, ordering participation in DUI programs, required installation of ignition interlock devices for certain periods of time, and more.

Evidence from administrative proceedings are inadmissible in a criminal case. However, the failure to comply with a breath test request IS.

Driving privilege revocation after a DUI conviction heavily depends on the particular facts of a case. If it’s a first DUI conviction, or a second conviction MORE THAN five (5) years after the first conviction, the range is six (6) to twelve (12) months. If the second is within five (5) years of the first, it’s five (5) years. A third within ten years of the second requires ten (10) years. A fourth, or any conviction that included serious injury or loss of life may result in a PERMANENT revocation. 

DUI charges in Florida are complex, very serious, and heavily factually dependent. A blog post is never enough. The right DUI lawyer should schedule an intensive  initial consultation, thoroughly engage in learning as much about you as possible, and proactively conduct a thorough and disciplined investigation to professionally negotiate with the prosecution while actively and aggressively preparing for trial.


This post is not to be considered legal advice. It is for informational purposes. Florida criminal law continually evolves, and the laws governing DUI license suspension may change after publication. And every case is different. Contact me to discuss your particular circumstances.

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