Florida's Drugged Driving Laws

Learn about the laws and penalties for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) in Florida.

Florida not only prohibits drunk driving but also driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs. The penalties for a drug DUI are generally the same as those for an alcohol-related offense.

This article discusses how Florida defines drugged driving and the consequences of a violation.

Drugged Driving Defined

A Florida motorist can be convicted of a drug DUI for driving or being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle while under the influence of certain “harmful chemicals” or “controlled substances.” (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 316.193 (2017).)

Actual physical control. Being in actual physical control of a vehicle means the driver is in or on the vehicle and has the capability to operate it. So, a motorist can be convicted of a DUI even if not actually driving. (Read more about the actual-physical-control element of a DUI.)

Under the influence. Under Florida law, a driver is considered under the influence when, as the result of ingesting drugs, the driver’s “normal faculties are impaired.” One Florida court explained that impairment means “worsening or diminishment in some material respect.” In other words, the drugs must have affected the person’s mental or physical abilities in a significant way. (Shaw v. State, 783 So. 2d 1097 (2001).)

Harmful chemicals. The substances that qualify as “harmful chemicals” are defined by statute. The list includes nitrous oxide, isopropyl alcohol, and a number of chemicals (such as acetone and toluene) found in chemical solvents. Generally, these chemicals are substances that recreational drug users inhale (or “huff”) to get high. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 877.111 (2017).)

Controlled substances. Florida’s list of “controlled substances” is extensive and includes:

  • opioids
  • opiates
  • stimulants
  • hallucinogens,
  • benzodiazepines, and
  • cannabinoids.

Marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and painkillers (like OxyContin and Vicodin) are some of the more common examples of controlled substances.

(Fla. Stat. Ann. § 893.03 (2017).)

Drugged Driving Penalties

The consequences of a Florida drugged driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:

  • First offense. Generally, a first DUI carries up to six months in jail, $500 to $1,000 in fines, and at least 50 hours of community service. The conviction also results in a license suspension of six months to one year.
  • Second offense. Generally, a second DUI within five years of a prior DUI conviction carries ten days to nine months in jail and $1,000 to $2,000 in fines. The conviction also results in a license revocation of at least five years.
  • Third offense. Generally, a third DUI within ten years of one of the two prior DUI convictions carries 30 days in jail to five years in prison and $2,000 to $5,000 in fines. The conviction also results in a license revocation of at least ten years.

(Read more about the penalties for a first, second, third-offense DUI in Florida.)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Getting Legal Help

Florida DUI law is complex, and facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, talk to an experienced DUI attorney in your area. A qualified DUI lawyer can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

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