When a citizen is arrested for DUI, one of the first
questions on his or her mind is, "how is this going to affect my driving
The system is very complicated, so here is a quick
primer on how license suspensions work in Florida after someone is
charged with DUI. The Florida law has
been thoroughly re-written for DUI arrests that occur after July 1,
2013, and that new law is below.
First, you have to understand that DUI is actually
two cases in one. This is supposed to violate the constitutional
prohibition against double jeopardy, but the courts have made an
exception to the Constitution for DUI offenders. A DUI means you
can be punished twice--including two separate, independent license
The first DUI case is a civil administrative law
case. It is held in front of a state hearing officer, rather than
a judge. The burden of proof is lower than in criminal court, and
the only punishment they can give is to suspend your driving privileges.
The second DUI case is the traditional criminal case. It is held
in a courtroom, before a judge, and while the judge can ALSO suspend
your license, the judge can do a lot more--like imposing fines,
probation, and even a jail sentence.
|The Administrative Law Case
Th Administrative Law Case happens first, and begins
on the day you are arrested. The police take your plastic license and
send it to the Florida DMV. Then, they give you your DUI citation,
which acts as a ten-day temporary drivers license. (It's in the tiny
print at the bottom of the ticket.) That ten-day license is an
unrestricted license. It is good for driving anywhere, anytime.
If you demand a hearing to determine their right to suspend your
license, then they will extend your right to drive until the hearing can
be held. This license is different from the ten-day temporary license.
First, it is in the form of a piece of paper sent from the DMV. And it
is generally good for 42 days (six weeks). But the most important
difference from the ten-day license is that the six week license is a
"BPO." A BPO is a "Business Purpose Only" license.
A BPO is
not an unrestricted license. It is good
only for limited driving. You can use your BPO for the following
1. Driving to and from work and necessary on-the-job
2. Driving to and from school.
3. Driving to and from the
4. Driving to and from church or other religious activity.
There is a catch-all provision which allows you to drive in order to
"maintain your livelihood." Courts have ruled that this includes driving
to pay your light bill or your car insurance, driving to buy groceries,
and even driving to eat at McDonalds or Burger King. It's not clear if
it includes a drive to a fancy steak house for a big dinner.
During the 42 day period of this license, the DMV will schedule a
hearing on whether your license suspension should be upheld. At that
hearing, one of two things can happen--
1. If you win your hearing, then you can go to the
nearest DMV office and get a duplicate unrestricted license. That
license will be permanent, unless it is suspended by the court in your
2. If your suspension is upheld at the DMV hearing,
then your driving privilege will be terminated as of midnight on the
expiration date of your temporary 42 day license. You will have to serve
a "hard time" (no driving of any kind under penalty of serious jail
time) suspension of either 30 days (for an unlawful blood or breath
level) or 90 days (for a refusal to take the test).
At the conclusion of your "hard time" suspension, you
will become eligible for a hardship BPO license. Your
hardship BPO license lasts for six months, (twelve months if you refused
to blow in the machine) and if your DUI case hasn't been concluded by
then, the restrictions come off and it becomes an unrestricted Florida
drivers license. (The date that it becomes unrestricted will be on the
license.) If the court then gives you a license suspension as a penalty
for a conviction of DUI or Reckless Driving, you will have to return to
the DMV and get another hardship BPO.
|The Criminal Case
Even if you have served your DMV
suspensions, you still might have to undergo another drivers
license suspension if you are convicted of DUI, Reckless Driving
or even Possession of a Controlled Substance.
news about a court-ordered suspension in the State of Florida is
that it has no "hard time" period, as long as you have
no prior DUI convictions. If you have completed
your hard suspension from the DMV, then you will be eligible for
a Business Purpose Only hardship license from Day One of your
court-ordered license revocation.
If you have any
previous DUI convictions, and get convicted of DUI in your
criminal case, though, you have a bigger problem. The
Florida DMV will not issue a hardship BPO to a driver who has
more than one conviction for DUI. So keep this in mind:
If it is your second conviction, then you will have to serve out
the entire period of the court-ordered suspension without a
The Florida DMV now requires an order
signed by the judge showing the case disposition and the
sentence before they will issue a hardship BPO following a
conviction. Make sure that you have that paperwork when
you travel to your regional DMV office to get your BPO.
At the end of your court-imposed suspension, you can go
back to the DMV and get a permanent, unrestricted license.
ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS ON DUI LICENSE SUSPENSIONS
Options beginning July 1, 2013
Effective July 1, 2013, Florida’s statutes have
changed relating to what happens to your drivers license
when you are arrested for DUI. In the past, it was
automatic that we would challenge the license suspension
and attempt to invalidate it. However, the amended law
changes the calculations of risk and benefit, both for
breath test refusals and for breath tests over .08. As a
result, first-time DUI defendants will have to choose
between two options on how you want to proceed:
Playing It Safe
Going All Out
this option, you give up your right to challenge your
license suspension. If you tested over .08, then your
license will be suspended for six months. If you refused
the breath test, your license will be suspended for one
In return for waiving your right to fight
the suspension, the DHSMV will no longer require a
“hard-time” suspension of your driving privileges. That
is, you will be eligible immediately for a Business
Purpose Only (BPO) license.
What this means is
this: Under the new rules, it is possible for a
first-time Florida DUI defendant to get through the
whole ordeal with a guarantee that he or she won’t lose
the ability to drive to work--and for medical,
educational and church purposes.
The downside to
this choice is that you give up the chance to challenge
your license suspension. You must waive the challenge,
meaning that the suspension will always be on your
Some people will want to fight.
However, the decision is up to you.
|In this option, we
challenge your license suspension. The new rules make
the hearings a bit easier to win, but if you lose, you
will have a 30-day hard-time (“no driving of any kind”)
suspension for a test over .08, and a 90-day hard time
suspension for a refusal.
The new rules say that
we can subpoena the Arresting Officer and the Breath
Test Operator to the hearing. If either one of them
fails to show, your license suspension will be
invalidated. The police can no longer ignore subpoenas,
and there is no “grace period” of 48 hours for the
officer to give an excuse for missing the hearing. If
the officer is 15 minutes late for a hearing, we win and
your license suspension will be invalidated.
expect that this new rule will result in a lot of
license suspensions being overturned, at least until the
police realize that they have to show up when they are
served a subpoena. The downside is that if the officer
shows up and the suspension is upheld, you will be off
the roads completely--for 30 days on a blow over .08, or
for 90 days on a refusal.
A lot of people will
not want to take that chance, but it is your option.
Because of the changes in the Florida Statutes relating to
administrative suspensions, we have had to re-assess whether it
is better to take the breath test or to refuse it. Under
the new system, for anyone who has never been convicted or had
his license suspended before for DUI or refusing a breath test,
it is now better to refuse to take
the breath test. This is especially true for those who
believe that their blood alcohol level is high. In any
given case, it might be better to blow or to refuse, but the
general rule for first offenders is
now, unquestionably, that it will almost always be better to
See? Wasn't that simple?
For more information
about Florida's license suspension system, call us, or check out
the page of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor
article helpful? Email us at MrRnR (at) oco.net and
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