Alcohol laws vary from state to state, and the more you know about the laws in each state, the more law abiding you can be as you travel. Florida is certainly known as a tourist destination, so many people who find themselves in legal trouble in Florida are from other states, especially around spring break and summertime when tourists flock to the Sunshine State from all over the country. While Florida has several “party areas,” the state—just like all others—has many laws governing the purchase, sale and consumption of beer, wine and liquor.
Buying Alcohol in Florida
While many states allow you to purchase beer in grocery and convenient stores and hard liquor like whiskey, bourbon in Scotch in what are called “package stores” (liquor stores to most people), in Florida, all three types of alcoholic beverages can be bought in retail, grocery and package stores. Bars and restaurants stop serving alcohol between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m., and alcohol is not sold on Sunday; however, there are a select few counties in the state of Florida that are licensed to sell alcohol seven days a week, 24 hours a day. While visiting Florida, know the county’s alcohol laws before setting out to partake in a few cocktails, or you may find yourself in a world of trouble that will surely ruin your vacation.
Legal Age for Serving/Drinking in Florida
Up until 1987, the legal drinking age in Florida had been only 18 years old, but it was raised to 21. At this time in Florida, restaurant servers and bartenders can both be 18 years of age, but these underage workers cannot consume alcohol on the premises of their job either during or after their shift.
Open Container Law in Florida
As in most states, the open container law in Florida is simple and clear: All open containers must be kept in the trunk of the vehicle. If you leave a party with an open bottle of vodka, the vodka cannot be held by the passenger or even by someone in the back seat. It must be in the trunk with the cap still on.
DUI in Florida
If your BAC (blood alcohol content/concentration) is above .08, you are considered legally intoxicated in Florida and can be arrested for driving under the influence. As in many states, Florida has what is called “per se intoxicated,” which means that chemical testing (blood test, usually) has proven ingestion of alcohol above the limit, and no further evidence is required to convict DUI.
Drivers under the age of 21 who have a maximum legal blood-alcohol content percentage of .02 percent face the same DUI penalties as adults with a BAC of above .08. This is known as a “zero tolerance law” in Florida and other states. At .20 percent above the legal limit of .08 percent, a driver faces much harsher penalties including hefty fines, suspension or revocation of driving privileges and even jail or prison time.
Some of the specific penalties for DUI in Florida include mandatory suspension of your driver’s license for six months upon the first DUI conviction; one year suspension for the second conviction; a two-year suspension for the third conviction. Other punishments may include a mandatory ignition interlock device at the driver’s expense, alcohol education classes and a felony record on your fourth conviction.
If you have broken an alcohol-related law in Florida, please contact a Florida criminal defense attorney with experience in these types of cases as soon as possible.