The Party's Over: You and Florida DUI Law

Can Florida homeowners be held liable if their guests drive home drunk?

By Marilyn Stone | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on September 5, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorneys Robert Reiff and Jose M. Quinon

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After a house party, if you’re lucky, you’re left with a messy kitchen and a few carpet stains. If you’re not so lucky—or weren’t vigilant enough—a guest driving under the influence injures or kills someone on the way home.

If the guest was a minor, you could wake up with a legal hangover that lasts long after the next morning.

Under Florida statute 856.015, a homeowner can be charged with:

  • A second-degree misdemeanor if they host a party where they allow minors to possess or consume drugs or alcohol on the premises;
  • A first-degree misdemeanor if the minor is injured or injures someone else as a result of consuming drugs or alcohol at the party.

We have to educate people not to drink and drive. And we must decide if we will deal with it as a legal or medical issue or use a blended approach.

Robert Reiff

Lawyers’ Concerns About BAC Testing

Miami lawyers Robert S. Reiff and Jose Quinon, with nearly a half-century of combined professional experience with DUI cases as prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys, are concerned about the repercussions that hosts and parents could face under the law.

Their concerns are twofold:

  • Drivers are under increased pressure to submit to field sobriety tests and breathalyzer tests; and
  • Test results can’t be challenged because they can’t be replicated hours after the arrest.

Penalties for Refusing to Submit to Testing in Florida

Reiff, author of Drunk Driving and Related Vehicular Offenses, says the accuracy of breathalyzers has been and should be challenged.

Yet Florida law imposes consequences for refusing to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test. The penalties range from:

  • A one-year driver’s license suspension for a first refusal;
  • A first-degree misdemeanor charge for a second refusal.

It’s an area I foresee exploding in litigation, not only criminally but civilly.

Jose M. Quinon

Incarceration versus Treatment for Drug and Alcohol-Related Offenses

Currently, the legal system leans toward incarceration, not treatment, for DUI offenders.

“It’s an area I foresee exploding in litigation, not only criminally but civilly,” Quinon says. In a case Quinon recently defended, two drunk teens had a car accident in which one boy died immediately, and the other remained in a coma. Quinon says even the school was named in a civil lawsuit.

“We have to educate people not to drink and drive,” says Reiff. “And we must decide if we will deal with it as a legal or medical issue or use a blended approach.”

What To Do if You’re Susceptible to a DUI Charge in Florida

If you’re hosting a party where minors are present—such as your teenage child’s friends from school—it behooves you to follow the law and “take reasonable steps to prevent [the minors’] possession or consumption of [alcohol or drugs].”

If you find yourself susceptible to a DUI charge, it’s best to contact a law firm and seek legal help from a DUI defense lawyer. If you’d like more general information about this area of the law, see our DUI/DWI law overview.

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