Florida Alcohol Laws: Know Before You Go – Don’t be Surprised

This page will help you understand Florida alcohol laws and avoid expensive fines or even jail. Not to mention time and embarrassment.

Florida alcohol laws can impact visitors from elsewhere. Visitors may falsely think that its alcohol laws are the same as at home. This can easily cause serious problems.

Alcohol laws are not even the same within Florida. They can also differ within a large metropolitan area. So it’s easy to break the law without knowing it.

              OVERVIEW
          1. Minimum Age Laws
          2. Other Alcohol Laws
          3. Resources
          4. Legal Advice

I. Minimum Age Laws

Young people often want to work part-time. Hospitality has many jobs. So youths need to know the age for working with alcohol. How old must one be to serve alcohol in a venue for drinking on site? To tend bar? To sell alcohol for drinking elsewhere?

Adults aged 18 or older may be bartenders. They may also be servers in venues that sell alcohol for drinking on-site.

There is no age restriction for selling beer or wine for off-site use. The exception is for selling distilled spirits (liquor) in such a place.

It is criminal to use a borrowed, forged, counterfeit, or stolen ID to buy alcohol. Of course, it’s also illegal to provide anyone with such false ID.

It’s legal for any adult 18 or older to drink alcohol as part of a required course. It must be at an institution with accreditation. Moreover, the instructor must be at least 21 and control the alcohol at all times.

It’s illegal for those under 21 to drive or boat with a BAC of 0.02 or higher.

II. Other Florida Alcohol Laws

Selling Alcohol

It’s illegal to sell alcohol to anyone, including adults, under age 21. The penalty for doing so, even by accident, is a fine of up to $500. It may also include jail for up to 60 days.

Standard drinks have equal alcohol.

Florida alcohol laws permit beer and wine sales in retail stores that are licensed to sell alcohol. This includes grocery stores and convenience gas stations. But only a package store may sell spirits.

This distinction is based on an old myth. It’s that spirits are more alcoholic than beer or wine. But standard drinks of each has the same amount of pure alcohol. It’s six-tenths of an ounce.

It’s illegal to sell any of the large celebratory Champagne bottle sizes.

Sales Hours

Retailers may generally not sell alcohol anywhere between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. any day of the week. But Florida counties and cities have much authority over the days and times of alcohol sales. It’s because of local option.

Miami-Dade and a few other counties permit 24-hour sales on seven days of the week. Some counties permit sales beginning at noon on Sundays. On the other hand, the counties of Baker and Polk are dry on Sundays. Prohibiting alcohol sales on Sundays or until noon on Sundays is a vestige of Blue Laws.

And some Florida counties follow a different path. For instance, the panhandle counties of Lafayette, Liberty, Madison, and Washington counties are dry. (Discover more at Dry Counties.) The sale of alcohol there is illegal 24/7. This is a vestige of the temperance beliefs.

Florida drinking laws prohibit drinking on public property. This generally includes streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and beaches. But this prohibition extends to private property if the owner hasn’t given permission.

Note that “ABC” stores in Florida are not government monopolies. They are independent, competitive, tax-paying businesses. They simply have “ABC” as their name.

Buying Alcohol

People must be 21 or older to buy alcohol. Even a first offense is a crime. It’s jail for 60 days and a fine of $500. A second offense is jail for up to one year and a $1,000 fine.

Using a fake ID to buy, or attempt to buy, alcohol is a crime. It’s punishable with prison for up to five years and a fine up to $5,000.

Lending an ID to someone is punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500.00 fine. Using someone else’s ID carries the same penalties. And the state may suspend the licenses of both people for one year.

Driving

For those under 21, including adults, it’s 0.02% or greater. The penalty for driving with a BAC of .02% up to .05% is license suspension for six months. For a BAC of .05% or higher, courts suspend the license until completion of a substance course. If the offender is not an adult (is under 18), police notify the parents.

Florida alcohol laws prohibit open alcohol containers in vehicles. Drivers receive a fine of at least $73.00. But it could be up to $90.00. Passengers receive a fine of at least $43.00. However, it could be up to $60.00.

Florida law requires drivers to submit to a BAC test if police request it. The state punishes drivers who use their Constitutional right to decline. The punishment is suspension of the driver’s license for one year. A second refusal on another time results in suspension for 18 months..

Boating 

florida alcohol lawsFlorida alcohol laws prohibit operating a boat under the influence (OBU). The terms boat and vessel are very, very general. For instance, they even include riding water skis.

People are “under the influence” if they have a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Or if alcohol and/or drugs is impacting them to a degree which impairs their normal abilities. Or with a BAC of 0.05% or higher if there is any evidence of being “under the influence.” Of course, that’s in the opinion of the arresting officer. Clearly, that is very, very subjective.

Penalties for a first offense are jail for up to six months and a fine of up to $500. For a second, it’s jail for up to nine months and a fine of up to $1,000. And for a third, it’s prison for up to a year and a fine up to $2,500.

If the offense causes property damage, injury, or death, the court imposes much more severe punishments.

For those under 21, it’s illegal to operate a vessel with any measurable BAC. That is, with a BAC of 0.02%. That number is not zero because breathalyzers are not accurate. And everyone’s body makes alcohol 24/7. Also many meds and foods contain alcohol. Even bread!

Note that Florida offers a $250 reward for information leading to a BUI arrest.

A conviction requires 50 hours of public service and completing a boater education course. Also an online course. They may not operate any vessel until they satisfy all those requirements.

A person operating a vessel must by law submit to a BAC test if police request it. The state punishes those who use their Constitutional right to decline. It does so with 50 hours of public service. In addition, they may not operate a vessel until they satisfy that requirement.

III. Resources on Florida Alcohol Laws

IV. Seek Good Advice about Florida Alcohol Laws

Laws about alcohol change. Interpretations of these laws also change. Law is always in flux. Florida alcohol laws, as those of all states, can be confusing. So do not rely on this site. Nor on any other site.

Florida alcohol lawsGet information or advice about Florida alcohol laws from an expert. That is a lawyer holding a license in the state.

Florida is a big state. Alcohol laws vary from dry counties to those permitting sales 24/7. So it’s a good idea to select a lawyer in your county.

 

So now you know more about Florida alcohol laws than do most residents of the Sunshine State!