As the use of golf carts grows in Florida, the police are starting to crack down on violations. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is leading the charge. They are no longer looking the other way if they see unregistered golf carts on the road. They are also actively enforcing traffic violations like running stop signs. If and when they see that you have been drinking, it will lead to a DUI.
Just like it’s illegal to operate a car while intoxicated, driving a golf cart while impaired is a criminal offense. That means in Florida, you can get arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced for a golf cart DUI. In addition, anyone who consumes alcohol, smokes marijuana or takes drugs to the point of having impaired normal faculties could get a DUI.
Florida golf cart drivers should know that golf cart DUIs are becoming more prevalent. Moreover, law enforcement officers are no longer simply giving warnings; they are giving out DUIs. Here is an overview of golf cart DUIs and what to do if it happens to you.
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Can I Really Get a DUI on a Golf Cart in Florida?
Yes, anyone can get a DUI on a golf cart in Florida. Florida Statute §316.193 states that drivers are not permitted to operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If a person’s BAC is .08 or higher, they are subject to the same DUI laws and penalties as motor vehicle operators.
What Is the Definition of a “Vehicle” in Florida?
Florida Statute 316.193 defines a vehicle as “any device that can transport a person or property along a highway.” Consuming drugs or alcohol on any “vehicle” could result in a DUI. In Florida, “vehicles” are a broad definition that contains golf carts and other conveyances, including:
- Lawn mowers
- Four wheelers
- And Golf carts
Florida Golf Cart Regulations Are Cracking Down
As recreational golf cart use becomes more popular, golf cart violations are increasingly common too. As such, Florida is enforcing stricter golf cart regulations and enforcing penalties for any infractions.
Many counties in Florida are starting to follow suit with such regulations. For example, Martin County’s Sheriff’s department recently started enforcing new rules for golf cart drivers. They also launched a safety enforcement campaign to reduce golf cart violations and increase safety for community members. Locals in Martin County agree that there is a need for stricter orders regarding golf art use, especially for the safety of pedestrians on sidewalks. Another feature of the golf cart safety campaign is to encourage golf cart owners to add safety features to their carts, such as:
- Brake lights
- Turn signals
- Rearview mirrors
- And windshield wipers
Martin County is not the first to crack down on golf cart regulations. In September 2022, Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office launched Operation Ride Right. After several community members complained about golf carts and four-wheelers on the street, their campaign came abouts. Unfortunately, several accidents resulted in severe injury and even death. Consequently, the Okeechobee Sheriff’s department stated that they were forced to stop the leniency on golf carts and other vehicles that committed civil or criminal infractions.
It can be frustrating for golf cart operators to receive a DUI, but in the end, it’s for public safety. What’s more, in the past, a drunk or drugged golf cart operator might have gotten off with a simple warning. But now, they can face fines, jail time, and have their golf carts towed away.
Is It Legal to Operate a Golf Cart on Pinellas County Streets?
It depends on whether or not the golf cart meets the requirements to qualify as a “low-speed vehicle” (LSV) or a “neighborhood electric vehicle” (NEV).
A golf cart that does not meet the specifications to be an LSV can only be operated in designated golf cart zones. However, people can drive LSVs and NEVs on any roadway with a speed limit under 35mph. They must also be registered to operate legally on the streets.
What Penalties Can I Face for a Florida Golf Cart DUI?
Depending on the circumstances of your violation, you could potentially face fines, jail times, and impoundment or immobilization of the vehicle. In addition, there are specific conditions for your release if you get arrested for a golf cart DUI. In essence, the consequences of a golf cart DUI in Florida are the same as a regular DUI.
Under Florida Statutes section 316.193, the DUI fine schedule is as follows:
- First offense: fine of $983
- With BAC of .15 or above or a minor in the golf cart: $1518
- Second offense: $1518
- With BAC of .15 or higher, or if there was a minor in the vehicle: $2558
- Third offense (within ten years of the second offense): $2558
- With BAC .15 or if a minor was present: $4558
- Third offense (more than ten years after the second offense): $2558
- With BAC of .15 or higher or a minor present in the golf cart:$4558
- Fourth offense and beyond: $3015
Can I Lose My License if I Get a Golf Cart DUI in Florida?
Yes, your license will be suspended if you get a golf cart DUI. The penalties for DUI are clearly outlined in Florida’s DUI Statute (Fla. Stat. §316.193). One of those penalties is license suspension.
If you are a first-time offender, your license will be suspended for 6 months if:
- Your BAC is over .08 while operating the golf cart
License suspension for first-time offenders is 1 year if:
- You refuse to take a breathalyzer test or urine test.
More People Are Getting Arrested for Golf Carts DUIs in Florida
With the growth of golf cart violations, Florida Sheriff’s Department, like Pinellas County, is starting to enforce stricter rules. As a result, more people are facing charges. Law enforcement officers know that if you’re driving a golf cart at night, there’s a high probability you’ve probably been drinking. DUI cases are pretty straightforward for police and sheriffs to prove.
Law enforcement officers can initiate a DUI investigation if there is evidence of alcohol or drug use. Likewise, if a golf cart operator commits a traffic violation or infraction, they can get pulled over. For instance, operating an unregistered golf cart is a common offense that we see nowadays.
Golf cart DUIs are most frequently the result of an accident, traffic violation, or complaint. And often community members who witness reckless horseplay or obvious drunk driving on a golf cart will call the police. If that’s the case, law enforcement will respond and arrive on the scene. They can then observe and make a call as to whether they need to launch a DUI investigation. In other cases, law enforcement might see a golf cart operator driving in an unauthorized area. That could prompt the officer to further investigate and find alcohol or drugs.
If a golf cart driver is clearly intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, the officer will almost always launch a DUI investigation. Such an investigation includes:
- The law enforcement officer’s observations and assessments
- Witness accounts
- An admission or statement from the golf cart operator
- Sobriety tests and breathalyzer tests
Contact a Florida Golf Cart DUI Lawyer Today
If you were arrested and charged with a golf cart DUI in Florida, our legal team is here to help you. We have the experience and the resources to create a winning defense strategy in your favor. While the legal repercussions for golf cart DUIs are becoming firmer, prosecutors still don’t consider such offenses as serious as regular vehicle DUIs.
We might be able to reduce your sentence and penalties or get your case dismissed altogether. Either way, we are in your corner, fighting to clear your name.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation. Then we can discuss your legal options and decide on the best next move.