Court Says Florida Can Revoke State Driving Privileges of Non-Resident – Silha v. Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

A DUI charge in Florida is a serious matter that can come with significant consequences. In Silha v. Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the First District Court of Appeals explains that those consequences may even extend to roads outside of the Sunshine State.

When Mr. Silha was convicted of driving under the influence in Florida in 1996, it was the third time he’d been found guilty on such an offense in the state. Silha was convicted of a fourth DUI, this time in Georgia, three years later. He was no longer living in Florida and his state driver’s license had expired at the time, but the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles nevertheless permanently revoked his driving privileges after being notified of the fourth offense. Although he was able to obtain an Arkansas driver’s license, authorities in that state later refused to renew the license based on his driving status in Florida. Silha then sued the Department in state court, seeking to force it to reinstate his driving privileges. A trial court ruled in favor of the Department, granting it summary judgment.

The First District affirmed the decision on appeal, finding that the Department properly revoked Silha’s driving privileges. Section 322.23, Florida Statute provides that “[t]he privilege of driving a motor vehicle on the highways of this state, given to a nonresident, shall be subject to suspension or revocation by the department in the same manner and for the same cause as a license issued by the department may be suspended or revoked.” In other words, the court explained, the state can limit or even prohibit a non-resident who doesn’t have a state driver’s license from driving in Florida.

The court rejected Silha’s argument that Section 322.23 authorizes action based only on driving offenses that occur within the state, and therefore didn’t apply to his Georgia DUI. Instead, the appeals court said that it interpreted the statute as allowing the Department to revoke a non-resident’s driving privileges on the basis of four DUIs, including one in another state, if the Department would also be able to revoke the license of a resident on the same grounds. Indeed, as the court pointed out, Section 322.26(1)(a), Florida Statutes (1999) clearly states that the Department “shall” permanently “revoke the license or driving privilege” of anyone convicted of a fourth DUI.

As a result, the court said the revocation of Silha’s driving privileges in Florida met the intent of the legislators who passed these and other related laws.

Whether you’re a resident or visitor, this case is a good example of just how far-reaching to effects of a DUI conviction can be. The fines and penalties for driving under the influence are severe: you could be fined thousands of dollars and ordered to pay even more in restitution in addition to having your driver’s license revoked and spending months or even years in prison. It is essential that a person charged with DUI in Florida seek the advice of an experienced attorney. The South Florida DUI defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine are experienced in handling Florida DUI cases throughout the region, including in Hialeah, Boca Raton and Pompano Beach and consistently provide vigorous defense and high quality representation.

Related blog posts:

Florida Court Reverses Felony DUI Conviction – Yacoub v. State

Florida Woman Convicted of DUI Forced to Pay More than $300,000 – Ianieri v. State

Federal Agency Recommends Lowering Drunk Driving Limit