Golf Cart DUIs in Florida: Warnings Are Ending, and Arrests Are Coming

Florida’s criminal defense attorneys are all too familiar with a growing question: can you get a DUI while driving a golf cart? In Florida, the answer is yes. You can get arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) on a golf cart. In other words, Driving under the influence in Florida is a crime, just the same as operating a car.

A golf cart operator who consumes alcoholic beverages, smokes marijuana, or takes controlled substances to the point of impairing normal faculties can get a DUI.

With the increasing popularity of golf carts in Florida, DUIs are becoming more common. The days of being given a warning in Florida are over.

Can You Really Get a DUI on a Golf Cart in Florida?

Yes, you really can get a DUI on a golf cart in Florida. Under Fla. Stat. §316.193, drivers should not operate a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a BAC of .08 or higher. The statute specifies that the DUI law is applicable to vehicle operators beyond just motor vehicles.

What Is Considered a Vehicle in Florida?

Under Florida Statute 316.193, a vehicle is any device that can transport a person or property along a highway. This is a broad definition that includes golf carts under the umbrella term “vehicle.” Other types of transport that can be considered a “vehicle” by definition include:

  • Bicycles
  • Lawn mowers
  • ATVs
  • Golf Carts
  • Mopeds

This means a person could technically receive a DUI on any of the above modes of transportation.

Stricter Regulations Coming For Florida Golf Cart Drivers

Florida is Cracking Down on Golf Cart Violations. Many counties in Florida are beginning to enforce stricter rules for golf cart riders. For example, Martin County’s Sheriff’s department recently launched a safety enforcement campaign targeting golf carts and other low-speed vehicles. Locals say that it’s to combat the rise in golf cart infractions, such as people driving them on the sidewalks, which is not only unsafe but also a civil infraction.

The campaign also suggests that golf carts need the same safety features as cars, including:

  • Headlights
  • Brake lights
  • Turn signals
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Windshield wipers

This is true now more than ever due to the rise of golf cart violations. Golf cart drivers just aren’t following the rules of the road. The local sheriff’s office said they understand people will be frustrated but hope that everyone understands it’s for safety in the end. With the new safety measures, golf cart traffic violators can face fines or have their carts towed.

Are Golf Carts Street Legal in Pinellas County?

Florida state law distinguishes between “golf carts” and “Low-Speed Vehicles (LSV).” LSVs are also known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs).

For golf carts to be street legal, drivers must operate them in designated golf cart zones. However, LSVs and NEVs are street-legal on all Pinellas County roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or below. But, they have to be registered!

What Are the Consequences of a Golf Cart DUI in Florida?

The consequences of a golf cart DUI are the same as a regular DUI. Depending on the circumstances, one could face fines, jail time, impoundment or immobilization of the vehicle, and specific conditions for release.

As per section 316.193 of the Florida Statutes, here is the DUI fine schedule:

  • First conviction: $983
    • If BAC is .15 or higher or there was a minor in the golf cart: $1518
  • Second conviction: $1518
    • If BAC is .15 or higher or there was a minor in the vehicle: $2558
  • Third conviction (if within ten years of the second offense): $2558
    • If BAC was above .15 or a minor was present: $4558
    • Third conviction (more than ten years after the second offense): $2558
    • If BAC was .15 or higher or with a minor in the vehicle: $4558
  • Fourth conviction or more: $3015

Can I Lose My License if I Get a DUI on a Golf Cart?

Yes. You will lose your license if you get a golf cart DUI. Florida’s DUI Statute (Fla. Stat. §316.193) clarifies the penalty for all DUIs. One of those penalties is a mandatory driver’s license suspension. For first time offenders, that suspension is for 6 months if you blow over the legal limit and 1 year if you refuse.

Do People Actually Get Arrested for DUI on Golf Carts in Florida?

Yes. With the new crackdown by Sheriff’s Departments like the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, people are being charged with all kinds of violations. Law enforcement officers know that if you are driving around at night in a golf cart, the chances are that you have been drinking. These cases are simple for them to prove.

Golf cart operators are increasingly committing traffic violations and infractions. For example, many operators are driving unregistered golf carts. If there is any evidence of alcohol or drug use, an officer may initiate a DUI investigation.

The most common golf cart DUIs occur after an accident, traffic violation, or complaint. It’s not uncommon for someone to call the police after seeing someone horseplaying and seemingly drunk driving a golf cart in a public place. When the police respond and arrive on-site, they will make observations and assess whether it’s necessary to launch a DUI investigation. If they see the golf cart operator is clearly intoxicated or appears to have been consuming alcohol, they can launch an investigation. A DUI investigation includes:

  • The officer’s observations and analysis
  • Witness statements
  • The golf cart operator’s statement or admission
  • Field sobriety tests

If an arrest is made, then the officer will give a breathalyzer test.

In other cases, police might see a golf car operating in an unauthorized area. Then, if the officer smells alcohol, they can conduct an investigation. Most often, the arrest is the result of a golf cart operator violating a traffic law or getting the police’s attention with reckless behavior.

Contact a Florida Golf Cart DUI Lawyer Today

If you were arrested for driving a golf cart while intoxicated in Florida, our legal team could help devise a defense strategy to get your favorable case results. Whether it’s a reduction in your sentence and penalties or a dismissal of the case, we are here to help clear your name. The good news is that even though there are crackdowns, the prosecutors do not view these offenses as seriously as if you were in a car.

We offer a free initial case evaluation to help determine all of your legal options and the best next move. Don’t hesitate to call us – we can help get your life back on track and get your record clean.

Sean McQuaid