With thousands of travelers visiting Florida for vacations and even more residents, Florida laws contain harsh penalties for anyone caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs on roads and highways throughout the state. In the event that a blood, urine, or breath analysis reveals that a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is over.08, the individual will be arrested on a DUI charge, sometimes known as DWI. The majority of offenders charged with DUI are facing their first offense, but the consequences for even a singular DUI charge are very serious.
Any drunk driving arrest will immediately suspend the driving privileges of the alleged offender. This suspension is an administrative process through the DMV and is separate from the criminal proceedings. The outcome of the criminal trial could lead to an extension of this suspension, but offenders can request a hearing to have their driving ability re-instated while awaiting their court date.
On top of paying court fees, an offender faces a serious potential drain on their wallet. Florida Statute 316.193(2)(a)-(b) states that a first DUI conviction carries a minimum $500 fine, which is increased to $1000 if the driver’s BAC was found to be over 0.16. These are the minimum amounts, which could be increased to more than twice these amounts.
Offenders also face the real potential for time in prison. Even a first DUI conviction could result in up to 6 months of jail time, although a BAC of.016 could increase this sentence to 9 months. A probation sentence may be assigned in lieu of or in conjunction with a prison sentence. If no jail time is assigned, the offender typically will face 12 months of probation, with a possibility of early dismissal or probation after 6 months if certain conditions are met. An attorney can be key in negotiating the terms of prison or probation for defendants, as these arrangements vary between cases.
Community service is also a mandatory factor in sentencing DUI charges. For a first drunk driving conviction, the offender must serve at least 50 hours of community service, or the hours can be bought out for $10 each. Buying out hours typically may only be applied to half of the sentenced hours in Florida courts, however.
In many situations, the offender’s vehicle will be immobilized or impounded for at least 10 days. This amount cannot be served concurrently with jail time, meaning that if you serve a sentence and are then released, you will then be unable to drive your vehicle for 10 days. Florida Statute Section 316.193(6) does list some exceptions to this rule, including if the vehicle is driven solely by other employees of a business owned by the offender.
A mandatory term of license suspension also applies to DUI charges. For a first offense in Florida, this suspension may last from 6 to 12 months. Some individuals may be eligible for a hardship license, which allows driving abilities for those in certain situations after completing DUI School and an alcohol treatment program.
With so many potential penalties on the line, it is easy to see that even a first DUI offense can greatly disrupt any person’s life. These consequences become even more severe for subsequent offenses, but Florida law is meant to deter both citizens and visitors from driving under the influence of alcohol even once. No matter how inconvenient it may seem to avoid driving after a drinking situation, it is worth it to avoid the risk of harming others and the potential threats to your future.