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DUI first offense Penalties in Florida

Written by:Julian Stroleny PortraitJulian Stroleny
Photo of a Man Drinking Alcohol while Driving

Imagine being pulled over for a DUI in Florida. The police shackle you with handcuffs and stick you in their car. Your entire future is in doubt. Fortunately, with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, all is not lost. You could have the charge reduced or even dismissed — but you must act quickly! Even for a first-time DUI offense, the consequences can be severe. 

An award-winning DUI attorney at Stroleny Law, P.A., can help you navigate the justice system and defend your rights along the way. Julian Stroleny Attorney at Law is a skilled, accomplished DUI attorney named a Super Lawyers Rising Star from 2019 to 2023. Attorney Stroleny was also named an AV Preeminent attorney in 2022 by Martaindale-Hubble. 

For a confidential legal consultation about your DUI charge, speak to Stroleny Law, P.A., today by calling (786) 481-4129. 

How Florida Defines DUI

Florida DUI laws are strict. Driving under the influence is a severe criminal offense. You may be charged with a DUI in Florida if you drive or have actual physical control of a vehicle when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or higher or if you’re under the influence of drugs. 

The statute for DUI offenses has aggravating factors that can lead to more penalties. You could be charged with a more severe crime if your BAC is .15% or higher, you damaged property, you caused severe bodily injury or killed someone, or someone under 18 was in your motor vehicle.

First Offense DUI Penalties

Florida DUI penalties are severe. You can be charged with a first DUI offense for driving under the influence if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% or higher. For a first conviction, you may receive up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. However, if a minor was in the car or your BAC was .15% or higher, you could receive nine months in jail.

For a first DUI offense, you may also get up to a year of probation, 50 hours of community service, and a six-month driver’s license revocation. A license suspension is a huge hassle for most people. If you don’t submit to a breath or blood test, your driver’s license is automatically suspended for up to one year. Your vehicle also will be impounded for 10 days for a first DUI conviction. If you had a higher BAC, you could get up to one year of driver’s license suspension.

You also will have to complete a substance abuse program for a first DUI offense, attend DUI school, and undergo a professional substance abuse evaluation. If the program refers you for further treatment, you must complete it. Not completing the program will lead to your license being suspended. You have to pay for the cost of the substance abuse course and evaluation out of pocket. 

Being convicted of a DUI in Florida can have a significant impact on your life in other ways. You could have to pay more for your insurance liability coverage. Setting up a DMV hearing immediately after your DUI charge is vital. Attorney Stroleny knows criminal defense law and can help you regain your license pending the outcome of the DUI case.

Prior DUI Conviction

If you have a second DUI conviction, you will face more severe penalties. A second DUI will result in up to nine months in jail and a $1,000 to $2,000 fine, and you will be required to have an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. Such devices cost hundreds of dollars. 

If you have a third DUI, this is a third-degree felony if it was less than 10 years since your last conviction. A fourth or subsequent DUI conviction is always a felony, regardless of how much time has passed. 

If your DUI causes serious bodily injury, you may receive a $5,000 fine and up to five years behind bars. Vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony. You may receive a $10,000 fine and get four to 15 years in prison and up to 15 years of probation. 

Whether it is a first-time or subsequent offense, you need a skilled DUI attorney right away. Prior DUI convictions also cause serious problems, but your defense lawyer can make all the difference.

DUI Legal Defenses and Strategies

Beating a first-time DUI charge in Florida is no easy feat. Your criminal defense attorney will need to convince the jury that you were not driving or were not drunk. Also, your attorney might get critical evidence thrown out, making the case impossible to prove. Some potential DUI defenses and strategies include: 

Suppression Defense

One of the most common DUI defenses is asking the court to exclude critical evidence. Your criminal defense attorney can motion to suppress evidence under certain circumstances. This means there is a legal reason to make it reasonable to ask for specific evidence to be omitted. An experienced drunk driving attorney will look for any reason to challenge any DUI evidence the prosecutor offers. 

Affirmative Defense

This can be risky and is not always recommended; making an affirmative defense means admitting that you were intoxicated. The defense in this situation means proving that you had no other option but to drive under the influence. Common affirmative defenses are: 

  • Necessity: If you were fleeing a natural disaster, or there was domestic violence or a medical emergency 
  • Duress: The DUI happened because of the threat of harm or death from someone
  • Entrapment: The DUI occurred when an undercover police officer convinced you that you could drive after having drinks. This defense is often used in drug sales and possession cases
  • Mistaken fact: This could apply if you received drinks that you thought did not contain alcohol or there was an unanticipated reaction to a prescription drug
  • Involuntary intoxication: Usually only applies if the person was given a date rape drug

Negation Defense

Negation defenses aim to call into question the elements of a DUI the state must prove. These are that you were driving or controlling the vehicle, you did so while under the influence, and your ability to drive was impaired by alcohol. Developing a defense based on negating one or all of these critical elements may be possible. 

Attorney Stroleny can also negotiate for a plea bargain, if possible, and potentially challenge the traffic stop and sobriety test results.  

Getting Your Driver’s License Back After a DUI Offense

A serious problem with a drunk driving conviction is losing your driving privileges for six to 12 months. In many cases, you might be able to apply for a hardship driver’s license. Receiving a hardship license requires you to prove that you completed your DUI program, assuming the court required you to attend. 

You also can wait until the revocation period is over to get your license reinstated. However, you need to prove that you enrolled in a DUI program or have a certificate of completion. If you don’t complete the DUI class within 90 days of your license being reinstated, your driver’s license will be canceled. Getting your license back also requires you to pay revocation reinstatement, administrative, and license fees. 

Why It’s Important to Hire a Skilled DUI Attorney 

One of the reasons hiring a skilled DUI lawyer is so important is that a DUI conviction will stay on your record for 75 years. The record cannot be sealed or expunged if the DUI charge leads to a conviction. If you have prior convictions, having a good attorney is essential. 

One option your attorney can pursue is the Back on Track program in Miami-Dade County. Florida law allows you to complete an educational program instead of being convicted for first-time offenses. If you qualify and complete the program, the DUI charge may be converted to reckless driving. However, it must be your first drunk driving arrest, and there are other qualifications: 

  • There were no accidents or injuries
  • No minor children were in the vehicle
  • No open containers were in the car
  • You cannot have more than one previous nonviolent felony or two prior misdemeanor convictions
  • You cannot have completed more than one previous diversion program
  • You must not have had a suspended license when arrested for drunk driving

Speak to an Experienced DUI Defense Attorney Now

Are you facing a DUI first offense in Florida? Being charged with a first-time DUI is a serious matter that requires a robust criminal defense. If you are convicted, you could go to jail, pay heavy fines, and be stuck with a criminal record that wreaks havoc on your life.That’s why you should contact Stroleny Law, P.A., today. Attorney Julian Stroleny has over 10 years of experience and has achieved favorable case results for hundreds of clients charged with a first-time DUI. He was named a 2022 Client Champion by Martindale-Hubble and has a perfect 10.0 rating from Avvo. To get started on your DUI case, contact Stroleny Law, P.A., today at (786) 481-4129 for legal assistance.

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