Being cited or arrested for driving under the influence can happen to almost anyone. Most people have gotten behind the wheel after having a couple of drinks not realizing that legally they were considered impaired. In a study that was done in Florida, 2.9% of drivers self-reported that they operated a motor vehicle after drinking too much compared to a national rate of 1.9%. Florida has some of the toughest DUI penalties in the country. Here’s a quick rundown of the most frequently asked questions about getting a DUI in Florida.
This Has Never Happened to me. What Could Happen?
If this is your first DUI, there are several different possible penalties. You could get a fine, community service, probation, and/or imprisonment as well as other possible sanctions. The severity of the punishment depends on what your blood alcohol level was and other details of the incident.
After you are convicted of DUI the first time you could have to pay a fine between $500-$2000 unless your blood alcohol content is is higher than .15 or if you have a minor in the car with you. Then the minimum fine is $2,000 and it could go as high as $4,000.
First time convictions for DUI will get you at least 50 hours of community service. However, the Court will sometimes allow a buyout of community service hours at the rate of $10 per hour. With that said, the Court will usually require you to physically complete at least one-half of the ordered hours.
The law states that first-time offenders will receive no more than a year of probation.
The court has a lot of discretion when it comes to the terms of imprisonment for a DUI. You may be ordered to attend a residential alcohol or drug treatment center instead of county jail. Unless there was a minor in the car or you had a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher, you won’t receive more than 90 days in county jail.
The penalties for your second, third, or more infractions get progressively more serious. If you’re facing a DUI charge and you’ve had a DUI charge before call today so that you can get personalized advice from a DUI attorney that is based on your particular situation.
Should I take a Breathalyzer or refuse?
In Florida there is a heavy price to pay if you decide that you’re going to refuse to take a Breathalyzer. You can refuse, but if you do then it’s mandatory that your driver’s license will be suspended for 12 months. If you’re stopped for a second or third offense you could lose your license for 18 months. The only time that you won’t lose your license for refusing a breathalyzer is if the Bureau of Administrative Reviews finds that your original arrest was unlawful or that some other requirement for a valid test request was not met. Our attorneys can give you advice on whether a formal review hearing is in your best interest.
What’s a Diversion Program? Do I Qualify?
A pre-trial diversion program may be an option if your blood alcohol content level is under .15 and if it’s your first DUI arrest. If you are eligible for this option you will need to take court approved courses and possibly spend time in a residential rehab facility. You will be responsible for the cost of any required courses or treatment, plus additional fines, but if you successfully complete all of the requirements then the charges will be dropped and no DUI will show up on your record. Hillsborough County does not have a diversion program. However, it does have a similar program that will allow the charge to be reduced to a reckless driving and for the defendant to receive a withhold of adjudication on that charge.
How do I Work if I Lose my License?
If you need to drive to get to work or for another urgent reason you may be eligible to get a hardship license. For your first DUI conviction your license will be suspended for a minimum of 180 days. If you need a license so that you can drive to work because public transportation or ride sharing aren’t feasible options you can apply for a hardship license. If you are ordered to attend a rehab facility or particular courses by the court you will need to show proof that you have completed those requirements when you apply for a hardship license. You also will need to take any required exams and pay a hefty administrative fee as well as other costs.
If your hardship license is granted there will be restrictions on when and where you can drive. You may also have to have an interlock ignition device installed on your car, although this is usually not required for a first offense. If you are required to use an IID you will need to blow into it, like you would blow into a Breathalyzer, to show that you haven’t consumed any alcohol in order to start the car. If this is required you will need to pay for the IID also.
If you are arrested for DUI in Florida don’t agree to a plea before speaking to an attorney. A DUI conviction will stay on our record for 75 years in Florida, so it’s in your best interest to fight a DUI arrest. Call today for a free consultation based on your unique circumstances and find out more about how we can help you fight a DUI.