First DUI Offense in Florida - DUI Penalties and more

A DUI charge in the State of Florida is an extremely complicated offense that most people should try to avoid at all costs. The Orlando, Kissimmee, and Longwood area is no different. Even for first time offenders, a Florida DUI charge is a criminal offense that can result in license suspension, fines, and even jail time.

Driving under the influence of  alcohol or drugs is considered a misdemeanor criminal offense in the state of Florida. For adults, a certain amount of alcohol is permitted. The legal limit for those 21 years old and over is a BAC of .08%. For a first offense, illegal levels of intoxication are divided into breath or blood alcohol limits above .08% and  those above 1.5%. A DUI for being under the influence of drugs is applicable when it can be proven that drugs impaired the ability to drive.

A DUI arrest is the first step in a Florida DUI case. It begins with either an observation of suspicious driving habits or at a sobriety checkpoint. Once an officer has reason to suspect that a driver is impaired, he or she will ask to conduct a field sobriety test. If the driver fails the field sobriety test, or refuses it, they are taken into custody and their license is immediately suspended.

While in jail,  the driver is given a breath test to determine the blood alcohol content. He or she may also be given a blood or urine test, depending on the details of why they were arrested in the first place. Within 24 hours they will either be released or have their bond set by the courts.

One interesting facet of Florida DUI law, is the administrative suspension. Whenever someone is arrested for driving under the influence, their license is immediately suspended. This is done pending conviction of a DUI offense. The license is suspended at the jail during the arrest procedures. Defendants are given a 10 day pass which allows them to drive,  but interestingly enough, most DUI offenses also include a 10 day vehicle impound. During that ten day period, those accused of a DUI are entitled to an administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. If the hearing is successful, the pre-conviction suspension is dropped.

The DUI court process is separate from the administrative procedures, although similar defenses might be used. The criminal proceedings begin with  an arraignment. At the arraignment, the defendant is informed of the charges, and given an opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty, or no-contest.

Following the plea, defendants without representation are given the chance to have a public defender. If a private lawyer is involved,  a process called discovery occurs. Discovery is an opportunity for the lawyer to discuss the evidence of the case and possibly have it dismissed in pre-trial.

Pre-trial is basically the opportunity to reach a resolution before going to a jury based trial. A criminal defense lawyer can either try to plea bargain or have the case dismissed in the pre-trial. If it does continue past the pre-trial, a motion hearing can occur to prevent certain evidence from being heard at the trial.

The sentences for a first time DUI offense in Florida are quite serious. Some of the things to expect are:

  • Fees from $500- $2000
  • Possible Community Service
  • Vehicle Impoundment
  • Jail time of up to 9 months
  • 6 month to a year license revocation

This is in addition to the permanent effects of having a criminal charge on your record.

A Florida DUI charge can be beat with the correct type of knowledge. Most of the time individuals are not able to successfully fight both the administrative hearing and the criminal case on their own. Even with the help of a public defender, it is unlikely that someone accused of a DUI will have the best luck without professional representation. If you or someone close to you have been arrested for a DUI in Orlando, Longwood or Kissimmee Florida, contact our office for the help you will need.

Author: Amir Ladan
A former assistant state attorney for Orange/Osceola Counties, Amir has handled thousands of cases and dozens of trials, ranging from DUI and traffic offenses to murder, in both adult and juvenile court.

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