If you have been arrested for a first-offense DUI, you should know that you are facing a misdemeanor charge. Just because the offense is a misdemeanor does not mean that you should take it less seriously. A conviction — even for a misdemeanor — can have serious effects on your insurance rates, job eligibility and criminal record.
At the Whited Law Firm, we represent people who have been accused of drunk driving in Florida. Using years of experience, our team of veteran attorneys focuses exclusively on DUI defense, so our clients get strong defenses that take into account every aspect of the law. We have handled thousands of drunk driving cases, and our founding partner, Fleming Whited, literally wrote the book on DUI in Florida.
Under Florida law, a person is guilty of driving under the influence if the person is driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle within this state while under the influence of alcohol or any chemical substance set in § 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893 of the Florida Statutes when affected to the extent that the person's normal faculties are impaired or the person has a blood or breath alcohol level of 0.08 or greater.
The way the law is written, it applies to both alcohol and drugs. You can be charged with misdemeanor DUI no matter what substance influences you — from beer to wine to marijuana or prescription drugs — as long as your normal faculties are impaired.
A first offense is punishable as follows: fines of $500 to $1,000; driver's license revocation of six months to one year; imprisonment of not more than six months; 10-day vehicle impoundment or immobilization; mandatory reporting probation not to exceed one year. Mandatory conditions of probation include attendance at an approved alcohol safety education class with a substance abuse evaluation and any treatment recommended, not less than 50 hours of community service.
A second offense (including any out-of-state convictions), if the date of offense is outside five years of the prior conviction, is punishable as follows: fines of $1,000 to $2,000; driver's license revocation for six months to one year; imprisonment of not more than nine months; 30-day vehicle impoundment or immobilization; mandatory reporting probation with the same conditions.
If the date of the offense for the second conviction is within five years of the date of the prior conviction, the person is subject to a mandatory 10-day jail term and a 60-month driver's license revocation.
A third offense (including out-of-state convictions), if the date of offense is outside 10 years of a prior conviction is punishable as follows: fines of $2,000 to $4,000; driver's license revocation of six months to one year; imprisonment of not more than one year; 90-day vehicle impoundment or immobilization; mandatory reporting probation with the same conditions.
If the date of the offense for a third conviction is within five years of the date of the prior conviction, the person is subject to a mandatory 30-day jail term and a 120-month driver's license revocation. This also qualifies as a felony DUI.
These penalties are often affected by the facts of the case. Each situation is different, so it is critical to talk with a lawyer about your situation after a Florida drunk driving arrest, especially if certain factors are involved:
Multiple offenses: Even though individual offenses are misdemeanors, they may be charged as felonies if you are convicted more than once. If the date of the offense for the third conviction is within 10 years of the date of a prior conviction, the person can be prosecuted for felony DUI.
High BAC or young people in the vehicle: If the person is convicted and has an alcohol level of .20 or more or there was a person 18 years or younger in the vehicle, fines are doubled and the maximum imprisonment for a first offense is nine months and 12 months for a second offense.
Injuries: A DUI causing non-serious injury is a first-degree misdemeanor, but drunk driving accidents are still serious matters. If the accident victim's condition worsens, you could be facing felony charges. The best way to protect your interests is to seek a lawyer's counsel before taking action.
If you have been accused of driving under the influence, talking with a lawyer is critical. Schedule an appointment with one of our Florida DUI attorneys by calling 386-253-7865 or completing our online contact form. We offer free, confidential and non-judgmental consultations to answer your questions and discuss the options available to you. We welcome your call.