The Denson Firm

First-time DUI in Florida: What You Need to Know

The state of Florida is known for some of the harshest penalties when it comes to a first-time DUI (driving under the influence) offense. These penalties can significantly impact a person's career, public profile, insurance rates, and bank account. Simply put, Florida wants you to avoid drinking and driving, no matter what.

As a DUI defense lawyer in Florida, we know that life isn't so simple. If you’ve been accused of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, there could have been many well-intentioned actions behind it, or perhaps you didn't even know you were over the legal limit.

You might be wondering if you’ll go to jail and what will happen to your driving privileges. You might also be overwhelmed and scared at the prospect of losing your license after a DUI arrest. At The Denson Firm, we provide you with answers and legal representation to help you understand the legal process, navigate the DMV, know your rights, and ease your concerns.

Hiring a criminal defense attorney can help you sort through the details leading up to your arrest and determine if you have a fighting chance to take your case to trial. Even if the case against you seems cut and dry, your attorney can provide the best representation possible. We can minimize the long-term financial impact, save you from taking time off of work by appearing in court for you, and make sure that you put this behind you as quickly as possible.

What Are The DUI Laws In Florida?

In case you need additional reassurance, it's important to remind yourself that a DUI charge in Florida is just a charge – you’re not guilty or innocent yet. While you’re waiting for the courts to hear your case, arming yourself with information about Florida DUI laws can provide insight into your own situation.

What are the differences between DUI and DWI in Florida?

As a first-time DUI offender, you might wonder if there are any major differences between a DUI and a DWI in Florida. In each state, the difference comes down to a preference of wording when writing laws. The two acronyms usually mean the same thing and are used interchangeably:

DUI is the abbreviation for "Driving Under the Influence."

DWI is the abbreviation for "Driving While Intoxicated."

Florida uses the DUI abbreviation in its statutes instead of DWI. Any driver who’s believed to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be charged with the crime under Florida DUI law.

What Is the legal definition of a DUI in Florida?

In Florida, there are two ways the State can prove you were DUI.

First, you can be accused of a DUI if you were driving or in physical control of a motor vehicle while your "normal faculties" were impaired from alcohol or drug intoxication. Normal faculties include the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, make judgments, and act in emergencies. They also include, in general, the ability to perform the mental and physical acts of our daily lives. This is a judgment call by the police officer.

Also, a prosecutor will be able to prove a case of DUI if your blood alcohol content registers 0.08% or higher. Whether you consider yourself impaired or not, you're considered legally DUI when your blood alcohol content (BAC) is at least 0.08%. You can be arrested for suspicion of DUI in Florida when your BAC meets or exceeds 0.08%.

How do police officers assess a DUI if drugs are suspected?

As previously stated, you can be arrested for driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. Anyone can be in danger of getting a DUI, even if the individual is using legally prescribed drugs. The same fines, penalties, and punishments apply to a drugged driving charge as they are to a drunk driving charge.

This information may leave you wondering how the state of Florida can prove a DUI involving drugs since there’s no testing capacity that can speak to your level of impairment. There are many legal complications involved in proving the crime of drugged driving, and DUI drug cases can successfully be challenged in court by a skilled defense attorney like The Denson Firm.

Since there’s a lack of scientific research, the prosecution of drugged driving continues to develop. If a Drug Recognition Expert (a DRE) is not associated with the case, then it will be hard for the prosecution to prove that drug use was involved. Not all officers have additional training for DRE officers. When you’re dealing with the potential repercussions of a DUI conviction, a DUI defense lawyer can make all the difference between receiving a conviction or walking free.

Urine test results are often a critical part of a drug-related DUI. Because the body digests and metabolizes different drugs at different rates, these cases can be difficult for the State. It is recommended to have an attorney review any case involving a urine (or blood) test.

What Are The Minimum Penalties For A First-time DUI In Florida?

There are several first-time DUI offense penalties in Florida that an individual might face. The state often imposes administrative and criminal penalties under Florida Statute § 316.193. These types of penalties may consist of:

  • Fines and fees
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Impoundment
  • Jail or prison time
  • Community service
  • Impoundment of your car
  • DUI school
  • Alcohol evaluation and any recommended treatment

Penalties may be more severe if you were found to have a BAC greater than 0.15%, were found driving with a minor while intoxicated, or were involved in an accident. These factors can enhance the sanctions required by statute. Enhanced penalties can include jail time, larger fines, ignition interlocks, and longer driver’s license suspensions.

Fines and fees

A first-offense DUI carries a minimum fine between $500 and $1,000. However, fines for a first-time DUI can rise dramatically if there are other factors, such as death or injury, involved.

Suspended driver’s license

Your driver’s license can be suspended for six (6) months to one year if you’re arrested for driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. If you refuse to submit to a breath test, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles can extend the penalty by up to one year. Even if you aren't convicted of a DUI, the DMV can still find you at fault for not following breath laws governed through "implied consent."

Vehicle impoundment

Motorists convicted of first-offense DUIs must have their car impounded for 10 days. This is one of the few issues that is discretionary with the judge. The judge can waive the impound requirement if the impound would be a hardship to an innocent third party. Speaking with a Florida DUI lawyer can help you find relief from the impound.

Jail or prison sentence

Most first-time DUI cases do not involve any jail time. While there’s no minimum jail sentence for a first-time DUI offense in Florida, the maximum amount – if any – depends upon the details of the arrest. The maximum jail terms for a first-time offender may be up to:

  • Six (6) months for a basic DUI
  • Nine (9) months for a BAC of 0.15% or higher
  • Nine (9) months for driving with a minor
  • Up to one (1) year if property damage or physical injury occurs
  • Up to five (5) years for extreme bodily harm in an accident

How Much Does A First-time DUI In Florida Cost?

In Florida, the fines and fees for a first-time DUI offense can run between $500 and $1500, depending on the circumstances. However, when you consider all the elements of the charge, including legal defense, paying fines, and insurance hikes, the actual cost of your first DUI shoots up to around $8,000, not to mention the permanent damage done to your driving record.

Keep in mind the penalties get worse with each subsequent offense. Fines, suspension, and time behind bars are progressively more intense after the first offense.

What Is The Florida 10-day Rule For DUI Arrests?

Florida offers a unique and short time period following a DUI arrest. After an arrest, you are given 10 days to protect your driving privileges. If you do nothing during those 10 days, you are going to suffer a “hard time” suspension. That means no driving at all.

On arrest, the State of Florida will retain your physical driver’s license, which means you’ll need to use your ticket as your 10-day license. Your ticket is your license for 10 days. After those 10 days, your license will become fully or partially suspended or reinstated, and the outcome will depend upon the actions you take during the 10-day period. Hiring a lawyer to choose your best options with the DMV and save your license is highly recommended.

Again, failing to act within 10 days of your arrest will result in a suspension. Do not let this time slip by. Contact a lawyer early so you can make the necessary decisions and take the required steps to save your license.

What can cause my driver’s license to be suspended during a DUI arrest?

There are two ways in which your driver’s license can be suspended for a DUI arrest in Florida. The first is by blowing over a .08% in the Breathalyzer, and the other is by refusing to give a breath sample. When you’re arrested in Florida for a DUI, you’re given two choices – submit to a breath test or refuse the test.

Can I challenge my Florida driver’s license suspension for a first-time DUI?

The good news is that you can get a hardship license, but it’s important to keep in mind that you must act within the first 10 days of your DUI arrest, which is a short window of time. Hiring a DUI lawyer in Florida, like the Denson Firm, can help you facilitate this process.

How Do I Get A Hardship License In Florida After A First-time DUI?

Within 10 days from the date of your arrest, you can elect to have a DMV hearing or apply for a hardship license, which is also known as a restricted driving permit. This type of license is offered by the Bureau of Administrative Review. Before obtaining a hardship license, you must initially sign up for a Florida DUI school approved by the state for first-time offenders. You must also take a required examination and pay a suspension reinstatement fee and any other applicable license fees.

How do Florida hardship licenses work?

The function of a hardship license is to permit individuals to drive to work and continue to fulfill other essential obligations that require driving. So, obtaining a hardship license will require you to prove to the court or DMV that you’re responsible for the following:

  • Driving to work
  • Attending school
  • Attending church
  • Getting groceries
  • Obtaining medical care

Keep in mind a hardship license does not restore all driving rights, as you’re restricted to many conditions that define when you can leave and where you can go. Drivers who are found to be breaking the conditions of the hardship license will likely have their license privileges revoked. There are no second chances when it comes to your hardship license, so use the opportunity wisely.

Do I Need A Florida DUI Lawyer For A First-time Offense?

While you’re not required to hire a lawyer to deal with a DUI arrest, it’s a good idea to at least discuss your case with one. First-time DUI offenders in Florida who don't hire a criminal defense attorney often feel as if they could have done things differently. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

At The Denson Firm, we have over 20 years of experience defending individuals charged with drunk driving in Florida. We’ll work with you to understand the finite details of your case, from the stopping sequence to your final hearing, so you don't have to do it alone. Our DUI defense lawyer will take the time to explain the law, explain the criminal and civil processes, and outline your options. Our legal team will investigate the case that’s being built against you while collecting evidence that could exonerate your responsibility in the matter.

At The Denson Firm, we have extensive experience successfully defending people charged with first-time DUI/DWI offenses. Schedule a free initial confidential consultation with our office today.

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