You simply can’t take the risk of drinking and driving in Florida.

Any DUI offense is serious, but if you cause a traffic accident while you are driving under the influence, you could face penalties that will substantially change your life.

What constitutes driving under the influence in Florida?

What are the penalties if you are convicted, and where can you turn for help if you’re charged with DUI in this state?

Driving under the influence is a serious concern – and is considered a serious crime – in the state of Florida.

In 2016, more than 700 alcohol-and-drug-related traffic deaths were reported in this state, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and more than 3,000 people were seriously injured in alcohol-and-drug-related crashes.

In 2014, more than 40,000 arrests for driving under the influence were made by Florida law enforcement officers.

IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH DUI, WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

The first thing to understand is that if you are arrested for driving under the influence in Florida, you are going to need trustworthy and experienced legal counsel – fast.

Let a skilled Stuart DUI attorney handle your DUI case from the very beginning.

Especially if your DUI charge is a first offense, and if no one was hurt and no property was damaged, there’s a chance that a qualified DUI lawyer can have the charge reduced, or in some cases, dismissed entirely.

The second thing to understand about driving under the influence in Florida is that a DUI suspect faces both “administrative” penalties and “criminal” penalties.

In most of these cases, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will “administratively” suspend the license of any motorist arrested in Florida for driving with a blood alcohol content level at or above 0.08 percent – the “legal limit.”

The administrative driver’s license suspension is a six-month suspension, although drivers who refuse to take a DUI test may face a one-year license suspension.

Theoretically, it’s possible for someone’s driver’s license to be suspended administratively even if that person is not eventually convicted of driving under the influence by a Florida criminal court.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES IN FLORIDA FOR A FIRST DUI CONVICTION?

Every case is unique, of course, which is another reason why DUI defendants must have an attorney’s advice and representation.

If you are stopped by the police while you’re driving, and you measure a 0.08 percent or higher BAC level, you can be charged with DUI.

The criminal penalties in Florida for a first misdemeanor DUI conviction – if there are no injuries, no property damage, and no other crimes are involved – are as follows:

  • a one-year driver’s license suspension
  • up to six months in jail (or nine months if a passenger under 18 was in the vehicle or if the driver’s BAC level measured at or above 0.15 percent)
  • up to $2,000 in fines
  • installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in the offender’s personal vehicle when the driver’s license suspension is lifted

Judges in Florida order probation for all convicted DUI first-time offenders, although for a misdemeanor first conviction, the combination of probation and jail time will not exceed one year.

All convicted DUI first-time offenders must also complete at least fifty hours of community service as a condition of probation.

Most drivers convicted of driving under the influence for the first time will also have their personal vehicles impounded for ten days.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR SECOND AND THIRD DUI CONVICTIONS?

A second misdemeanor DUI conviction in Florida is punishable upon conviction by up to a year in jail, up to $4,000 in fines, and a five-year driver’s license suspension.

A third driving under the influence conviction in Florida within a ten-year period is a felony that is punishable upon conviction by up to a year in jail, up to $5,000 in fines, and a ten-year driver’s license suspension.

On top of the considerable administrative and criminal penalties for a DUI conviction in Florida, drivers must also consider the “extra-legal” consequences of a DUI conviction.

If you drive for a living, you’ll probably have to find other work, and with a recent criminal conviction, that may be difficult.

Your auto insurance rates will rise substantially after a driving under the influence conviction, and those rates will probably never go back down

If you hold a professional license in Florida as a doctor, dentist, nurse, pilot, teacher, insurance agent, or real estate agent, you must avoid a conviction for driving under the influence, because along with the criminal DUI charge, you can also face disciplinary action by your professional licensing board.

ARE “HARDSHIP” LICENSES AVAILABLE IN FLORIDA?

Some Florida motorists whose driver’s licenses have been suspended administratively or as the result of a DUI conviction will qualify for a “hardship” license that allows driving to and from work, school, court appearances, and medical appointments.

Most drivers may apply for a hardship license thirty days after the suspension begins, but if your license was suspended because you refused to take a DUI test, you must wait ninety days to apply.

If you are charged with driving under the influence in Florida, do not plead guilty, and don’t automatically assume that you’ll be convicted.

Frequently in this state, good DUI attorneys can arrange to have charges against a client reduced or completely dismissed.

For first-time offenders, Florida prosecutors sometimes offer to drop a driving under the influence charge in return for a guilty plea to the lesser charge called “wet reckless.”

CAN A DUI ATTORNEY HELP ME AVOID A CONVICTION?

No attorney can ever promise a specific outcome to any particular criminal case, but DUI attorneys in Florida are able to help about forty percent of the drivers arrested for DUI in this state avoid DUI convictions.

If you are charged with driving under the influence, a DUI attorney can review the details of the case, protect your rights, and fight aggressively for the justice you deserve.

And even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, no plea bargain is offered, and a conviction is certain in your DUI case, a DUI lawyer will advocate on your behalf for alternative or reduced sentencing.

If you’re accused of driving under the influence in Florida, your best hope for justice is fighting the charge and taking your case – as quickly as possible – to a qualified Florida DUI defense attorney.