Even though many first offense DUI charges are misdemeanors, it remains a serious offense, and penalties are typically strict. In most states, a misdemeanor DUI conviction will carry heavy fines, the potential for jail time, mandatory alcohol abuse education and administrative penalties relating to your driver's license. In Florida, sentencing in many ways is tied to the severity of your offense.
Fines and jail time
In Florida, first offense DUI fines and jail time requirements are determined by the nature of your DUI arrest. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is extremely elevated, for example, penalties will likely be stiffer. A BAC reading between .08 and .149 will carry fines of between $500 and $1,000, and a BAC level over .15 will carry fines of between $1,000 and $1,500 for a first offense.
The state of Florida, like all states, also observes mandatory compliance laws when it comes to chemical tests. If you are stopped under suspicion of driving under the influence and refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you will likely face stiffer penalties and fewer options.
Community service and license suspension
A first offense DUI charge in Florida will come with a mandatory 50 hour community service sentence. Additional fines may also be attached to the hours allotted. Consult with an experienced DUI attorney to see what you can expect.
Provided that your vehicle is not the sole mode of transportation for your family, it will be impounded for 10 days following your arrest. Your license will also be suspended, and you will have to pursue temporary licensing options through the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Again, the help of an experienced DUI attorney is beneficial when dealing with both the criminal and the administrative penalties you will face.
Florida law also mandates educational requirements for first-offense DUI convictions. If convicted, you will have to enroll in and attend an alcohol awareness and responsibility program and submit to a psychosocial evaluation. You are also subject to probation if convicted, and a first-offense DUI carries a maximum probationary period of one year.
Remember that while .08 is the legal limit to drive in every state, you can be arrested for DUI if your BAC level is under the legal limit. If officers determine that you are too intoxicated to drive despite a BAC level that registers below .08, you can still be arrested and charged with DUI. If you're going to be drinking, it's best to avoid operating a vehicle. Stay with friends, designate a driver or take public transportation.
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