A DUI can be devastating. The criminal charge can ruin your career and social life and may even result in jail time.
If you are convicted, how the judge rules in your sentencing hearing will determine the consequences for your drunk driving incident. This all depends on the type of DUI you are charged with and whether a serious injury or property damage occurred because of your actions. License suspension is inevitable, but you may also be able to file for hardship to retain your driving privileges.
Florida is a strict no-tolerance state, which means the penalties for a DUI can be severe, even for a first offense. It is essential to understand your legal options and the process by which your potential conviction and sentencing might be served. Having a qualified DUI lawyer is an important first step in your defense.
If you have been arrested for a DUI, contact The Law Place today. Our team of experienced attorneys are experts in Florida DUI law and may be able to help you recover from this unfortunate incident with your reputation and conscience intact. We guarantee a safe space with only your best DUI defense strategy in mind.
Contact our 24/7 lines to schedule a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney and find out your legal options today.
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What Is a DUI?
Drunk driving, known as DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated), is a criminal charge brought against people operating a motor vehicle above the legal BAC limit of .08. A DUI can result in jail time, community service, and thousands of dollars in fines, among other penalties.
Police can charge you with a DUI if they can prove the impairment of your normal faculties as a result of alcohol or drugs. To do this, they use field sobriety tests that measure coordination and verbal ability and chemical tests that measure blood alcohol or breath alcohol content.
DUI is also an administrative charge put forward by the Department of Motor Vehicles. A first offense will result in an automatic 180-day license suspension, according to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. This will happen immediately from the day of your arrest, not from your sentencing. You will be able to drive to and from work for 10-days after your arrest, using your DUI ticket as a permit.
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What Types of DUI Are There?
DUI charges are either misdemeanors or felonies. The Legal Information Institute defines a misdemeanor as a crime punishable by less than twelve months in jail. First and second DUI’s are misdemeanors unless the event results in a serious injury or more than $500 in property damage. Third and fourth DUI’s are automatic felonies and carry heavier penalties if they occur within 10 years of the second offense.
While the final sentencing remains at the discretion of the judge presiding over your case, there are maximum penalties associated with various DUI charges. The fine amount, jail sentence, and other punishments after your DUI conviction will depend on the court and the nature of your offense.
Misdemeanor (First or Second DUI) Maximum Penalties
According to Florida Statute 316.193, fines and penalties for misdemeanor DUI’s include:
- Fines not less than $500 or more than $1,000 (If BAC was .15 or above or there was a minor in the vehicle, not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000).
- Not more than six months of jail sentence (nine months if the above conditions were met).
- Fines not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000 (If BAC was .15 or above or there was a minor in the vehicle, not less than $2,000 and more than $4,000).
- Not more than nine months of jail sentence (twelve months if the above conditions were met).
Felony (Third or Fourth DUI) Minimum and Maximum Penalties
According to the same statute, fines and penalties for felony DUI’s include:
- Fines not less than $2,000 or more than $5,000 (If BAC was above .15 or there was a minor in the vehicle, not less than $4,000).
- If within 10 years from second conviction, mandatory imprisonment for 30 days with at least 48 hours being consecutive.
- If more than 10 years from second conviction, not more than twelve months imprisonment.
- Fines not less than $2,000 (If BAC was above .15 or there was a minor in the vehicle, not less than $4,000).
- Not more than five years imprisonment, unless the offender is a habitual or violent felon, in which case imprisonment is up to the court’s discretion as outlined by Florida Statutes 775.084 (typically not more than fifteen years).
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What Happens at Your DUI Sentencing Hearing?
For a misdemeanor hearing, sentencing usually occurs at the same time the verdict or plea has been entered. A judge will read the sentence to the defendant, listing all the requirements of the conviction.
For a felony, a sentence is usually recommended by the probationary office. There will be a probation hearing before a sentencing hearing to determine the offender’s probationary requirements. The judge can listen to these recommendations or come up with their own sentence for you.
Judges will take the probationary office’s report, then listen to both the prosecution and the defense when coming to a decision. They will typically find a middle-ground between all three, but this is not guaranteed. Some DUI offenders may find that the court is lenient towards them, while others may think the court is acting harshly in their case.
What Do You Say to the Judge at Your Sentencing?
A judge holds all the power in your sentencing hearing. Knowing not only what to say but how to say it will be very important to mitigate the damage of your conviction. Saying the wrong thing might result in much harsher penalties against you.
Remember that a judge is human as well. They can be influenced by your words and actions.
Your attorney may advise you express the following during your sentencing hearing:
- Apologize – Say you are sorry. This may seem simple, but you would be surprised how many people don’t express remorse during their hearing. Explain how your actions have affected others and that you understand why your actions were wrong.
- Explain your circumstances – You may evoke some sympathy from the judge if there were extenuating circumstances for your DUI. For example, if you have experienced a tragedy or are actively struggling with the illness of addiction. Maybe there was an emergency or traumatic event that forced you behind the wheel after you had been drinking. Let the judge know.
- What have you learned? – Tell the judge what you may have learned about the effects of drugs or alcohol, and what you have learned about yourself in the process. Show them the steps you are taking to avoid another similar mistake from happening.
- Evidence of requirements completion – You may have certain sentencing requirements to complete before your hearing with the judge. These can include community service and drug or alcohol counseling. Evidencing the completion of these requirements may also encourage a judge to be more lenient in your sentencing. Be proactive in your treatment.
How Likely Is Jail Time for a First or Second DUI?
Whenever someone is arrested for a DUI, they will typically spend at least one night in jail after their arrest. You have to be booked and processed at the police station, which is likely where you’ll spend the night.
Generally speaking, it is very unlikely that first time DUI offenders will be sentenced with jail time. Many states have minimum jail requirements for a specific period following the arrest. Florida does not. Any jail sentence for a first offense is at the discretion of the court.
Florida law also stipulates that jail-time can be served in a residential drug or alcohol abuse center. Even if you are sentenced to imprisonment by the court, you can avoid actually spending any time in jail.
The likelihood of imprisonment increases for a second DUI offense. A judge may wish to teach you a lesson, especially if this is your second DUI conviction within five years. The chances also increase if you caused serious injury or endangered a minor in the process of your DUI.
How Long Does It Take for DUI Charges to Be Filed?
Where you live or committed the DUI offense may influence the time it takes for your case to be processed. While a sentencing hearing may only take one day, it may take up to one year to reach that point in your trial.
The average time for a misdemeanor or felony DUI in Florida is three to six months. Felony cases typically take longer than misdemeanors.
However, large metropolitan areas such as Miami-Dade or Jacksonville may take a longer period. This is because of the high population density and number of DUI cases the court may need to process. Some cases can take up to one year. Any longer and your lawyer may be able to dismiss the charges on the grounds of the rights for a speedy trial, provided by the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution.
Having a good lawyer will increase the speed of your DUI case. Contact The Law Place to find out how much time you could be spending in court for your trial.
Hire a Qualified DUI Attorney at The Law Place Today
Have you been charged with a misdemeanor or felony DUI? Are you unsure of what the sentence might be if you are convicted?
Don’t leave everything up to the court. Contact The Law Place today to schedule a free consultation to go over your options with a qualified DUI attorney. We have over 75 years of combined experience and can help you get the best sentence possible. Our goal is to have your case thrown out entirely, but if that isn’t feasible, we will do everything in our power to reduce penalties as much as possible.
Protect yourself with the help of our qualified DUI attorneys and get the best legal advice on the market.
Call The Law Place today at (888) 224-6114.