If you have been charged with a DUI for the first time, you may have questions. An important one, which can weigh heavily on your conscience and cause a great deal of anxiety, is if you will be served with jail or prison time if you are convicted. The answer depends on the severity of your case and the individual circumstances that led to your DUI.
Given that Florida is a zero-tolerance state when it comes to drunk driving charges, the consequences for a first DUI offense can often be quite severe. It is important to know the specific penalties you may face if you are charged. Consulting with a qualified DUI attorney is the best way to make sure you know what you can do and how likely jail time might be if you are convicted.
If you have been charged with a DUI, contact The Law Place now to find out your options. Our firm has a combined experience of 75 years, representing clients just like you. We offer an excellent attorney-client relationship so you can move forward confidently in the fight against your DUI charges.
Our telephone operators are available to take your call 24/7. Organize a free consultation with our team today.
Call The Law Place now at (941) 444-4444.
What Is a DUI?
If you have been pulled over for drinking, or are afraid of what might happen if you are, it is important to understand what a DUI is and what qualifies as one.
DUI (Driving Under the Influence) is a criminal charge associated with drinking and driving. In Florida, this is legally the same as a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), a term that may be used interchangeably with DUI.
If you are pulled over, and a police officer suspects you of being under the influence of alcohol, they may ask you to perform a series of tests to prove it. Under the law, you do not have to comply with these tests, although doing so will result in an automatic license suspension and your car being impounded.
Roadside tests can include a coordination exam, a verbal test, and most importantly, a breathalyzer test, all of which are examples of a field sobriety test. A breathalyzer is a device that you blow air into, which measures your BAL (Breath Alcohol Level). BAL is important in measuring how impaired you might be and provides legal evidence for your potential conviction. Blood tests also measure BAC (Blood Alcohol Content).
With BAC or BAL levels of .01 – .07 a person is considered able to operate a motor vehicle. BAC of .08 and over is above the legal limit and considered drunk driving. If you a blow a .08, expect to be arrested and charged with a DUI.
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How Is Jail Time Determined for a First Time DUI Offense?
When you are arrested for DUI, you will likely be put in jail until your BAC has been reduced to none. This can be just a couple hours or the entire day, depending on how much an individual has been drinking. Police will take you off the road if it has been determined you are driving impaired.
Once your court case has been decided, incarceration for your first-time DUI is at the discretion of the court. Usually, the first offense with no criminal record will not result in imprisonment. However, the severity of the incident will shape the ruling of the court. If your DUI resulted in property damage, serious injury, or death, the court would not look favorably upon you. Your criminal record, character testimony, and severity of the situation will all come into the court’s consideration when determining the extent of consequences for your DUI conviction.
If prison or jail time is determined by the court, the time can vary depending on the severity of your case. According to the State of Florida, a first conviction will not result in more than 6 months imprisonment. If your BAC is above .15, you will not receive more than 9 months. Multiple convictions will result in longer imprisonment and possibly a permanent suspension of your license. If your BAC or BAL was .15 or above, the consequences under Florida law are more severe.
Although a jail sentence is unlikely for a first DUI offense, DUI charges can be more severe if the following has occurred as a result of reckless drunk driving behavior:
- Serious Injury
- $500 or more in property damage
- Endangerment of a child or minor
The likelihood of jail time grows exponentially if DUI offenders’ actions resulted in these consequences. For example, if you have a BAC of .08 and you are driving your child to school, you may be sentenced to jail time, even if there was no accident or property damage. The court views the potential for harm in this circumstance to be serious enough that you may receive a jail sentence for your DUI conviction.
It is also important to note the difference between jail time and prison time. Jail is typically viewed as a processing facility, where people awaiting trial or serving a shorter time for crime are held. Prison is where people go after they are convicted of a felony, and they are supposed to serve a longer sentence. If you are served a DUI conviction, it is highly unlikely you will be transferred to prison unless it is your third or fourth conviction.
What Are Some Other Consequences of a DUI?
Jail is not the only potential consequence of a DUI. You may be sentenced to an alcohol treatment program required to be carried out in full. These can include Alcoholics Anonymous or more modern SMART recovery programs as a valid method of treatment. If an individual fails to complete the program, the court may issue a summons in which their more severe sentences are determined.
License suspension is also likely. A minor will have their license suspended immediately, but anyone over-21 may have until they are served their DUI conviction by the court. Hardship can be applied for, but this requires extenuating factors to be outlined, such as work or familial obligation.
How Long Does It Take for DUI Charges to Be Filed?
Florida DUI cases can vary in the time they take to process through the court system, depending on your zip code.
In rural and suburban areas, a misdemeanor or felony DUI case may take anywhere from three to six months. This includes the processing, court case, and sentencing.
In urban metro-areas, the time goes up significantly. Places like Miami-Dade, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Orlando may take up to a year to process a DUI charge due to the high population density and prevalence of DUI cases. Felony cases especially will take a longer time to process as the legal requirement for a speedy trial is a greater amount of time.
Having a qualified lawyer to aid in your DUI defense will help reduce the amount of time this takes. The Law Place will help with the paperwork and court processing that would take up precious time.
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What Happens If Someone Under 21 Gets Their First DUI?
When a minor or under-21 gets arrested for a DUI, the consequences can be severe.
Having a BAC of .02 as a minor in Florida is considered driving under the influence, as persons aged under-21 are not allowed to be drinking in the first place. Florida employs a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to underage drinking and driving. These drivers will be served with a license suspension effective immediately for 6 months. If the individual refuses field sobriety tests, their license is suspended for up to 1 year. Fines typically remain the same, but there is little to no leeway in the eyes of the court for underage drunk driving.
Jail time is similarly unlikely for a minor convicted of a first-offense DUI but still lies at the discretion of the court.
Will a DUI Go on My Record?
It is very important to know that a DUI in the state of Florida will be applied to your record for 75 years. That is essentially your entire life. Even for a first offense, your DUI will continue to be attached to your file.
If a minor is convicted of DUI, it is possible to have this record expunged. However, Florida’s zero-tolerance policy is extremely strict when it comes to underage drinking, and it requires an expert attorney for expunging records.
A DUI conviction can have serious consequences on your personal and professional life. Criminal background checks will pull up a DUI and can affect your job prospects in the future. The best way to prevent this from happening is to never drink and drive. The second-best way is to hire The Law Place criminal defense attorneys and get the best legal advice on the market.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My DUI?
Yes, you do need a lawyer for your DUI. You have the right to request a State defense attorney if you cannot afford to enlist the aid of a private law firm. At The Law Place, we recommend hiring your attorney as State-appointed lawyers are often overworked and underpaid, resulting in legal aid that is lacking.
Having a lawyer from The Law Place ensures you the best possible defense for your first-time DUI. Otherwise, you risk greater consequences for your mistake. Avoiding jail is our top priority for DUI offenders, and our experienced lawyers will do everything in our power to help you minimize the consequences of your first DUI.
Hire a Qualified DUI Attorney at The Law Place Today
Have you been involved in a drunk driving incident? Is it your first DUI, and are you unsure of what to do?
Contact The Law Place today to schedule a free consultation with our qualified DUI criminal defense attorneys. Our entire team works together on every case. We will leave no stone unturned in your drunk driving case. Our thorough examination of your arrest, processing, and your public record will provide the evidence necessary to defend your case to the greatest extent possible.
Don’t leave it entirely up to the court to decide your fate. Schedule your free consultation with a DUI defense attorney today.
Call The Law Place today at (941) 444-4444.