First DUI Offense in Florida

Every driver’s worst nightmare is seeing flashing blue lights in their rearview mirror. Getting pulled over for a suspected driving under the influence (DUI) offense in Florida can result in harsh penalties if you are convicted. 

Obtaining criminal defense after getting arrested for DUI is crucial. A defense attorney who specializes in DUI cases can analyze the details of your arrest, determine if there were any procedural errors or violations by police, and build a defense to clear your name. As Florida’s legal system can be confusing and nuanced, a defense attorney can guide you through the process and ensure your rights are protected. 

Anyone facing criminal penalties for a South Florida DUI charge should be aware of the charge and its potential penalties, along with defense strategies that can help fight the case. 

Palm Beach County DUI Attorney 

If you’ve recently been arrested for a DUI offense in Palm Beach County, make it your priority to contact a defense attorney. Florida is known for its steep DUI penalties. If convicted, you could face serious consequences that can haunt you for years. Don’t let a DUI affect your future—contact Ian Goldstein Law and work on building a defense to your case. Our firm represents those in need of criminal defense in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Martin County, and St. Lucie County. Call our office at (561) 600-0950 for a free consultation today. 

What is Under the Influence? 

The term “driving under the influence” (DUI) is used to describe the offense of operating a vehicle after the person has consumed alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances. 

Florida law considers any person under the influence if they are operating, or in “actual physical control” of a vehicle while their “normal faculties” are impaired, or if they have a BAC of .08 or higher. Actual physical control means that the DUI suspect may have not been actively driving at the time of the arrest but was in close enough proximity to operate the vehicle at any moment. That means law enforcement can arrest you for DUI for simply being in your vehicle while under the influence. 

While most DUI offenses are committed in a motor vehicle, the state of Florida considers a vehicle any device which can be transported or drawn on a highway or roadway. An individual can be charged with a DUI in any of the following: 

  • Bike
  • Electric scooter
  • Golf cart
  • Horseback 
  • Lawn mower
  • Wheelchair

Criminal Penalties for First DUI Offense

A person is guilty of a DUI offense if they meet any of the following conditions codified under Florida Statute Section 316.193

  • Defendant has a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or above;
  • Defendant has a breath-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or above; or 
  • The defendant’s normal faculties are impaired due to the consumption of alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances. 

A first DUI offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the specific case details. A first DUI offense is typically filed as a special misdemeanor in Florida, with penalties of up to a $1000 fine and up to 6 months in jail. However, there are also minimum mandatory DUI penalties that a convicted person will face as well. The standard mandatory penalties for a first DUI offense include the following: 

  • Fine no less than $500 or more than $1,000; 
  • Up to six months of imprisonment;
  • Up to twelve months of probation; 
  • Driver’s license revocation between six and twelve months;
  • Vehicle immobilization for 10 days;
  • 50 hours of completed community service;
  • Completion of a 12-hour DUI substance abuse course;
  • Psychosocial evaluation to determine if the defendant requires substance abuse treatment; and
  • Completion of any recommended substance abuse treatment.  

Enhanced Penalties for First DUI Offense

There are certain circumstances where a defendant charged with a first DUI will face enhanced penalties. The defendant is subjected to enhanced penalties if: 

  • The defendant had a BAC of 0.15 or higher; or 
  • The defendant had a minor present in the vehicle at the time of the DUI offense. 

In addition to the standard DUI penalties that will already apply, the judge must impose the following enhanced penalties for a defendant who fits the above circumstances: 

  • Fine no less than $1,000 or more than $2,000 
  • Up to nine months of imprisonment 

DUI with Property Damage or Personal Injury 

If a DUI results in property damage or personal injury, the defendant may face more severe charges and penalties. 

Florida Statute Section 316.193(3) states that any individual who commits a DUI offense and in doing so causes property damage or personal injury results in the following charges: 

  • Damage to the property or person: First-degree misdemeanor
  • Serious bodily injury to the victim: Third-degree felony 

If a DUI offense results in the death of another person or unborn child, it is considered DUI manslaughter. 

When Will I Get Released from Jail After a DUI Arrest?

Florida Statute Section 316.193(9) explains that the conditions for getting released from custody after a DUI arrest is as follows: 

  1. The defendant’s blood-alcohol content or breath-alcohol content has dropped below 0.05; 
  2. The defendant is no longer considered under the influence of alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances and affected to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired; or
  3. After eight hours have elapsed from the time the defendant was arrested for the DUI offense.

In addition to the above, some counties will require that a monetary bond be posted before someone arrested for DUI will be released from custody. 

What is Florida’s Implied Consent Law? 

When any person in the state of Florida receives their license and the privilege of driving in this state, they have given consent to submit lawful DUI testing from law enforcement. Florida’s implied consent law codified under Statute Section 316.1932 states that Florida drivers must abide by certain laws. This includes accepting the legal responsibility to allow police to test for alcohol or substances during a lawful DUI stop. 

What Happens if I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test? 

Despite Florida’s implied consent law, drivers can still refuse to take a breathalyzer test from law enforcement when they are pulled over for a suspected DUI. However, they should be aware of the consequences for a refusal. 

Florida Statute Section 316.1932 states that refusing a breath or urine test for a first DUI offense results in a mandatory license suspension for one year. In addition, a refusal to submit to an approved test upon law enforcement’s request is admissible into evidence in a criminal proceeding.  A second or subsequent refusal carries a mandatory 18 month license suspension, and is a separate misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to one year in jail. 

Diversion Programs for First DUI 

A DUI diversion program is considered a specialized program designed to provide an alternative to the traditional criminal prosecution of a DUI offense. The goal of a DUI diversion program is to address the underlying issues that contributed to the DUI offense and promote rehabilitation and behavioral change instead of enforcing punishment. 

A DUI diversion program may include any of the following:

  • Education and treatment 
  • Testing and monitoring
  • Community service
  • License suspension or restriction 
  • Program fees and fines 

When a defendant is offered a DUI diversion program and they successfully complete it, it can result in reduced or dismissed charges, a lower sentence, or just a more lenient outcome compared to a standard DUI conviction. However, failure to successfully complete a DUI diversion program can result in the original penalties getting reinstated, along with the continuation of the criminal proceeding. Not all counties offer a DUI diversion program.  Counties that do offer DUI diversion programs often have different requirements and punishments.  A local DUI attorney can best advise you if a DUI diversion is possible depending on where the offense occurred.

Contact a South Florida defense attorney to determine if you are eligible for a diversion program for your first DUI offense. 

Defenses to DUI 

With the extensive penalties for even a first DUI offense, it is understandable that a defendant feels stressed and overwhelmed after getting charged with drunk driving. It is important to remember that an arrest is not the same thing as getting convicted, and there are still defense strategies you can use to help fight the charges. By working with an experienced South Florida defense attorney, you can discuss using any of the following defenses to a DUI: 

  • Unlawful arrest by police – For a police officer to pull you over, it must be because (1) they suspected you committed a traffic violation or (2) they had probable cause to believe you committed a criminal offense. If law enforcement pulls you over and were mistaken about their reason for conducting the traffic stop, any acquired evidence may be suppressed, and the DUI case may be dropped. 
  • Improper field sobriety tests – When law enforcement pulls you over for a suspected DUI, they may administer field sobriety exercises to assess whether the driver seems impaired due to alcohol or substances. These tests are designed to make suspects fail and can easily be challenged due to potential issues with the driver having physical disabilities, injuries, or the officer’s lack of familiarity with the proper instructions. 
  • Inadmissible breath test results – Police often use breathalyzer devices to measure a suspected DUI offender’s breath-alcohol content. These devices have strict requirements and if they are not properly followed, it can result in the results being suppressed by the court.
  • Insufficient probable cause – Police officers must have probable cause that the suspect is under the influence of alcohol or substances to arrest them for a DUI offense. If the officer’s probable cause was based on insufficient evidence, the arrest may be considered unlawful, or result in evidence being suppressed. 

It's important to remember that each DUI case will differ in its circumstances, and in turn its possible defenses. The best way to determine which defenses may apply to your case is to contact a DUI attorney in South Florida

Contact a South Florida DUI Attorney 

Florida has strict penalties in place for any DUI offense to protect society from the dangers of drunk driving. Even if it is your first ever DUI arrest, a conviction can lead to expensive fines, imprisonment, and having your license suspended. You may also have to complete hours of community service and substance abuse courses. If you or someone you love is arrested for a suspected DUI, contact Ian Goldstein Law

We are knowledgeable and experienced in all aspects of Florida’s driving under the influence laws. We can help you fight the charges and build a defense to clear your name. Contact our office today for a free consultation by calling (561) 600-0950