What Happens if You Get a DUI?
If you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida, you will be integrated into the state’s criminal justice system. Upon your arrest, you will be taken to the nearest station or headquarters of the arresting officer, where you will be fingerprinted. The arresting officer will enter your charging information and police report into a database, and an automated alert will go to the criminal courts regarding your arrest.
Then, you will be arraigned, where you can hear your charges, make a formal plea of guilty or not guilty, and have a trial date set. The judge determines your bail, and you may be released if you can satisfy the court’s conditions for pretrial release. If you can’t secure bail, you will be remanded into custody until your trial date. A criminal defense attorney can guide you through the process and defend you in court.
What Happens When Your DUI Case Goes to Court
At trial, your criminal defense attorney will do everything possible to combat your charges and help you retain your freedom. This requires building a defense strategy that weakens the state’s case. Your DUI lawyer may argue that:
- The arresting police officer violated your constitutional rights. The police must follow certain protocols when making a DUI arrest. For instance, if you admitted something at the arrest scene, but the police didn’t read your Miranda rights, your lawyer could move to have those admissions thrown out. If those statements are the backbone of the prosecution’s case, then your lawyer could move to have your charges dismissed.
- The testing equipment was unreliable. You may have submitted to a blood or breath test upon your arrest. Yet, these tests require sensitive equipment that can easily give false readings. Your lawyer could examine this evidence and decide whether it’s admissible. If it’s unreliable, they can move to have that information disregarded.
- The police didn’t have probable cause. If the police didn’t have a solid reason to believe you drove under the influence of alcohol, and they had no reason to pull you over, the case is baseless. Law enforcement can’t conduct DUI traffic stops at random, hoping to make arrests for DUIs. If there was no probable cause, we could argue that the police infringed on your rights.
These are just some of the defenses an attorney may employ on your behalf. The details of your case and how it evolves, however, are unique to your situation.
What Are the Penalties for DUI?
The penalties for DUI in Florida vary based on the circumstances of your arrest and whether you have previous convictions for the crime. Per the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), if you had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above .08 and below .15, you would face the following penalties if convicted:
- A fine ranging from $500 to $1,000
- Six months in jail (or 180 days in jail)
- The loss of your driver’s license for at least 180 days (six months)
Getting arrested with a BAC over .15 is considered a more serious DUI offense, and here, a drunk driving conviction will result in more severe penalties. If you’re convicted of a first-offense DUI with a BAC over .15, your maximum prison sentence can be extended to nine months.
Other circumstances, such as being convicted of DUI in relation to an accident involving injury or death, will result in much heavier punishments, even if it’s a first offense.
You Can Fight to Keep Your Driver’s License
The potential criminal penalties for DUI move on two tracks after your arrest. On one track is the court system, where your guilt or innocence of the crime is determined at trial. Your driving privileges, however, are put on an entirely different track. As noted, Florida will move to suspend your license for up to 180 days for a first-time DUI offense.
The only way to avoid this is to apply for a hardship license or a work permit within 10 days of your drunk driving arrest. A hardship license or work permit would allow you to keep your driver’s license so that you can continue working and supporting your family. A DUI lawyer can make the application for you and represent you at the hearing.
This hearing is one of the most important aspects of the DUI process. Your ability to work throughout the trial process may allow you to honor obligations, like making on-time mortgage payments. This could reduce the financial impact of a DUI arrest or even overcome the charges you face.
There Are Possible Alternatives to Incarceration When You Get a DUI
Although DUI convictions carry a prison sentence of up to six months, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to serve the time in a Florida state prison. Florida counts time spent in the county jail awaiting trial or spent in a licensed residential alcohol and drug treatment as time served.
So, if you were sentenced to three months imprisonment and nine months of probation, your DUI lawyer could argue that you should have the opportunity to attend a treatment program in lieu of the prison sentence. You would still have to comply with any terms set by the court and the treatment program, but this would be an alternative to serving the time in prison or county jail.
Begin a Free Case Evaluation With Meldon Law
When you get charged with a DUI, you have the chance to combat those allegations and seek the best possible outcome. Instead of going through the legal process alone, you could benefit from hiring a criminal defense attorney from Meldon Law.
Our law firm advocates for DUI clients and gets positive outcomes time and time again. We can help you avoid license suspension, jail time, and community service. Take it from us: you don’t want a criminal record.
To learn more about protecting your rights and securing legal representation following an arrest, connect with our law firm today.