The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reports that almost 2,600 motorists were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Palm Beach County in 2017, with more than 1,200 arrests (59 percent) resulting in convictions. Getting arrested for DUI may have life-changing consequences, and ensuring the best possible outcome in those circumstances requires the advocacy of an experienced DUI lawyer.
If you have been arrested for DUI, you may be feeling overwhelmed and anxious about what will happen next. Speak to a DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible and get advice about your options and the best course of action for your case. Contact Meldon Law at 800-373-8000 or online to schedule a free consultation and learn if we may be able to help you.
Meldon Law Results for First Time DUI Offenders
First time offenders may have an advantage over repeat offenders in that prosecutors and courts may exercise some leniency in the disposition of the case. That said, being a first time offender does not guarantee any specific results.
The legal team at Meldon Law have years of experience working for clients who have been arrested for DUI. Our lawyers have successfully achieved reduced charges, reduced penalties, and dismissals in over a hundred DUI cases. While every case is unique and depends on specific facts, our past results demonstrate our commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients.
How Florida Defines DUI
The legal term “driving under the influence” is not limited to drivers impaired by alcohol. While alcohol is the most common substance in DUI cases (in Florida, crashes that involve alcohol occur eight times more often than those that involve other drug use), driving under the influence of other controlled substances may also result in a DUI arrest.
Under Florida law, the definition of DUI is broad, and includes alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances when a person is “affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired.” Prescription medications, marijuana, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, and other drugs may lead to DUI charges. In addition, Florida specifies that a breath or blood alcohol level (BAC or BAL) above 0.08 is driving under the influence.
Potential Penalties for a First Time DUI Charge
In general, penalties for a person’s first DUI offense will be less than they would be for a repeat offender; however, penalties may vary based on court discretion and the facts of each individual case.
Basic penalties for a first time DUI offense include:
- Fine. Florida law dictates that first time offenders must pay at least a $500 fine, but no more than $1,000.
- Jail time. Florida law does not require a minimum amount of jail time for a first time DUI charge, but a judge may sentence an offender up to six months, depending on the circumstances of the case.
- Impounded or immobilized vehicle. Unless other family members rely on the vehicle, it will be impounded for 10 days after a first DUI offense.
- License revocation. An offender will lose their driver’s license for a minimum of 180 days, but not more than a year.
Circumstances That Might Increase Penalties for a First Time DUI Offense
Some circumstances will prompt harsher penalties, even for first time offenders. This list is not exhaustive, but provides some of the most common circumstances that might result in increased penalties for a first time DUI offense:
- If the BAL is greater than 0.15 or the driver had a minor in the vehicle with them, their minimum fine will be $1,000 and they may serve up to nine months in jail.
- If the driver caused property damage or personal injury because of driving while under the influence, they will be charged with a first degree misdemeanor that has a maximum punishment of $1,000 and one year in jail.
- If the driver caused serious bodily injury while driving under the influence, they will be charged with a third degree felony that has a maximum punishment of $5,000 and five years of prison time.
- If someone died because of the offender’s driving under the influence, the driver may be charged with DUI manslaughter or vehicular homicide. Both are second degree felonies that may result in up to a $10,000 fine and 15 years in prison. If a driver leaves the scene of the accident, their charges will be elevated to a first degree felony and they may have to serve up to 30 years in prison.
- If a driver refuses a chemical test to verify their BAL, their license will be suspended for a year and any bodily harm will result in a mandatory three-year suspension.
Why Do You Need a DUI Defense Attorney for Your First Offense?
Some first time offenders choose to use a public defender if they have been charged with DUI. They may do this based on perceived convenience, cost, or just from lack of full information to make an informed decision in their best interest. However, public defenders have huge caseloads, and handle all types of clients and charges, often without much time to prepare. The scope of their responsibilities make it virtually impossible that they can give give a single client the resources and time that client might hope to have. Therefore, hiring a private lawyer who only defends DUI clients is the best way to get the focused advocacy you deserve.
The penalties and costs of DUI may be unpleasantly surprising. In addition to penalties imposed by the court, offenders may suffer damage to their reputation or lose their job. Hiring a DUI defense lawyer is an investment in protecting your rights and your interests.
If you have limited or even no criminal history, a DUI defense lawyer may be able to use that in successfully negotiating an alternative consequence with the prosecutor. For example, a prosecutor may ask the court to accept a voluntary drug or alcohol treatment program as satisfying terms for jail time.
An experienced defense lawyer will thoroughly review your case and look for every possible defense. They will also recognize and challenge any potentially complicating factors, for example, if law enforcement failed to follow proper protocols, the breathalyzer was poorly calibrated and may have caused a false reading, mishandling of evidence, and more.
Contact a Skilled Palm Beach County DUI Defense Lawyer
If you have been arrested for DUI in Palm Beach County, even if it is your first offense, you need to speak to an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact Meldon Law at 800-373-8000 or online to schedule a free consultation and learn if we may be able to help you.