According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in three traffic deaths involves a drunk driver. Though alcohol-related crashes have decreased in recent years, drunk drivers still get behind the wheel.
DUI-related incidents impact all people involved, including the driver. Highway patrol officers will stop and arrest you if they suspect you’re driving while drunk. Once you’re booked into the legal system, you’ll face an arraignment, hearings, and other complicated legal matters.
Additionally, a successful conviction can impact every area of your life. A judge can suspend your driver’s license, which will limit your ability to travel and work. You can face steep penalties and fines. Additionally, you may go to prison, if you’ve injured or killed someone. These serious charges can even cost you your job.
Meldon Law knows that DUI charges are scary, but you don’t have to face the legal system alone. The best decision you can make is to hire an experienced DUI law firm to defend you.
Meldon Law has veteran criminal defense attorneys that can defend your case. Our Palm Beach County DUI lawyers can argue your case in court and work extensively to lessen your charges or even get them dismissed. Our firm fights to win for our clients. Call us at (352) 559-6388 to schedule a free consultation.
Impaired Driving in Florida
According to the Florida Department of Transportation, impaired driving is the operation of a vehicle while intoxicated. The following substances can affect drivers:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Legal prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs
- Illegal drugs
FDOT reports that impaired driving causes one-quarter of all motor vehicle deaths in the state.
What Is a DUI Under Florida Law?
Prosecutors charge drivers with DUI if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher. This is a “per se” DUI, or driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level (DUBAL). Drivers can also receive a DUI charge if they’re impaired due to drugs, a combination of drugs and alcohol, or other chemical substances.
Misdemeanor Charges in Palm Beach County DUI Cases
Prosecutors will file charges based on the defendant’s blood alcohol levels. Other factors that determine charges are property damages, physical injuries, and deaths. There are two categories of misdemeanors in the state of Florida:
First-degree misdemeanor: Florida charges first-time DUI offenders with a misdemeanor if they only cause property damage. The highest penalty is one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. First-degree misdemeanors include:
- Reckless driving
- DUI and drunk driving
- Marijuana possession of fewer than 20 grams.
Second-degree misdemeanor: A convicted defendant can spend 60 days in jail and pay a $500 fine. Most defendants face second-degree misdemeanors when they violated terms related to their conviction. These crimes can include:
- Using a vehicle without a valid driver’s license,
- Driving on a suspended license, and
- Harassing phone calls.
Implied consent: Additionally, Florida has an implied consent law. Once you have a DUI conviction, you must submit to regular drug and alcohol testing. Convicted drunk drivers who don’t submit to blood alcohol testing can face misdemeanor charges. They can also have their driver’s license suspended for one-year license suspension. They can also face 18-month suspensions for second and third offenses.
Felony Charges in Palm Beach County DUI Cases
Did you injure someone while driving drunk? You could face felony charges and spend a year in jail. Impaired drivers that kill someone during an accident could end up with life sentences. Additionally, prosecutors can charge you with a felony if you possess controlled substances. The state can bring more charges against defendants with criminal histories. The state will also file more serious charges if people died because of the drunk driving incident.
Florida’s Statute of Limitations
Florida imposes a statute of limitations for DUI-related incidents. The state has a limited amount of time to file charges against a defendant, or it will lose the chance to do so. Prosecutors have two years to file misdemeanor charges, and three years in felony cases.
DUI Penalties in Palm Beach County
Florida’s statute 316.193 lists several penalties for defendants who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Fines: A DUI driver facing misdemeanor charges must pay up to a $2,000 fine depending on their blood alcohol content. Convicted drivers can also:
- Serve a prison sentence,
- Attend a DUI School, and
- Get their driver’s license revoked.
Additional offenses can lead the state to install an ignition interlock device in their cars. The Florida Department of Safety and Motor Vehicles assigns the following fines to DUI drivers:
- A first-time DUI fine is $500 to $1,000. Individuals with a BAC of 0.15 or higher will pay $1,000 to $2,000 in fines.
- A second DUI conviction can result in a $1,000 to $2,000 fine. Individuals with a BAC of 0.15 or higher must pay $2,000 to $4,000 in fines.
- Offenders that receive their third conviction (within 10 years) must pay $2,000 to $5,000 in fines. Drunk drivers with a 0.15 BAC (or while riding with a minor under 18 years old) must pay fines of $4,000 and higher.
Read the full list of DUI related fines here.
DUI defendants that seriously injure or kill others may pay financial damages and serve jail time. Florida’s statute 324.023 assigns the following punitive damages for convicted drivers.
- According to Florida statute 324.023, a DUI defendant can pay up to $100,000 if the accident injured a single person.
- A convicted DUI driver may pay up to $300,000 if the accident injuries or kills two or more people.
- Convicted drivers will also be responsible for $50,000 property damage.
Jail time: A judge can sentence you to prison if you’re convicted of a DUI charge. Maximum penalties include:
- A six-month prison sentence for a standard DUI.
- A nine-month sentence for transporting passengers under 18 years old while drunk.
- Nine months in jail for blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 percent or higher.
- One year in prison for a DUI accident that causes minor injuries or property damage.
License suspension: The Florida Department of Safety and Motor Vehicles will revoke your driver’s license for the following offenses.
- First offense without bodily injuries: A 180-day revocation.
- First offense with bodily injuries: A three-year revocation.
- A second offense within five years from prior conviction: A five-year license suspension. The state will reinstate it for hardship-related reasons after a year.
- A third offense: A ten-year license revocation. You can claim a hardship status after two years.
- Manslaughter, DUI serious bodily injury, or vehicular homicide conviction: Minimum three years revocation.
- DUI manslaughter: A mandatory permanent revocation.
How a Lawyer Can Help With Your Case
Meldon Law has experienced attorneys that can investigate your case and may be able to provide an affirmative defense to protect your interests. Common defenses we’ve successfully argued include:
- Driving was necessary to prevent a greater danger.
- The defendant drove to prevent serious dangers or death.
- The driver didn’t know he/she drank an intoxicating substance.
- The person believed he/she was driving sober.
Contact Meldon Law’s Palm Beach DUI Lawyers
Hiring a veteran attorney to argue your court case can help you significantly. We can mount a defense strategy to protect you in court, while our legal team can examine the circumstances surrounding your case. We can also find out if officers violated your rights and try to find any defenses that can help minimize the issues surrounding your arrest. Meldon Law’s top attorneys have written a free book, Ways to Possibly Avoid a DUI Charge or Conviction. The book stems from Jeffrey Meldon, Carey Meldon, Ian Pickens, and Kenneth Ferguson’s 50-plus combined years of experience. Request your copy here.
Contact Meldon Law’s Palm Beach DUI lawyers today to review your case. You can contact us online or call us at (352) 580-1028 for a free consultation.