Florida Driving Under the Influence Crimes and Defenses

Florida Driving Under the Influence Crimes and Defenses

Convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol have serious consequences. You will likely be sentenced to prison. There are severe financial penalties. If you’re found guilty of a Florida DUI, your driving privileges will be suspended. When you are permitted to drive again, you may need to install an ignition interlock (IID) device on your vehicle. A conviction for a DUI can make it difficult to find employment and find a place to live. The penalties increase for subsequent offenses.

At Lulich & Attorneys, our Vero Beach and Sebastian criminal defense lawyers are experienced DUI defense lawyers. We work aggressively to fight the charges by contesting the right of the police to stop you, the validity of any tests, and by asserting every legal and factual defense that applies to your case. We seek to dismiss evidence at suppression hearings and to persuade juries that there is a reasonable doubt about the government’s case. We also work to negotiate the DUI charges to less serious charges such as speeding and other traffic violations.

How is DUI defined in Florida?

In Florida, the prosecution must show:

  • That you were driving or in physical control of the vehicle.
  • That one of the following conditions applies:
    • That your normal faculties were impaired due to being under the influence of alcohol, a chemical substance or any substance (as defined by other sections of the Florida criminal code).
    • That your blood alcohol content (BAC) level was .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.
    • That your breath alcohol content (BAC) level was .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of breath.

What are the penalties for a first conviction?

According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Administration, the following penalties apply for a first-time DUI offense in Vero Beach or Sebastian:

Imprisonment.

You can be imprisoned (in jail – or a residential alcoholism or drug abuse treatment program):

  • For up to six months
  • For up to nine months if your BAC was .15 or more (or if there was a minor in your vehicle).

The fines.

The standard penalties are as follows (additional penalties may apply if your BAC was .15 or more, there was a minor in the car, or other conditions apply):

  • The fine is $500 to $1,000 for a first conviction.
  • If your BAC is .15 or higher (or there was a minor in your car), the fine is between $1,000 and $2,000.

Impoundment of your vehicle

Provided your family has other transportation, your vehicle can be impounded for 10 days.

What are the penalties for a second conviction?

Imprisonment.

You can be imprisoned (in jail – or a residential alcoholism or drug abuse treatment program):

  • For up to nine months
  • For up to 12 months if your BAC was .15 or more (or if there was a minor in your vehicle).

If your second conviction was within five years of a previous, there is a mandatory sentence of at least 10 days. At least 48 hours of this sentence must be consecutive.

The fines.

The fines are:

  • Between $1,000 and $2,000 for a second conviction.
  • If your BAC is .15 or higher (or there was a minor in your car), the fine is between $2,000 and $4,000.

Impoundment.

Provided your family has other transportation, your vehicle can be impounded for 30 days – if your conviction is within five years of a prior conviction.

What are the penalties for a third conviction?

Imprisonment.

You can be imprisoned (in jail – or a residential alcoholism or drug abuse treatment program):

  • For up to 12 months – if more than 10 years have elapsed since your second conviction.

If your third conviction was within 10 years of a previous, there is a mandatory sentence of at least 30 days. At least 48 hours of this sentence must be consecutive.

The fines.

The fines vary depending on the date of your second conviction. The fines are as follows:

  • If the third conviction is within 10 years of the second conviction:
    • Not less than $2,000 or higher than $5,000.
    • If your BAC was .15 or more (or there was a minor in your vehicle), the fine is at least $4,000.
  • If the second conviction was more than 10 years prior to the third conviction, the fines are:
    • Not less than $2,000 or higher than $5,000.
    • If your BAC was .15 or more (or there was a minor in your vehicle), the fine is at least $4,000.

Impoundment.

Provided your family has other transportation, your vehicle can be impounded for 90 days – if your conviction is within 10 years of a prior conviction.

What additional consequences are there for Florida DUI convictions?

If the DUI causes personal injury or vehicle damage, you could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. If the DUI offense causes “serious” bodily injury, you could be charged with a third-degree felony. If the DUI causes the death of someone; you could be charged with any of the following crimes depending on what happened:

  • DUI Manslaughter
  • DUI manslaughter/Leaving the scene
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Vehicular homicide/Leaving the scene.

Can I lose my license if I have a DUI conviction?

According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Department, your license will be suspended for increasing amounts of time. The first category is the least serious and can result in a suspension of between 180 days and one year. The last category is the most serious

  • First DUI. No bodily injury.
  • First DUI. Bodily injury. Minimum suspension of three years.
  • Second DUI – within 5 years of the first DUI. Minimum suspension of five years.
  • Second DUI – more than 5 years after the first DUI. The same suspension levels as for a first offense.
  • Third DUI – within 10 years of the second DUI. Minimum suspension of 10 years.
  • Third DUI – more than 10 years after the second DUI. The same suspension levels as for a first offense.
  • DUI manslaughter. Permanent revocation.
  • Manslaughter, DUI serious bodily injury or vehicular homicide convictions: Minimum three years revocation. DUI serious bodily injury having prior DUI conviction is the same as second – fourth bullet above.

A hardship license may be available for some drivers.

Additional DUI considerations

If you drive a commercial truck for a living, you can lose your CDL if your BAC is .04 or more.

What defenses are available

Our Sebastian and Florida DUI lawyers assert numerous defenses including the following:

  • The police did not have grounds to stop you. Generally, the police may have reason to believe you were driving while intoxicated. They can’t randomly pull drivers off the road and give them tests.
  • The police did not properly explain how to take the tests. The police must explain what field sobriety tests to take and how and when to blow into a breath machine.
  • The breathalyzer machine was not properly validated. Breath test machines must be inspected and certified on a regular basis to ensure their accuracy.
  • The police didn’t observe you driving and there’s no other basis for believing you were driving.
  • The police did not follow proper procedures in setting up a checkpoint stop.
  • There’s a valid explanation for your breath result.
  • Other defenses depending on what happened.

Call a respected Sebastian or Vero Beach lawyer if you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence

At Lulich & Attorneys, our Vero Beach and Sebastian criminal defense lawyers have been fighting for criminal defendants for 35 years. We have a strong record of success in DUI cases. and in administrative suspension hearings. To discuss your rights, call us at 772-589-5500 or fill out our contact form.