The possible consequences of a first-offense DUI (driving under the influence) in Florida include fines, license suspension, vehicle impoundment, having to install an ignition interlock device (IID), and jail time. Enhanced penalties might apply where the convicted motorist had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15% or more, was involved in an accident that resulted in injuries or property damage, or had a passenger in the car who was under 18 years old. This article outlines some of the administrative and criminal penalties you might face for a first-offense DUI in Florida.
License suspension. Generally, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) will administratively suspend, for six months, the license of a motorist who's arrested for driving with a BAC of .08% or more. Drivers who refuse to submit to chemical testing in violation of Florida's "implied consent" laws face an administrative suspension of one year. Typically, an administrative suspension is possible even if the driver isn't ultimately convicted of a DUI in criminal court.
"Hardship" licenses. A person whose license is suspended for DUI can often get a "hardship" license—typically, for driving only to and from work, school, church, and medical appointments. A driver whose license is suspended for having a BAC of .08% or more is generally eligible for a hardship license after completing 30 days of the suspension. On the other hand, drivers with refusal suspensions won't be eligible for a hardship license for 90 days.
Jail time. There's no mandatory minimum jail time for most first-offense DUIs. The maximum possible sentence depends on the circumstances of the case. Here are the maximum jail terms for first-offense DUIs involving the following circumstances:
Fines. A standard first-offense DUI carries fines ranging from $500 to $1000. But if your BAC was .15% or more or you had a passenger under 18 years old, the fines will be from $1000 to $2000. And for DUIs where another person suffered "serious bodily injury," fines can be up to $5000.
Probation. Florida judges are required to place all DUI first offenders on probation. Normally, the combination of the time on probation and time in jail can't exceed one year.
Community service. As a condition of probation, the judge must order all DUI first-offenders to complete at least 50 hours of community service.
License suspension. A first-offense DUI conviction carries a license suspension ranging from six months to one year. The suspension for a DUI conviction is separate from the administrative suspension discussed above. However, this doesn't mean that a driver will always have to complete the two full suspensions—oftentimes the suspensions will have at least some overlap.
Ignition interlock devices. For most first-offense DUIs, Florida judges aren't required to order IIDs. However, for offenders with BACs of .08% or greater, judges have the discretion to order an IID for six months or more. An IID is mandatory for six months where the convicted driver had a BAC of .15% or more or a passenger who was under 18 years old.
Vehicle impoundment. Drivers convicted of first-offense DUIs will ordinarily have their cars impounded or immobilized for ten days. The ten days can't overlap with any time the driver spends in jail for the DUI conviction.
The consequences of a DUI are serious. If you've been arrested or charged for DUI, you should talk to an experienced DUI attorney right away. A DUI attorney in your area can help you understand how the law applies to the facts of your case and advise you on what to do next. Depending on the circumstances of your case, an attorney might be able to negotiate a plea bargain for a lesser charge such as a "wet reckless."