Driving while under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or chemical substances may be punished as a misdemeanor or felony in Florida. Alcohol impairment may be proved by chemical testing to determine the level of blood alcohol content which must be at least 0.08 for conviction.
The severity of DUI charges and their corresponding penalties will vary depending on the record of DUI convictions of the defendant and any injury or death resulting from the DUI accident.
DUI may be punished as a misdemeanor when:
- It is your first or second conviction;
- It is your third conviction after more than 10 years from the second conviction
- You refuse to take a chemical test after your license was suspended in the past for refusing a chemical test.
You may also receive a misdemeanor conviction if you caused an accident resulting in property damage while driving under the influence of alcohol or other chemical substances.
Implied Consent Law
Under Florida’s implied consent law, refusing a chemical test may be used in evidence against the defendant facing a DUI charge. And a person who is lawfully arrested for DUI is required to submit to chemical testing if he/she has already had their license suspended for refusing a chemical test in a previous case. Chemical testing may be in the form of a blood, urine, or breath test to determine the volume of alcohol or drugs in the defendant’s system.
Penalties for DUI Misdemeanor
Misdemeanors carry a criminal penalty of:
- A fine ranging from $500 to $5,000
- Imprisonment of up to 1 year
- Community service
- Vehicle impoundment
You may also suffer administrative penalties of:
- Suspension of driver’s license or revocation
- Enrollment and completion of DUI program
- Installation of Ignition Interlock Device if granted a restricted driver’s license
Repeat offenders and persons whose DUI results in physical injuries or death of another person face more severe penalties under a charge for DUI felony. It is a DUI felony when:
- You have been convicted of a third DUI within a 10-year period
- It is your 4th or subsequent DUI conviction
- Another person has been injured by your DUI accident
- Another person has been killed as a result of your DUI accident
A DUI resulting in death is punished as manslaughter which is a 2nd degree felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 15 years and a fine of not more than $10,000. The court may also order the impoundment or immobilization of the convicted defendant’s vehicles for up to 90 days.
Felony DUI convictions also carry the administrative penalties of driver license revocation which may be for a specified period of up to 10 years or a permanent revocation, installation of ignition interlock device for two years, and completion of DUI school or advanced driver improvement course.
Section 316.192 of the Florida Statutes punishes anyone who drives a vehicle in a manner that disregards the safety of other persons or property as reckless driving, a traffic offense that carries a criminal penalty of imprisonment of up to 6 months or a fine of up to $1,000, or both imprisonment and fine. Additional circumstances of property damage or personal injury to another can elevate the offense to a misdemeanor or a felony when there is serious bodily injury to another.
DUI offenders who are convicted of reckless driving may be additionally ordered to complete a DUI program or substance abuse education course.
Raising DUI Defenses in Florida
If you have a DUI case in Florida, it’s highly important to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney about it before pleading guilty to any charge. DUI rules and penalties can be confusing and can lead to heavy penalties. Your attorney can examine your situation, weigh the evidence against you, and determine appropriate defenses that you can raise in your case.
Depending on the circumstances of your situation, your lawyer can argue for the dismissal of the DUI charges or for the reduction of the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor, or if applicable, to reckless driving.
Other DUI defense strategies can involve:
- Suppressing evidence obtained in an unconstitutional search or seizure such as an illegal blood draw
- Plea bargaining by pleading guilty to an offense that carries a lower penalty
- Raising questions on the reliability of the chemical test and procedure
In Stuart, Florida, the Law Offices of Keith Bregoff, PA have been helping clients facing DUI charges for years. Attorney Bregoff’s litigation experience as a former lead felony state prosecutor provides an added advantage, particularly in anticipating the legal strategy of the prosecution and negotiating possible plea bargains for defendants. Call us today at (772) 492-8967 to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Bregoff.