image of a gavel with beer and keys to indicate a DUI

Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Discuss Jail Time and Other Penalties in First-Time DUI Cases

If you’ve been charged with DUI for the first time, it’s natural to wonder what to expect, including whether or not you may face jail time if you are convicted. Being charged with DUI can lead to a number of serious consequences; the fact that you aren’t a repeat offender doesn’t mean that you might not face jail time or other significant consequences if you are convicted.

That’s why it’s so important to work with an experienced DUI defense attorney if you are charged with DUI in Florida, even if you have never been charged with drunk driving before. The experienced DUI lawyers at Flaherty & Merrifield are here to help. We will help you navigate the legal situation you are facing and work diligently to help you get the best possible outcome in your case.

Possible Penalties for a First-Time DUI in Florida

Being charged with DUI is a serious matter that can lead to serious consequences if you are convicted, including possible jail time. Being convicted of DUI could have dire effects on your everyday life, both personally and professionally.

A good lawyer may be able to help you reduce the risk of receiving jail time for a first-time offense, but that is not the only consequence you may face. Potential Florida DUI penalties for first-time offenders include:

  • Jail time. Jail time isn’t mandatory for a first-time DUI offense in Florida, but it is possible. A first-time DUI conviction can lead to between six months and five years in jail, depending on the circumstances of the case.  
  • Fines. Fines for a first DUI offense can range from $500 to $1000.
  • Ignition interlock device. An ignition interlock device is required for first-time DUI offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over 0.15. This device requires a breath sample before starting the car engine,
  • Increased car insurance. Being convicted of DUI can substantially increase auto insurance rates.
  • Suspended driver’s license. Being convicted of a DUI could result in a suspended driver’s license, which would prevent you from being able to drive day to day.
  • DUI school. Florida provides education about the importance of safe driving in a classroom setting for first-time offenders.
  • Community service. Community service is a common consequence of first-time DUI convictions.

Situations That May Lead to Florida DUI Charges

If you are facing a DUI for the first time, you may be wondering what led to the DUI charges you are facing. Each person’s situation is unique, which is why it’s so important to work with an experienced DUI attorney if you have been arrested for DUI.

When DUI Testing May Be Required

Florida law enforcement officers have the right to require a driver to undergo testing for DUI in several circumstances, including:

  • Traffic stop. Law enforcement can pull a driver over for general traffic violations, abnormal driving, or suspicious behavior. Once you’ve been pulled over, officers can ask you to perform a field sobriety test or breathalyzer analysis.
  • DUI checkpoints. Crestview, Florida, has established DUI checkpoints where drivers are required to stop. When these checkpoints are active, all drivers passing through must complete a sobriety test.
  • Car accidents. If you’re involved in a car accident, reporting officers may ask you to complete a field sobriety test if they suspect drugs or alcohol are in your system.

Factors That Lead to DUI Charges

When a driver is suspected of DUI, the way they respond to the officer on the scene can lead to DUI charges, as can the results of DUI screening via a breathalyzer or field sobriety testing. In Florida, a driver can be charged with DUI in the following circumstances:

  • Blood alcohol content: If breathalyzer testing reveals that a driver’s BAC is over the legal limit of 0.08%, they can be charged with DUI, even if they appear to be sober.
  • Field sobriety test results. If a driver doesn’t have the ability to walk in a straight line or follow directions, they may fail a field sobriety test and be charged with DUI.
  • Breathalyzer refusal. A driver who refuses to take a breathalyzer test could automatically be charged with DUI.
  • Admission of drinking or drug use. If a driver openly admits to being impaired, this information can be used as evidence for a DUI charge.

How a Florida DUI Defense Lawyer Can Help Minimize Penalties

A DUI conviction can have life-changing consequences, so it’s important to face your charges with the best possible legal defense. The fact that you have never been charged with DUI before does not mean that you should try to handle your DUI case on your own. Instead, it’s important to hire a Florida criminal defense lawyer with experience handling DUI cases.   

Being represented by a skilled lawyer can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your case, including whether you are convicted and any potential consequences that may apply. When you choose Flaherty & Merrifield to represent you, our DUI defense attorneys will protect your rights and look out for your best interests throughout the legal process.

We will look for evidence and seek witness testimonies in our efforts to minimize penalties associated with your case, including working to help keep you from having to serve jail time. Depending on the situation, it may be possible to get the case dismissed or – if not – to decrease your consequences via a plea bargain. For example, in some cases, it may be possible to reduce a felony offense to a misdemeanor via effective bargaining.

Brandy Merrifield
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney