Have you or someone you love been arrested for, or charged with, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in the Sunshine State? Don't underestimate the severity of the situation. While people often think of a DUI as a simple traffic violation, it is a serious crime under Florida law that carries the potential for Man With Hands Behind His Back in Handcuffsharsh penalties that escalate with each subsequent conviction.

Sadly, criminal penalties aren't the only ways a DUI conviction can affect your life. In addition to potential fines, imprisonment, and the revocation of your drivers license, having a DUI conviction on your record can negatively affect your car insurance rates, employment, and educational opportunities, as well as carry long-lasting social stigma.

Don't risk letting a momentary lapse of judgment or a misunderstanding turn your life upside down. Here's what you need to know about Florida DUI cases, including why hiring a skilled DUI attorney is essential to securing the best possible outcome.

How Florida Law Defines DUI

When charging someone with a DUI, the state alleges that they drove—or were in actual physical control—of a vehicle while their normal faculties were impaired. This impairment could be caused by alcohol, but it doesn't have to be. Under Florida law, you could also face DUI charges for driving (or physically controlling) a vehicle when under the influence of an impairing chemical or controlled substance.

BAC and Legal Impairment

A blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent is the legal limit in Florida. However, everyone absorbs and metabolizes alcohol differently, and BAC can be affected by a variety of factors, such as:

  • Your rate of alcohol consumption. Consuming multiple alcoholic beverages in a short period of time can negatively impact the body's ability to metabolize alcohol, resulting in significant impairment.
  • Whether—or how much—you've eaten. Drinking on an empty stomach or when you haven't had much to eat allows the body to absorb alcohol much more quickly, which can worsen and speed up the effects of intoxication.
  • Your biological sex. Men and women metabolize alcohol at different rates. In general, men metabolize alcohol faster than women, as women have fewer of the enzymes needed to break it down before it reaches the bloodstream.
  • Your weight and body fat. Smaller, lighter-weight people tend to have higher BACs than heavier people, even after consuming the same amount of alcohol. Body fat also plays a role, as people with higher body fat percentages maintain higher concentrations of alcohol than those with leaner builds.
  • The medications you're taking. Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can affect how your body metabolizes and absorbs alcohol.

The effects of alcohol can be varied and unexpected. As a result, it is often difficult for people to accurately determine whether they are legally safe to drive. You could have a BAC of .08 percent or greater and not even feel intoxicated. This makes getting behind the wheel after drinking a risky proposition, regardless of how many alcoholic beverages you've had.

Florida DUI Penalties

Punishments for DUI convictions are substantial from the very first offense, and get more and more severe with subsequent convictions. Potential penalties can include fines, imprisonment, impoundment or immobilization of your vehicle, restriction or loss of your drivers license, and mandated participation in drug or alcohol education or treatment programs.

First Conviction

  • Fines between $500 and $1,000; if there was a minor in the vehicle or BAC was .15 or higher, fines can range from $1,000 to $2,000.
  • Imprisonment for up to six months; the sentence can increase to up to nine months due to a high BAC or having a minor in the vehicle.
  • Loss of use of your vehicle for 10 days.
  • Revocation of drivers license ranging from 180 days to one year for offenses without bodily injury; minimum of three years loss of license for offenses involving bodily injury.

Second Conviction

  • Fines between $1,000 and $2,000; fines can range from $2,000 to $4,000 when there is a child in the vehicle or BAC is at or exceeds .15 percent.
  • Imprisonment for up to nine months; or up to one year for incidents involving high BAC or minors in the vehicle.
  • License revocation for 180 days to 12 months for offenses without bodily injury.
  • When a second DUI conviction occurs within five years, additional penalties include a mandatory minimum of 10 days imprisonment, 48 hours of which must be consecutive, as well as the potential for vehicle impoundment or immobilization for 30 days, and loss of drivers license for five years.

Third Conviction

  • Fines between $2,000 and $5,000, or a minimum $4,000 fine when a minor is in the vehicle or BAC is .15 percent or greater.
  • Imprisonment for up to 12 months.
  • Loss of drivers license for a period of 180 days to one year for offenses without bodily injury; minimum of three years license revocation for offenses involving bodily injury.
  • When a third conviction occurs within 10 years of a second DUI conviction, penalties include mandatory imprisonment for at least 30 days, at least 48 hours of which must be served consecutively, loss of vehicle for 90 days, and license revocation for a minimum of 10 years.

Fourth or Subsequent Conviction

  • Minimum $2,000 fine; minimum $4,000 fine for incidents involving high BAC or children in the vehicle.
  • Imprisonment for up five years.
  • Mandatory permanent drivers license revocation.

Other Consequences of Conviction

  • A DUI conviction can dramatically increase your car insurance rates—and you may have difficulty finding an insurer willing to cover you.
  • If you lose your license and use of your vehicle, you could also lose your job if you aren't able to get a restricted license.
  • DUI convictions can reduce your eligibility for educational opportunities like scholarships and other prestigious programs.
  • If convicted of a felony DUI offense (those involving a repeat DUI offender, serious bodily injury, manslaughter, or vehicular homicide), the consequences can continue to follow you long after you've completed your sentence.

Benefits of Early Representation

Don't make the mistake of thinking this whole DUI thing will just blow over. The sooner you contact a defense attorney, the better. Having skilled legal representation in the early stages of a DUI prosecution makes it possible for your attorney to begin vigorously advocating or your behalf before things start to spiral out of control.

Schedule a Consultation

Give yourself the best chance for a positive outcome. Contact George Reres Law today to schedule an appointment for a confidential review of your Florida DUI case.