Driving under the influence of alcohol is taken very seriously in Florida. The penalties are incredibly punishing, regardless of whether it is a first or a repeat offense. Both court and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles have influence in what the penalties will be, so fines and fees can add up quickly, in addition to other penalties someone can face.
Even a first-time DUI offense can have significant fines. Court can fine a first-time offender between $500 and $1,000, or up to $2,000 if the offender's BAC was at least 0.15% or they had a minor in the car while driving. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles can also impose a $130 administrative fee on top of that.
Offenders may also have to pay fees for a DUI program, an Ignition Interlock Device, and/or a license reinstatement after having a license suspended, which are all potential penalties as well.
A first-time DUI offense can also result in jail time. First-time offenders can face up to six months in jail or up to nine months if their BAC was 0.15% or higher. Probation of up to a year is another potential punishment, and the person's vehicle may also be impounded for up to ten days. Some offenders are assigned 50 hours of community service or they must pay additional fees in place of doing service.
One of the biggest concerns when charged with a DUI is license suspension or revocation. Even a first-time offense can result in license suspension for at least 180 days. This can create very hard circumstances for people who need to get to work, transport kids to school or daycare, or run errands for the family. It is possible, in some cases, to reinstate your license for hardship purposes only, such as getting to work, but it may be difficult to do so.
Every penalty for a DUI charge increases in severity if the person has a record of past DUI offenses. Penalties for any DUI charge, even a first-time offense, are significantly more severe if any people were harmed or property damaged as a result of drunk driving.
It is extremely important to avoid driving after drinking. The punishment for DUI offenses can have long-lasting and significant effects on your life. Plan a sober ride, either with a friend who will not be drinking at all that night or with a form of transport such as a taxi. However, if you have been charged with a DUI, a criminal defense attorney can help defend you and minimize your punishment as much as possible.