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What You Need to Know About Florida DUI Laws

| Dec 16, 2016 | Firm News

When it comes to driving under the influence, or DUI, Florida’s laws are among the toughest in the nation. If you are found guilty, it is a mandatory conviction, meaning that the charges cannot be eliminated from your record. You also face additional penalties, such as loss of your driver’s license, fines, and possibly incarceration. These are two of the many reasons why it is important to fight back against DUI charges with the help of an experienced Florida defense attorney.

DUI Defined

DUI is a criminal offense that applies when you drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In Florida, you are regarded as “under the influence” if one (or both) of the following applies:

  • A blood alcohol level (BAL) of .08% or above
  • Evidence of impairment such as slowed reflexes, falling down, and slurring your speech

No matter what method is used to prove that you are impaired, the penalties remain the same.

Being Pulled Over for Suspected DUI

When the police pull you over for a suspected DUI, you will understandably be nervous. It is important, however, to remain calm and civil, even if you believe that the situation is ridiculous or unfair. Being hostile or aggressive won’t help your case at the time and could even harm it later.

If the officer has probable cause to believe that you are driving under the influence, they may carry out a field sobriety test to check your reflexes and overall coordination. If you are arrested, Florida has an “implied consent law” that requires you to submit to a chemical testing of your blood, breath, or urine for alcohol or drugs. Should you refuse, a mandatory license suspension applies: one year for a first offense, and 18 months for additional offenses.

Florida DUI Penalties

The penalty for a Florida DUI depends on your BAL, how many offenses you have on your record, and how much time elapsed between each conviction.

  • First convictions are typically punished by a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in prison, and 50 hours of community service. If you had a minor in the vehicle or had a BAL of over .15%, the minimum jail term goes up to nine months.
  • Second convictions come with a $1,000-$2,000 fine and up to nine months in jail. A BAL of .15% or an underage passenger elevates the fine to the $2,000-$4,000 range and the potential jail sentence to one year. If your second DUI comes within five years of the first, there is a mandatory imprisonment of 10 days.
  • If you experience a third DUI conviction within 10 years of the previous one, you face a $2,000-$5,000 fine and up to a year in jail. If this third incident occurs within five years of the previous conviction, the fine will be a minimum of $4,000 and you will spend 30 days in jail.

Other penalties include:

  • License suspension
  • An ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle
  • Higher auto insurance rates
  • A DUI conviction that appears when you apply for a job or public benefits

Immigration and DUI

In addition to the loss of driving privileges, fines, and jail time, those who are not U.S. citizens run the risk of even harsher consequences up to and including deportation. If you are convicted of a DUI, you will have a permanent criminal record that could seriously impair your ability to obtain various immigration benefits in the future ranging from work authorization to visa renewals to naturalization. If you are in the country illegally, the arrest can bring you to the attention of immigration authorities and eventually lead to your removal.

The manner in which a DUI will impact your immigration case or status will depend on the circumstances surrounding the DUI arrest, whether or not you have a prior criminal record (including other DUIs), and where in the immigration process or in your immigration case you currently stand. Every case is unique and it is absolutely vital that you hire an attorney who is well-versed in both criminal and immigration law—also known as “crimmigration.”

Whether you are an immigrant or not, if you are arrested for DUI in Florida, it is essential that you contact our law office right away. Immediate legal advice and representation can help you avoid or minimize the serious consequences of a conviction—including those related to immigration—and assist you in regaining your driving privileges or successfully applying for a hardship license.

A DUI conviction can negatively impact the rest of your life, so if you are facing charges, call Rotella & Hernandez today at 305-596-3618. We will quickly schedule a consultation and work to achieve the ideal outcome for your case.