What To Expect In Court For A First DUI Charge
You just got your first DUI. It’s a scary prospect, especially if you’ve had a clean driving and criminal record.
In 2014, there were about 1.5 million arrested for driving under the influence in the U.S. You may have done nothing wrong your entire life, but this one mistake can cost you money, time and pride.
The penalties can be severe. In Florida, your first DUI can mean up to six months in prison, fines up to $2,000 and a license suspension from 180 days to one year.
If you want to ease some of the anxiety around your DUI arrest, read on.
Here’s what you can expect at your first DUI court appearance.
What Are the DUI Laws in Florida?
Florida laws regarding driving under the influence is similar to most states.
For example, drivers driving over a blood alcohol content level of .08 will be charged with DUI.
If you’re driving a commercial vehicle, the level is .04% blood alcohol content (BAC). The limit for drivers under 21 years old is .02%.
How many drinks does it take to reach those levels?
That depends on many factors, such as the amount of alcohol in the drink, how much food is in your stomach at the time of consumption, your size and your metabolism.
There is no magic formula because the answer is different for everybody.
Arrest and Booking
In Florida, once you’re arrested for driving under the influence, you’ll be taken into police custody to that jurisdiction’s police station. Your mug shot and fingerprints are taken at that time.
You’ll also appear in court within 24 hours. During that appearance, the judge will set the amount of bail and the date of your next court appearance.
During that process, you will be able to have one phone call.
That person should be able to post bail, which is 10% of the bail amount set by the judge.
Once bail is posted, you’ve sobered up, your BAC is lower than .05, and/or it’s been eight hours since your arrest, you’ll be released.
As soon as you’re arrested, you need to consult with a DUI attorney. The sooner you make that call, the better chance you have to prepare your defense.
Your next court appearance is your arraignment. This happens about one month after being arrested.
You will have the opportunity to enter your plea. You can plea of guilty, or not-guilty. In almost all cases, it’s advisable to enter a not-guilty plea.
Your case will then move to a pretrial conference.
At the pretrial conference, your attorney will discuss your case with the prosecutor. This may be the opening discussions of a plea deal or other claims that your rights were violated when arrested.
The State of Florida will announce if and what the charges are against you. If a prosecutor thinks they have a case against you, formal charges will be filed.
Your attorney will also use the time to file a notice of discovery to obtain all of the evidence the prosecutor has regarding your case. Your attorney may also and a Demand for Jury Trial.
What Happens at Your First DUI Hearing?
When you return the court for your hearing, the district attorney may offer a plea bargain.
It may or may not be worth it to take the plea, depending on the factors of your case. This is why it’s so important to have a DUI attorney that can offer the best advice.
With a plea, you may be able to enter a guilty plea for reduced charges.
If a plea deal is reached, your sentencing may happen with the judge right away.
If a plea deal is not reached or if your attorney has advised you that you have a strong case, you could go to trial.
If your first DUI resulted in a serious accident, a plea deal will not be offered and you will be tried in court.
First DUI Sentencing
If you’ve reached a plea or have been found guilty in the trial, it’s up to the judge to produce the sentence.
Florida laws are very specific as to sentencing guidelines. Here’s what you can expect at your sentencing.
Sentencing usually involves jail time, probation, and fines.
The minimum for first-time DUI cases is probation and community hours.
The court can choose to have you serve your sentence at an alcohol or drug treatment facility.
If your first conviction your max prison sentence is 6 months. If you BAL was more than .15, or if there was a minor in the car, then your max prison sentence is 9 months.
For fines, your max is between $500-$1,000. If a minor was in the car or if your BAC was more than .15, your fine is between $1,000-$2,000.
Will Your License Be Revoked?
According to Florida Statute, a first DUI will result in a license suspension from six to 12 months. That will go into effect on the date of your conviction, not the date of your arrest.
If your first DUI results in a serious injury, your license can be revoked for three years.
You may be eligible to apply for a hardship driver license. Before you apply, you do need to complete a DUI program. With a hardship license, you’ll be able to drive to work or school, but that’s it.
Can the Charges Be Expunged from Your Record?
No. Florida does not allow DUI charges to be expunged from your record, even if you are found not guilty.
Most states will allow the charges to drop off of your record after a period of at least 5 years.
In Florida, however, those charges will remain on your record.
Don’t Let Your First DUI Ruin Your Life
Your first DUI is a serious offense and will not be taken lightly by the criminal justice system. Even if you have no prior criminal or poor driving record, one wrong move during the hearing process can damage your career and other aspects of your life.
You do not want to go through this process alone. You’re going to want a DUI lawyer who has experience in these cases.
Contact us today for a consultation.