Due to the high rate of DUI incidences on Florida roads, the state imposes strict penalties against offenders. Generally, DUI is a criminal offense not just in Florida but across the nation.
Probably you were stopped by the police, tested after being involved in a crash, or the law enforcers caught you behind the wheel of a parked car while drunk. In this case, you may be wondering – “Will I go to jail for a DUI.”
As much as DUI is a criminal offense in Treasure Coast, Florida, being charged does not automatically doom you to jail. You might or not go to jail depending on the type of the DUI and whether it’s your first or repeat offense. However, engaging an experienced DUI lawyerimmediately after the arrest can also help you evade jail.
What Constitutes DUI?
Driving under the influence (DUI) involves getting behind the wheel after consuming intoxicating substances beyond the legal limit.
For the state to find you guilty of DUI, the prosecutor must prove the following elements;
- You were either driving or in actual control of the car
- You were intoxicated to the extent of impairing your faculties, i.e., your breath-alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.08 or more than 0.08 grams of alcohol/ 210 liters of breath, or your blood-alcohol level was 0.08 or more than 0.08 grams of alcohol/ 100 milliliters of blood
Charges for DUI in Treasure Coast, Florida
For an office to charge you with DUI, they usually perform various tests such as field sobriety tests (eye test, one leg stand, walk and turn, etc.), breathalyzer test to measure breath-alcohol level, a blood test to determine the blood-alcohol content, and so forth. Failing the tests gives the officer the ground to arrest you and commence a DUI charge.
However, if it’s your first offense and you have no criminal record, you have a chance of evading jail, especially if you get better representation. But as earlier mentioned, other factors may affect your DUI, such as the type of offense.
For instance, felony DUI – aggravating factors such as BAC of 0.15% and above, presence of minors in the vehicle, multiple previous DUI convictions, causing severe bodily harm to another person, reckless driving, etc. – can significantly increase your chances of getting a longer sentence.
DUI Legal Process
A DUI offense attracts two cases – a civil and criminal charge. The civil case is filed with the department of motor vehicles (DMV), while criminal charges are lodged in the court. The court process assumes a five-phase trial: first appearance, arraignment, pretrial conference, evidentiary hearings, and trial.
- First appearance – A judge reads your charges and reviews police reports to see whether they warrant your detention.
- Arraignment – A formal hearing held in court, where you make a plea – guilty or not guilty.
- Pretrial conference – Takes place several weeks after arraignment and provides the judge with an update of the case progression.
- Evidentiary hearing – The arresting officer and an expert witness(es) give their testimony then your lawyer cross-examines them.
- Trial – If the case has not been resolved by this stage, a jury consisting of seven jurors hear and determine the case.
What Are the Penalties for DUI in Treasure Coast, Florida?
If convicted of DUI, the penalties will vary depending on several factors. For instance, first DUI offenses usually carry less severe penalties than repeat charges. But if there are aggravating factors as mentioned above, the penalties may escalate significantly.
Generally, DUI penalties apply as follows;
- First conviction – $500 to $1000
- Second conviction – $1000 to $2,000
- Third violation after ten years – $2,000 to $5,000
- Third violation within ten years – $2,000 to $5,000
- Fourth or subsequent violation – Maximum $5,000
- First conviction – Maximum six months
- Second conviction – Maximum nine months
- Third violation within ten years – Maximum one year
- Third violation after ten years – Maximum 5 years
- Fourth or subsequent violation – Maximum 5 years
- First conviction – Installation of ignition interlock device (IID) on all vehicles operated by the offender for not less than six months at their expense
- Second conviction – Installation of ignition interlock device (IID) on all vehicles operated by the offender for not less than one year at their expense
- Third conviction after ten years – Mandatory installation of ignition interlock device (IID) on all vehicles operated by the offender for at least two years at their expense
- Third conviction within ten years – Mandatory installation of ignition interlock device (IID) on all vehicles operated by the offender for at least two years at their expense
- Administrative penalties
- License suspension – six months or one year for declining to take tests
- Hardship licenses – Eligible after completing 30 days of suspension or 90 days if the driver refused to take tests
DUI With Damage to Property – First-degree misdemeanor
- Fine – $1000
- Sentence – Maximum one year
Serious bodily injury – Third-degree felony
- Fine – $5,000
- Sentence – Maximum 5 years
DUI Manslaughter – Second-degree felony
- Fine – Maximum $10,000
- Sentence – 4-15 years
BAC Exceeding 0.15% or Minor Passenger
- First conviction – $1000 to $2,000
- Second conviction – $2,000 to $4,000
- Third and subsequent conviction – $4,000
- First conviction – Maximum 9 months
- Second conviction – Maximum 12 months
Possible DUI Defenses
Once charged with DUI, your lawyer can use several defenses to fight the charges. These include;
Wheel-witness – After a DUI-related accident, the arresting officer must present evidence that you were the one behind the wheel to prove the element of physical control. But if by the time the officer arrived to investigate the accident, you had already exited the car, and there are no witnesses to testify that you were the one driving, it may be difficult for the state to pin you down for DUI.
Actual physical control – In Florida, you don’t have to be caught driving to be charged with DUI. If an officer finds you passed out on the driver’s seat with the keys on the ignition, you can be charged with a DUI. However, if the officer didn’t find the keys within your reach and arrests you, you can assert that you were not in actual physical control of the vehicle or had any intentions of driving.
Faulty breathalyzer – Sometimes, the officer may misinterpret your state and submit an erroneous report or the devices used to perform tests may be faulty. If your lawyer can prove that you were not intoxicated by developing evidence to discredit the test reports, then you have a chance at freedom.
Entrust Your Case to a Treasure Coast DUI Defense Lawyer
We understand your worry over whether you will go to jail following a DUI charge. While the risk of getting convicted remains high, depending on the severity of the offense, hiring an experienced DUI defense lawyer can raise your chances of acquittal or lesser penalties if the charges are serious.
At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., we have over 500 combined jury trials. We have helped our clients win difficult cases, including DUI charges, throughout Florida. Do not stress over your charge. Leave it to us, and we will protect your rights the best we can. Call us now at (772) 248-1215, or fill our contact form here for a free case evaluation.