First DUI Penalties

By far, the vast majority of DUI cases involve a first DUI. Most people arrested for a first DUI have no prior criminal record whatsoever.

The consequences of a first DUI conviction can be severe and long-lasting. The goal in these cases is to avoid the DUI conviction.

When the stakes are high, contact an attorney focused on drunk driving defense in Tampa, FL. If you have been arrested for DUI in Hillsborough County Florida, contact an experienced attorney at the Sammis Law Firm, P.A., to discuss your case.

Leslie Sammis has been representing individuals charged with DUI for more than 18 years. She is a member of the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD), the largest and most trusted organization for the top DUI attorneys in the country devoted to fighting these cases.

She is also a member of the DUI Defense Lawyers Association (DUIDLA). She has completed advanced training on the Intoxilyzer 8000, the only breathalyzer instrument used in Florida.

Call 813-250-0500.

Ways to Avoid a DUI Conviction

In Hillsborough County, FL, there are several ways to avoid a DUI conviction including a DUI diversion program known as Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism (“RIDR”).

Not everyone with a first DUI will qualify for RIDR including anyone charged with:

  • DUI with non-serious injury or serious bodily injury to another;
  • DUI with a BAC of .20 or above;
  • DUI with a child passenger;
  • DUI with a crash or property damage; or
  • DUI involving leaving the scene of the crash.

Even if you are not qualified for the diversion program, you can still fight the underlying charges by filing a motion to suppress evidence or a motion to dismiss the charges for insufficient evidence.

A criminal defense attorney can help you prepare the case for a jury trial to fight for a “not guilty” verdict in the event the case is not resolved on the most favorable terms prior to trial.

Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism (RIDR) DUI Diversion

On February 19, 2018, the State Attorney’s Office announced the creation of a new DUI initiative called Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism (RIDR).

According to Rena J. Frazier, the Chief of Policy and Communication with the Office of State Attorney in Hillsborough County, the DUI diversion program is “aimed at reducing impaired driving through enhanced sanctions.”

On February 26, 2018, the State Attorney’s Office invited DUI defense attorneys to attend an informational meeting about RIDR at the Edgecomb Courthouse in downtown Tampa, FL.

Contact us to find out the pros and cons of entering the RIDR DUI diversion program.

Winning a Motion to Suppress or Motion to Dismiss

If the officer did not have a valid basis to stop your vehicle, ask you to exit the vehicle or place you under arrest, then the court might suppress illegally gathered evidence in your case.

In a DUI case, that might include your identity, statements, your performance on field sobriety exercises, observations of clues of impairment, a chemical test reading, or a refusal to submit.

If insufficient evidence exists in your case, your attorney can file a motion to dismiss the charges.

Get the DUI Reduced to Reckless Driving

Florida law requires that anyone that enters a plea to DUI must be convicted. In other words, if you plea to DUI, Florida law requires that you are “adjudicated guilty” of the offense.

If you are adjudicated guilty of this or any offense, then you can never seal or expunge the record.

Many DUI cases are reduced to “reckless driving.” If the court “withholds adjudication” on the reckless driving charge, then you will be eligible to seal their criminal record if you have no other convictions.

The Administrative Suspension after a First DUI

If you were charged with DUI and have never before been arrested for DUI or a DUI-related offense, then you may be eligible for immediate reinstatement to avoid any hard suspension of your driver’s license.

The downside of seeking immediate reinstatement is that you must waive your right to a formal review hearing to contest the administrative suspension of your driver’s license.

The other problem is that you must make this important decision within the first 10 days after your arrest. Make sure you make an informed decision before you waive your right to a formal review hearing.

Call an experienced attorney to discuss your case to find out more about why we ALWAYS recommend contesting the suspension by demanding the formal review hearing within 10 days of the arrest.

Call an experienced attorney to discuss your case to find out more about why we ALWAYS recommend contesting the suspension by demanding the formal review hearing within 10 days of the arrest.

Florida DUI Penalties and Punishments

If a person is convicted of Florida driving under the influence (“DUI”), then the person is subject to certain minimum statutory penalties.

A person is guilty of driving under the influence (DUI) if a person drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle and the person:

  • Is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any controlled substance set forth in s. 877.111, F.S., or any substance controlled under ch. 893, F.S., to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired;
  • Has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or
  • Has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

The criminal penalties for DUI vary depending on numerous factors. Those factors might include the number of prior convictions, the length of time between convictions, and the defendant’s blood alcohol level.

For a plea in a first DUI, Section 316.656, F.S., prohibits a court from withholding adjudication of guilt for any violation of s. 316.193, F.S., a DUI offense.

Florida Statute Section 316.193 provides for the penalties that attached to a conviction for driving under the influence (“DUI”) in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida:

  • Incarceration: Up to six (6) months in the Hillsborough County Jail (if the BAL is .15 or higher or a minor was in the vehicle then the jail time is up to nine (9) months);
  • Term of Probation: Up to twelve (12) months (however the total period of probation and incarceration may not exceed 12 months);
  • DUI School: Level I twelve (12) hour class which includes a substance abuse evaluation and requires completion of any recommended follow-up treatment before any hardship reinstatement (if reinstated after revocation period expires, failure to complete DUI school within 90 days after reinstatement will result in license cancellation);
  • Community Service: Mandatory 50 hours of community service (but the court may allow you to buy out the community service hours at a rate of $10 per hour);
  • Fine: The required fine for a first DUI in Florida is between $500 and $1,000 (with a BAL of .15 or higher or minor in the vehicle: Not less than $1,000, or more than $2,000. Court may grant community service in lieu of DUI fines if defendant is unable to pay);
  • Driver License Revocation Period: Minimum of six (6) months and a maximum of twelve (12) months;
  • Hardship Reinstatement: In order to reinstate the driver’s license for hardship purposes such as “business purposes” or “work purposes” the driver is required to complete DUI school. You must show proof of liability coverage or FR-44 insurance, pay $115 administrative fee, a $60 reinstatement fee, and a fee for the Florida driver’s license.
  • Vehicle impoundment: Unless a hardship showing has been made, the  Court must immobilize any vehicle in the defendant’s name for 10 days after any jail sentence is completed.
  • Victim Impact Panel – Although not required by statute, many judges in Hillsborough County will also require the person sentenced to DUI or a reduced charge of reckless driving to complete 1 -3 DUI victim impact panels hosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Click here to read more about the penalties for a first DUI in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL.

Jury Instructions for DUI Cases in Florida

The jury instructions require a finding that the person is intoxicated to the extent the person’s normal faculties are impaired. Normal faculties include the things you do every day such as walk, talk, drive a car, and make emergency decisions.

Even if the prosecutor cannot show that the person’s “normal faculties” were impaired, the prosecutor has another alternative way to prove DUI- being over the legal limit of .08.

Under this “per se” version of DUI, Florida law requires proof beyond all reasonable doubt that the person had a blood-alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08 or higher grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

This article was last updated on Tuesday, September 16, 2020.