First Offense Driving Under the Influence DUI in Florida

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In Florida Statute a first offense Driving Under the Influence is committed when a person drives or is found to be in actual physical control of a vehicle and the person is under the influence of any alcoholic beverages, chemical substances, or controlled substance with either:

  • A breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher; or
  • A blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher.

Actual Physical Control of a Vehicle When Charged with DUI in Florida

Actual Physical Control of a motor vehicle extends further than a person who is physically inside a car, truck, or other vehicle. Any person near a vehicle with intent to operate it can be charged with DUI. In the case of a motorcycle or moped, the same rules apply.  In both cases, to be in physical control, you must have the capability to operate the vehicle regardless of whether you are actually operating the vehicle at the time the charge for DUI in Florida is entered.

Penalties for First DUI Offense

In Florida, A first DUI or first offense DUI is classified as a Second Degree Misdemeanor and carries standardized DUI penalties. However, 1st offense DUI penalties in Florida are more severe than other traditional Second Degree Misdemeanors.

A person is subject to enhanced penalties if the person had a breath or blood alcohol level of .15 or higher or was accompanied by a minor at the time of the offense.

In Florida, if convicted of your first DUI Offense the judge is required to impose the following penalties:

  • Up to six (6) months in jail.
  • Up to twelve (12) months of probation.
  • Six (6) month driver license revocation, but up to twelve (12) months.
  • Minimum fine of $500. Maximum of $1,000.
  • Vehicle used in the DUI subject to minimum ten (10) day impound or immobilization.
  • Fifty (50) hours community service.
  • A psycho-social exam and evaluation to determine if substance abuse treatment is required.
  • Completion of a 12-hour DUI substance abuse course.
  • Completion of other recommended substance abuse treatments.

Enhanced Penalties for First DUI Offense

A person convicted of a first offense driving under the influence is subject to enhanced penalties if the person had a breath or blood alcohol level of .15 or higher or was accompanied in the vehicle by a minor at the time they were arrested.

In addition to the standard penalties, the judge must also impose enhanced penalties including:

  • Up to nine (9) months in jail.
  • A minimum fine of $1,000. Maximum fine of $2,000.
  • Six (6) continuous months mandatory ignition interlock device installed on all vehicles used, owned, or routinely operated by the convicted person.

If the first offense DUI offender is accompanied by a minor the judge must impose:

  • Up to nine (9) months in jail.
  • A minimum fine of $1,000. Maximum fine of $2,000.

Defenses to First Offense Driving Under the Influence (Florida DUI)

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, common defenses that are raised in a First DUI Offense defense include illegal traffic stop, improper field sobriety tests, insufficient probable cause, and inadmissible breath results.

Illegal Traffic Stop in a Florida DUI Defense

In Florida, police may only stop you in your vehicle for one of two reasons.  First, the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the driver is committing a traffic infraction. Second, the officer has probable cause that the driver committed a crime. It is not unusual to show that a police officer was mistaken in his reason for conducting a traffic stop. If so, the evidence obtained as a result of the illegal stop is suppressed and the prosecutor will likely be forced to dismiss the DUI case.

Improper Field Sobriety Tests in Driving Under the Influence Defense in Florida

Commonly, field sobriety tests are utilized prior to the arrest of a driver suspected of driving under the influence in Florida. These tests are used to assist the officer in determining whether a person is impaired.  Many people believe that the tests are designed to be failed. People often claim that many field sobriety tests are easily failed without being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The inefficiency and imperfections of the tests create several avenues for your DUI defense lawyer to challenge the officer’s testimony about these tests.  Questions as to the officer’s familiarity with the driver’s true (or baseline) balance and coordination may be raised.

Another issue is whether the driver accused of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol has physical disabilities, illnesses, or injuries which affect the driver’s ability to perform the field sobriety tests. Common injuries such as a bad back, hips, or knees make the tests unreliable and possibly inadmissible. An issue will also be raised as to the officer’s qualifications to perform the field sobriety tests. Certain field sobriety tests, such as the HGN test (eye follow pen test), may only be relied upon when conducted by certified alcohol recognition experts.

Insufficient Probable Cause for the Charges of Florida DUI First Offense

A police officer must have probable cause to believe that a driver was under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a controlled substance, to the extent that the driver’s normal faculties were impaired, in order for the police to arrest a driver for DUI in Florida.

Your DUI defense lawyer in Florida will challenge the officer’s probable cause conclusion for insufficient evidence or that the officer arrived at an unreasonable conclusion.  If your Florida DUI defense attorney can show that there was no probable cause to believe that the driver was under the influence then the driver’s arrest will likely be deemed illegal, subsequent evidence during the stop will be suppressed, and the likely result is often the prosecutor dismissing the Florida DUI charges.

Inadmissible Breath Results Fighting DUI Charges in Florida

In order for breathalyzer results to be deemed admissible in Florida DUI cases the breathalyzer machines are subject to strict maintenance requirements. Additionally, the testing must be done in a very specific, standardized manner. Failure to either properly maintain the machines or to conduct the tests in accordance with required procedures can result in the breath alcohol results ruled inadmissible, subsequent evidence during the stop will be suppressed, and the likely result is often the prosecutor dismissing the Florida DUI charges.

Early Negotiation is Critical in a DUI Defense in Florida

Early contact in the criminal process communicates competence, resolve, and establishes a rapport that may be needed during future negotiations.

Call us even before you are charged if possible.  We may be able to avoid charges being filed.

We will make early contact with the prosecutor to present factual defenses, legal issues, and mitigating circumstances that may have a dramatic impact on the State’s decision to move forward against you.

We also happen to be Florida criminal law attorneys.

We can help you.

Our Florida criminal lawyers serve clients charged in DUI cases in Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami Dade County, and most other Florida cities and counties.

We handle criminal law cases, all driving under the influence defense in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami Dade County and throughout Florida.

Call us.

We want to hear your story, and share ours.

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