Written by attorney Jason A Hicks

Florida DUI: Overview of the First Offense Penalties

If you have been arrested for DUI in Florida, and it is your first offense, there are certain mandatory penalties that have to be imposed by statute if convicted. In addition, each jurisdiction has some other common discretionary penalties that will likely be imposed. This article assumes that you were arrested for a first-offense DUI and sentenced accordingly without any aggravating factors (like a crash, over .15 breath result, or a minor in your vehicle) or mitigating factors (like a weak case for the State). A conviction is mandatory in Florida for a DUI sentencing. This means that the prosecutor or Judge cannot withhold adjudication even if he or she wants to. If you were to plead to DUI, or be found guilty of DUI by a jury, the Judge must impose a conviction. A first time DUI offense carries fines and potential incarceration depending on your jurisdictions. Different counties, and different judges for that matter, have different norms when it comes to incarceration for a first time DUI offender. The maximum incarceration is 6 months. Get advice from a local attorney in your jurisdiction to inquire as to that jurisdiction's, or your judge's policy and practice on incarceration. In Brevard County where I practice, it is unusual (although not unheard of) for a prosecutor to ask for, and a judge to impose, jail time for a first time DUI plea with no aggravating factors. For a first time DUI, a fine of $500 to $1000 will be imposed. In addition to the fine, you will have to pay mandatory court costs. At the time of a DUI plea or sentencing, the court must place all offenders on monthly reporting probation. The term of probation cannot exceed one year for a first offense. Probation is not free; you have to pay for it. In Brevard County the cost of supervision is about $60 per month at the time of this article. It is not unusual for the court to allow a Defendant to file a motion for early termination after 6 months if all the terms and conditions of probation are complete and the probationer has otherwise complied. The court will impose certain mandatory terms and conditions of probation. This includes the completion of a substance abuse course by a DUI program which includes a psychosocial evaluation. If the DUI program recommends treatment, the offender must complete it. You can safely assume that the DUI program will recommend treatment because they almost always refer an offender to treatment. The offender will pay the costs of this treatment. The offender will likely attend the 2-hour Victim Awareness Program, or VAP. This course designed to modify driver behavior through educating and introducing the driver to the realities of how irresponsible driving impacts the community. The court will also impose 50 hours of community service to be completed as a condition of probation. The offender may pay $250 in order to only have to complete 25 hours instead of $50. This is known as "half buy out" of community service. In addition to the mandatory conditions of probation described above, a first time offender will also have his or her driver's license suspended for a period of 6 - 12 months. Keep in mind that the license suspension described here is separate and independent of any suspension for a refusal to submit to a breath test. The refusal suspensions are administratively imposed by the DHSMV. So at the time of a DUI plea or conviction, another separate license suspension of 6-12 months will be imposed. Many prosecutors make it a policy to request a 12 month suspension if you refused to submit to a breath test and a 6 month suspension if you took the breath test (as a reward for your cooperation). A first time offender's vehicle will be impounded or immobilized for a period of 10 days when convicted of DUI. Most jurisdictions will ask that the offender not consume non-prescribed drugs or alcohol while on probation and also submit to random testing for the presence of drugs or alcohol. These conditions are not mandatory by statute but they are very commonplace. The above was a very general description of both the mandatory, and common discretionary penalties imposed on a first time DUI conviction with no real aggravating factors. Keep in mind that jurisdictions are wildly different in their sentencing norms. It is very important to ask a local DUI attorney in your jurisdiction what the likely penalties are in your specific circumstances. Often, penalties vary even within a jurisdiction depending on the facts of a case specifically.

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