Getting charged with a DUI is serious business. The consequences could include hefty fines, having to install an interlock device in your vehicle, a suspension of your driver’s license, and imprisonment. The process can be long, challenging, and expensive — and once it’s over, you have to deal with the aftermath of having a criminal record. But, what happens if this isn’t the first time you get charged with driving under the influence? Would a judge look at past convictions when deciding on the punishment?
What is considered to be a DUI in Florida?
In Florida, you’re considered to be driving under the influence if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 or higher. There’s no simple formula to calculate how many drinks it would take for a person to reach that BAC, since it could be influenced by gender, weight, fat ratio, muscle mass, metabolism, rate of consumption, whether you consumed food along with the drinks, and/or whether you are taking any medications.
What happens if you get charged with a third DUI in Florida?
The first time a person gets charged with a DUI, they are facing a misdemeanor. If you’ve already been down that road, you are aware that the maximum penalties are $1,000 and up to six months in jail. A second conviction is still considered a misdemeanor — with the possible fine being increased to $2,000, and jail time being increased to up to nine months.
Things start getting uglier with a third DUI conviction. If the previous two offenses occurred within 10 years from the current one, you are facing a third-degree felony charge. This means the fine could increase up to $5,000 and you could be sentenced to five years in prison. That said, the punishment extends for much longer than that. Once you’re released out of prison, you’d no longer have the right to vote, own a firearm, sit on a jury, or run for office. You’d also be labeled a convicted felon. This affects your ability to get a job, qualify for financial aid, and find a home to rent.
If your third conviction occurs more than 10 years after the previous two, you’re once again facing a misdemeanor. The civil fine will be between $2,000 and $5,000, and up to a year in jail. However, you could still face felony charges again if the accident resulted in serious bodily injury, death, or if you failed to render aid or provide information.
How can a lawyer help with a 3rd DUI charge in Florida?
A DUI attorney can help diminish the impact of a third DUI conviction on your life. They could question the accuracy of the device used to measure your blood alcohol level, and/or question the police officer who pulled you over. If you refused a breathalyzer at the time of the arrest, an attorney would look at the accuracy of a subsequent urine or blood test. They could also subpoena witnesses who were with you at the time of the accident to attest to your alcohol consumption — as well as witnesses at the scene of the accident and accident reconstruction experts.
If you were indeed driving drunk, an attorney can help you get your charges reduced to a reckless driving charge. This would mean getting the penalties reduced to a $500 fine and up to 90 days of jail time for a first conviction. If you already have a reckless driving charge on your record, that would increase to a penalty of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail — both of which are significantly lower than the penalties for a third DUI conviction. A lawyer could also negotiate for you to go to traffic school and do hours of community service in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Every case is different, and nothing can be guaranteed. The only way to determine whether your charges could be diminished is to consult with an experienced DUI attorney.
Call Clark Law If You Have a Personal Injury Claim in Tampa Bay
If you or someone you love has been involved in a DUI accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.