Drunk driving is serious business. If you get caught, you face significant criminal charges. There are also even worse circumstances that could result from them — such as ending up permanently disabled or killing someone. Yet, these risks aren’t enough to sway people from driving under the influence of alcohol. This can lead to some people getting caught over and over again. What happens if it’s your fourth time getting arrested for DUI? What are the penalties? How do they influence your life? And, can hiring an attorney help?
Overview of DUIs in Florida
If you’ve already gotten three previous DUI charges, you’re well aware of what they entail — having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher and facing fines, jail time, and a driver’s license suspension. The consequences become more severe with each conviction — going from misdemeanors to felonies — and sometimes also requiring psychological evaluations and reporting every month to a probation officer.
Sometimes, the law can be more lenient if enough years have passed between a previous conviction and a new one. For example, if consecutive offenses occur within a decade of each other and you face a third-degree felony, punishment includes a fine of up to $5,000 and five years in prison. However, if 10 years have passed between two previous convictions and a third one, punishment decreases to a misdemeanor. Same fines, but the jail sentence is capped at one year. Things get murkier and more complicated if anyone was severely injured or killed in the accident.
What happens if you get charged with a fourth DUI in Florida?
Florida Statute 316.193 establishes that a driver convicted of a fourth DUI commits a third-degree felony. This results in a fine between $2,000 and $5,000, and up to five years in prison. These penalties apply regardless of how much time has passed between your previous convictions and the fourth one. If your drunk driving caused someone else to suffer serious bodily injury or death, the penalties are increased — $5,000 and 5 years in prison for bodily injuries and $10,000 and 15 years in prison for the death of another.
In addition, the judge may order to install an ignition interlock device on the driver’s car. This is done at the convicted person’s expense, and must remain on the vehicle for six continuous months. This applies to all cars individually or jointly leased or owned and/or routinely operated by the convicted driver. And once you’re out of prison, you’ll no longer have a right to own firearms, apply for financial aid, or be able to vote until you have paid all related fines.
How can a lawyer help with a 4th DUI charge in Florida?
An experienced DUI attorney can help diminish the impact of a fourth conviction. They could question the accuracy of the device used to measure your blood alcohol level, or question the law enforcement officer who pulled you over. If you refused a breathalyzer at the time of arrest, a lawyer 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, a DUI attorney can help you get your charges reduced to reckless driving. 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 fourth 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.