At some point or another, most people experience getting pulled over — for driving five miles per hour over the speed limit, not wearing a seat belt, or maybe having a broken tail light. However, in the big scheme of things, these are all minor traffic offenses. Then there are those that actually constitute a crime — such as driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). But, should you worry too much if you have a clean record? What if you have no criminal background? Does it make sense to hire an attorney for your first DUI?
What is a DUI?
Florida Statute 316.193 establishes that a person is considered to have been driving under the influence of either alcoholic beverages or harmful chemical substances when such consumption impairs a person’s faculties. Specifically relating to alcohol, a person is considered to be a drunk driver if their blood alcohol level (BAC) is 0.08 or more. How many beverages it takes to reach such a level varies greatly from person to person — depending on height, weight, gender, how fast their body metabolizes alcohol, and whether they had food along with their beverages.
What are the penalties for a first DUI?
The penalties for driving under the influence depend on how many times you’ve been caught doing it. You’re exposed to the possible consequences regardless of whether you feel impaired to drive. If your BAC is .08 or above, you can be convicted. For a first offense, you’re facing the following:
- A fine between $500 and $1,000
- Jail time for up to six months
- Vehicle impoundment
- Suspension of your driver’s license for up to a year
- Probation for up to a year
- Community service
- Having to enroll in a DUI program
Typical Plea Options
Plea options depend on your blood alcohol level. If it was below .15 and you plead guilty, your driver’s license could be suspended between six months and a year, you could face probation for up to a year, your vehicle could be impounded for up to 10 days, and you may have to take DUI classes as well as do a set amount of hours of community service. You could also face up to six months in jail.
If your BAC was above .15, the fines are increased. You also face the same consequences regarding vehicle impoundment, driver’s license suspension, probation, and a longer jail sentence.
Another option is a reduction from DUI to a reckless driving charge. This would reduce the fines between $25 and $1,000, and jail time between three to six months.
How an Attorney Can Help
A DUI attorney can help you reduce the impact of a DUI conviction on your life. For example, if you were not feeling drunk when you got behind the wheel, an attorney could question the accuracy of the device used to measure your BAC. A lawyer would also be able to cross-examine the police officer who pulled you over. If you refused a breathalyzer at the time of the arrest, your lawyer could examine the accuracy of a subsequent urine or blood test. This is done with the help of experts in those subject matters, who could be brought in to testify in court if necessary.
On the other hand, if you were indeed drunk driving, an attorney can help you get your charges reduced to reckless driving. And if your driver’s license is temporarily suspended, a lawyer can help you obtain a permit to drive to go to and from work. Every case is different, and the only way to determine whether your charges could be diminished is to consult with an experienced DUI attorney.
What are the differences between a public defender and a private attorney?
Both public defenders and private attorneys received the same education, passed the same bar exam, and have the same legal experience. However, due to the nature of their work, public defenders often are overworked and have a large load of files to work on. This often leaves them with significantly less time to work on each case. In many instances, they meet their clients right before the court hearing — only having a chance to quickly read the file and come up with suggestions based on their experience.
On the other hand, private attorneys typically have more time and resources to dedicate to each individual case. This gives you the opportunity to get to know your lawyer, explain down to the minute details everything relating to your case, and having additional time to work out a strategy for your specific situation.
Call Clark Law If You’ve Been Arrested for DUI in Tampa Bay
If you or someone you love has been arrested for DUI, 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.