Driving under the influence in Florida is a very serious, potentially deadly act that is treated with the utmost seriousness by law enforcement and the Florida legal system. You cannot have it expunged. You cannot have it sealed, or covered up. Being convicted of a DUI offense in the state of Florida is a charge that will remain on your record for 75 years.
When you have been found guilty of a DUI charge, even as a first offender, a judge can and will impose a wide array of penalties.
The Difference Between A DUI and DWI
If someone is driving drunk, or Driving While Intoxicated, that is considered a DWI in the state of Florida.
DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence and refers to operating a vehicle, any vehicle, even a bicycle, while under the influence of any substance, alcohol, or drugs, legal or illegal that renders the operator impaired. Pain pills, sleeping aids, and even allergy medication can conceivably render a person incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.
While it is true that people use the two terms interchangeably, DUI/DWI laws both have similar consequences and should be avoided at all costs.
What Happens When I Drive Under the Influence in Florida?
While every case is different, even a first-time DUI offense carries the very real possibility of jail time.
This is deliberate, as there are no minor incidents of driving drunk. Each and every time someone gets behind the wheel under the influence of anything that causes them to be impaired, they are risking their own lives and the lives of anyone they encounter. For this reason, first-time DUI offenses in the state of Florida, while not the harshest in the country, are extremely stiff.
First-Time DUI Offense in Tampa, FL
The consequences of a first-offense DUI charge in Tampa include:
- Impounding the vehicle
- Suspension of the driver’s license
- A fine of as much as $1000
- Up to six months in jail
There are no mandatory minimums for most first-time DUI offenders, but there are extenuating circumstances that increase the severity of a first offense.
A first offender could receive as much as nine months behind bars and a fine of up to $2000 for:
- Having a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.15% or higher
- Having a passenger in the care under 18 years old at the time
Being involved in a car crash that causes property damage or minor injuries could bring one year in jail, while being involved in a crash that causes serious bodily injury could bring as much as five years in jail and a fine of up to $5000.
All first-time DUI offenders face mandatory probation time and community service of no less than 50 hours. Barring undue circumstances, the combination of jail time and probation time should not exceed a year.
A BAC of 0.08% or more comes with an additional mandate of an ignition interlock device at the discretion of the judge. With a BAC of 0.15%, or if there was a passenger under the age of 18 in the car at the time, the judge must impose a mandatory minimum of six months with an IID upon the convicted driver.
Hardship Licenses for Those Convicted of DUI in Florida
For those who have their licenses suspended after a DUI arrest, it is possible to apply for a hardship license that allows limited driving privileges for those who can prove not being allowed to drive would cause undue hardship.
- Business Purposes Only Licenses – confines driving privileges to activities associated with one’s livelihood, including:
- Driving to and from work
- Driving to and from school
- On the job driving
- Medical visits
- Religious observance
- Work Purposes Only Licenses – this type of hardship license allows the holder to employment-related driving only
In order to be eligible for a hardship license a person convicted of a DUI in Tampa, FL must enroll in a Tampa DUI school and have proof of enrollment. Before one can receive a hardship license, there must be a hearing at the DHSMV office, where the petition will be heard, the office will determine if the petitioner is a hardship case, and if approved, restrictions will be imposed or privileges will be afforded based on the defense provided.
Penalties for Repeat DUI Offenders in Tampa, FL
Penalties for first-time offenders are as harsh as they are because it is hoped that they will not become repeat DUI offenders. Unfortunately, the nature of driving under the influence dictates some will offend again. As such, harsher penalties are imposed on those who repeatedly flaunt DUI laws.
2nd DUI Offenses in Florida
- A second DUI arrest within five years comes with a minimum of 10 days in jail upon conviction.
- It is possible for a judge to assign rehabilitation instead of jail time.
- If the 2nd DUI offense comes more than five years after the previous conviction, and if a blood test was refused or a BAC below 0.15% was registered, the possibility of up to nine months in jail exists.
- There is no mandatory minimum jail time for a 2nd DUI conviction.
- If the 2nd DUI arrest is more than five years after the previous conviction, and there a BAC of 0.15% or higher or a minor was in the vehicle, a maximum sentence of 12 months is possible.
3rd DUI Offenses in Florida
- A third DUI offense within 10 years of the first comes with 30 days minimum in jail upon conviction. A DUI conviction outside of 10 years since the first has no mandatory minimum, but does hold the possibility of up to 12 months in jail.
4th DUI Offenses in Florida
- Once convicted of a fourth DUI offense in the state of Florida, charges are completely irrelevant to how long ago the previous charges happened. A 4th DUI offense is a felony offense and comes with felon status and confinement in a Florida state prison for as many as five years.
If you have been arrested on a DUI charge, regardless of circumstances or your belief in your innocence, you must hire a Tampa, FL criminal defense attorney. There is a limited amount of time from the date of your arrest to apply for a hardship license, and if not handled properly could seriously impact your ability to earn a living. Not filing a request for a court hearing within 10 days of the date of arrest means your license can be suspended for as long as 18 months.
If you or your loved one are in need of information on DUI, call us at 813-359-8667 to speak with a qualified legal professional or fill out the contact form on this page. We’re available 24/7, we offer free initial consultation and payment plans. In addition to our Tampa office, we have offices in the following cities across the state of Florida:
*Additional Orlando Florida & Orange County Legal Resources