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What are the penalties for a DUI in Florida?

Seeing the flashing blue and red lights behind you as you get pulled over for a DUI can be frightening, and it can leave you wondering what the consequences may be. It's important to note that you have rights, and law enforcement has to conduct the stop and arrest while still respecting your rights.

Immediately after you get pulled over, there are things you should definitely not do, in order to protect your rights and give you the best chance in fighting any possible charges, with the help of your attorney. The following things are not advised:

  • Taking a breathalyzer test unless you've only had one drink.
  • Running your mouth to police or talking back. You have the right to remain silent, and often what you say may be used against you in court.
  • Trying to talk your way out of the arrest or charge. The police officer will decide what to do, and it does not look favorable if you try to plead or bribe your way out of getting arrested or charged for a DUI.

Once you've followed these guidelines, you should know the potential penalties that come with a DUI conviction, if you end up being charged - whether it is your first offense, or if you've had multiple offenses in the past.

Driver's license suspension or revocation

If you are convicted of a DUI in Florida, you may face driver's license suspension or revocation. The following are periods of time your license may be suspended for each offense:

  • First offense: six months
  • Second offense: one year
  • Third offense: two years

A criminal defense attorney can help you obtain a limited occupational driver's license temporarily so that you are able to drive to and from work or school while your license is suspended.

Ignition interlock device

If this is not your first DUI conviction, a judge could order you to have an ignition interlock device installed in your car. For a second offense, you'd have to use the device for one year. Third or more convictions would require use of two or more years of an ignition interlock device. The only time you'd be required to use the device for your first offense would be if your blood-alcohol concentration was more than 0.15 percent.

Alcohol assessment, education and treatment

Florida law requires mandatory attendance for alcohol education, assessment and treatment programs for all DUI convictions, whether it is your first or third conviction. These programs focus on education and therapy and are sometimes used to suspend your sentencing, and instead allow you to attend these programs while you are on probation. The programs aim to prevent alcohol dependency and teach attendees the consequences of drinking and driving. This penalty can sometimes be used in place of harsher penalties, or reduce harsher penalties, such as fines, jail time or license suspension.

Do I need an attorney?

A criminal defense attorney skilled in the area of DUI defense can help you explore all of your options and fight to reduce or replace your penalties, should you face a DUI charge. It's important to protect your rights and minimize the possibility of a conviction or harsh penalties because of the impact that could have on your life. Because a DUI charge is often unexpected and is not something most people plan on, many attorneys can arrange payment plans so that you can still be represented without having to pay all attorney fees upfront. Knowing your rights and having someone by your side to defend those rights could make a big difference for your criminal record and your future.

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