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First DUI Offense

DUI attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Imagine you are out with friends and family for a memorable evening, when suddenly you see red and blue lights flashing behind you on the drive home. You realize you had several drinks and are now worried about the daunting outcome of a first-time DUI charge. A single lapse in judgement can lead to life-altering repercussions, especially in the Sunshine State.

Florida has taken a strict stance against drinking and driving, which is why even a first-time DUI can result in dire consequences. The penalties for a first-time DUI are severe, and if you are convicted it can leave a mark on both your personal and professional life. From paying expensive fines, having your license suspended, or facing imprisonment, a DUI conviction is haunting.

If it’s your first DUI arrest, having no prior criminal record can be particularly helpful in convincing the prosecutor to be lenient and reduce your charges. Your attorney can highlight any applicable defenses that may lead to a “not guilty” verdict at trial or a dismissal of the charges before the trial starts.

Even if you have no prior record, it is still important to understand the charges against you and how to fight them. The best way to face your charges and aim to earn back your freedom is by working with an experienced defense attorney who is knowledgeable regarding DUI laws and defenses.

First DUI Attorney in Tallahassee

Out of all drunk driving cases, the initial DUI offense is by far the most common. Being arrested and charged with DUI can be intimidating, but the criminal defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law can help. Throughout the years, Don Pumphrey Jr. has represented business owners, members of the military, nurses, health care professionals, teachers, certified educators, college students and graduate students charged with DUI.

Let the attorneys at Pumphrey Law put their experience to work for you in fighting drunk driving cases in Tallahassee and the surrounding areas in North Florida’s Big Bend region including Monticello in Jefferson County, Crawfordville in Wakulla County, Quincy in Gadsden County and Bristol in Liberty County.

Call (850) 681-7777 to schedule a free consultation with a Tallahassee lawyer.

Defining “Under the Influence”

A DUI or “driving under the influence” case may arise when an individual operates a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, chemical substances, controlled substances, or  a combination of the above.

The most common DUI cases are against those who operate a motor vehicle; however, you do not need to be driving a car to be arrested for a first-time DUI. A vehicle is defined as any device which may be transported or drawn upon a highway. Florida law allows law enforcement to arrest individuals for a DUI on any of the following methods of transportation:

  • Bicycle
  • Horseback
  • Lawn Mower
  • Electric Scooter
  • Golf Cart
  • Wheelchair

One important aspect of a DUI case is whether the defendant was driving or was in “actual physical control” of a vehicle. Actual physical control implies that the defendant had the immediate ability to operate a motor vehicle. Law enforcement can determine if a defendant was in actual physical control in several ways. One indicator is if the defendant was found in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. Another example is if the defendant was found with their car keys in their hand. A Tallahassee criminal defense attorney can help explain actual physical control and determine which defenses are applicable to fight the DUI charge.

The Two Cases Pending Against You After a DUI Arrest

After getting arrested for drunk driving, there will be two cases pending against you. It is important to know the difference between these two cases and what options you have to fight them. These two pending cases apply whether you were under the influence of alcohol or if you are accused of drugged driving. It’s important to remember that you have the right to an attorney in both cases.

These two cases are:

  • The Administrative “On-the-Stop” Suspension
    Immediately after the arrest, the DMV will begin an administrative action to suspend your driver’s license based on the arrest if you either blew over the legal limit of 0.08 BAC or if you refused to take the breath test. If this happens, you can have a hearing to determine whether you will lose your driving privileges, and if so, for how long.
  • Criminal Case
    The State of Florida will also bring a criminal action against you for violating Florida’s law that prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Depending on the specific facts of your case, you could be facing a misdemeanor or a felony charge. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will answer the charges in County Court. If you are charged with a felony, you will answer the charges in Circuit Court.

First DUI Criminal Charge in Florida

Florida Statute Section 316.193 considers an individual under the influence of alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances when the following conditions are met:

  1. The defendant’s breath-alcohol content level is 0.08 or higher;
  2. The defendant’s blood-alcohol content level is 0.08 or higher; or
  3. The defendant’s normal faculties are impaired due to the consumption of alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances.

Depending on the surrounding circumstances of your case, a first-time DUI offense can result in a misdemeanor or felony charge. A first-time DUI offense will likely be charged as a misdemeanor unless the incident resulted in serious injury or death. However, there are enhanced penalties for certain defendants. This may be based on the blood- or breath-alcohol level when the defendant was arrested, or if the incident caused property damage, personal injury, or death.

DUI Crash Involving Property Damage or Personal Injury

Under Florida Statute Section 316.193(3), any person operating a vehicle who violates Florida’s DUI law and in doing so causes either property damage or personal injury results in the following charges:

  • Damage to the property or person – First-degree misdemeanor
  • Serious bodily injury to another person – Third-degree felony

However, if a first-time DUI results in the death of another person, the defendant may face more severe charges such as DUI manslaughter.

Conditions for Release After DUI Arrest

When a person is arrested for a first-time DUI offense, the conditions for their release from jail is as follows:

  1. Until the arrested person is no longer under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance, or any controlled substance and affected to the extent that his or her normal faculties are impaired;
  2. Until the arrested person’s blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level is below 0.05; or
  3. Until eight hours have elapsed from the time the person was arrested.

Administrative License Suspension in Tallahassee, FL

Under Florida Statute Sections 322.2615 and 322.64, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles “FLHSMV” is authorized to conduct a formal and informal review when requested by the driver. The law states that this hearing can be held to sustain, amend, or invalidate an administrative suspension and disqualification.

For many, there is no real downside to requesting an administrative hearing to protect your driver’s license. If you prevail, the administrative suspension will be removed from your driving record as if it never happened and you can continue to drive without any restrictions while your criminal case is pending.

The only downside to asserting your right in a formal review hearing is that an unsuccessful hearing will result in a hard suspension of your driving privilege. Even if you do not win at the formal review hearing, the evidence and testimony gained during the hearing may assist your Tallahassee DUI attorneys in fighting the criminal charges in court.

If the charges are based on a breath test, then you will be facing a hard suspension for at least 30 days. If the charges are based on a refusal to take the breath test, then you will be facing a hard suspension for at least 90 days. A hard suspension means that you are not able to drive at all during the 30 or 90 days and once the period is over, you may request a hardship license. While daunting, this risk is a small price to pay for all the benefits that go along with contesting the suspension.

After the arrest for a first DUI, the officer will take your driver’s license and issue you a 10-day driving permit. You must file a demand for a formal review hearing within those ten days, or your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for either six months or one year depending on whether you submitted to the breath test or not.

  • Refusal to Submit to a Breath Test
    A refusal comes with an automatic 12-month suspension. After serving 90 days of “hard time,” during which you cannot drive for any reason, you should become eligible for a ‘business purpose only’ license that allows you to drive to and from school, work, the hospital, and other important places for the rest of the 12 months.
  • Breath Test
    If you blew over the legal limit of 0.08, then a six-month suspension could be put in place. After serving 90 days of hard time, during which you cannot drive for any reason, you should become eligible for a ‘business purpose only’ license for the remainder of the 6 months.

During the 10 days after your arrest, if you retain an attorney to demand a formal review hearing, your attorney can help you obtain a 42-day driving permit so you can continue driving for business purposes while your attorney prepares for the formal review hearing.

Florida’s Implied Consent Law

Florida Statute Section 316.1932 is known as Florida’s implied consent law. It explains that each Florida driver agrees to abide by specific laws. Included in the laws is the consent to law enforcement for lawful DUI testing when the driver is arrested for driving under the influence.

Florida drivers can refuse a breathalyzer test. However, it is extremely important to point out that refusing to take a breathalyzer or blood test results in a one-year driver’s license suspension for a first-time DUI. The suspension period is longer for second or subsequent DUI offenses.

Important: Florida Supreme Court addressed that implied consent is only valid for a lawful DUI arrest. That means if the arresting officer(s) violated your rights or completed an unlawful arrest, you may be able to fight the DUI charges and license suspension.

Penalties for First DUI Conviction

Fighting the case proactively is important because the penalties are harsh for a first-time DUI offender. These penalties are in addition to the administrative suspension if it’s not invalidated after the formal review hearing or if you fail to request a formal review hearing. The penalties for a first DUI conviction include:

  • Jail time
    A maximum jail sentence of six months in the Leon County Jail. If the breath test result was higher than 0.15 or if a minor child was in the vehicle at the time of the stop, the maximum jail sentence is nine months in jail.
  • Revocation of driving privileges
    In addition to any administrative suspension imposed by the DMV, if there was no bodily injury the court is required to revoke your driver license for at least 180 days and up to 1 year. If there was a bodily injury, your driver license will be revoked for at least 3 years. The penalties could also be enhanced in a commercial motor vehicle DUI.
  • Business Purposes Only (BPO) reinstatements
    After the conviction, most individuals are eligible for business purpose only or employment purpose only driving privileges for the entire period of the court-ordered revocation. In other words, no additional “hard period” of no driving for any reason is imposed, assuming the driver has already completed DUI School.
  • Probation
    In misdemeanor DUI cases, the judge is required to impose 12 months of probation, with credit for any jail time imposed. However, the court can terminate the probation early if all special conditions are met.
  • Community Service
    The court must impose 50 hours of community service, but the court may permit you to “buy out” a portion of those hours at a rate of $10.00 per hour.
  • Fine
    The court is required to impose a fine of $500 to $1,000. If the breath test reading was more than 0.15 or a minor child was in the automobile, the court is required to impose a fine of $1,000 to $2,000.
  • Vehicle impound
    In most cases, the judge will impose a 10-day vehicle impoundment unless the court finds that it would be a hardship to another family member that has no other form of transportation. The 10-day impoundment does not occur concurrently with incarceration, but instead starts from when you get out of jail.
  • School
    The court is obligated to require that the driver complete a Level I DUI school which consists of a 12-hour class, substance abuse evaluation, and follow-up treatment which is typically 8 to 12 weeks of alcohol or drug treatment and counseling.
  • Ignition interlock device
    Although the court has the discretion to impose the ignition interlock device after a first DUI conviction, the court is only required to impose this condition on a first DUI when the breath or blood alcohol reading was 0.15 or higher or when it is alleged a minor was in the automobile.

Commercial Motor Vehicle DUI

According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), a person who is licensed to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and is arrested for DUI may be disqualified from operating a CMV for one year. Examples of the disqualifying instances include:

  • Driving a CMV while under the influence of alcohol, or while in possession of a controlled substance;
  • Driving a CMV while under the influence of alcohol and refusing to submit a test for law enforcement; or
  • Getting convicted of a CMV DUI with a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 or above.

DUI Diversion Programs in Tallahassee

A DUI diversion program or “DUI Pretrial Intervention” program is an alternative to the traditional prosecution and penalties for defendants charged with DUI or related offenses.

In Tallahassee, those eligible for a DUI diversion program vary depending on several factors. First-time DUI offenders are typically offered DUI diversion programs if they have no prior convictions or a limited criminal record. However, factors that may impact a first-time offender’s diversion program eligibility is their BAC level at the time of the arrest, and the defendant’s willingness to comply with the program’s requirements.

Requirements for Reinstating Your Driver’s License

Even after you have completed all the terms and conditions imposed by the court, your driver’s license is not reinstated automatically. A convicted person must apply to have their license reinstated. To reinstate your driver’s license, you must show proof of obtaining FR-44 insurance, pay a reinstatement fee of $60, pay an administrative fee of $115 and pay a driver’s license fee.

Level One DUI School in Tallahassee, FL

Under Florida Statute Section 316.193(5) and Florida Administrative Rule 15a.10, you must complete an approved 12-hour course and evaluation. Completing DUI school is required for the first offense of DUI, DUBAL (driving with an unlawful blood or breath alcohol concentration), DUI Refusal, DWI, and a DUI reduced to WWRD (reckless driving if substance abuse related). You must also complete Level One DUI school after a conviction for Boating under the Influence if ordered to do so by the court. You might also be required to fulfill this requirement for other types of convictions that require attendance in an alcohol/substance abuse education program.

If you live or work in Leon County, FL, after a first DUI arrest in Tallahassee, it costs $289 to enroll in a Level 1 DUI school in Tallahassee. The North Florida Safety Council allows you to pre-register online with a credit card. You can also complete the process for pre-registration by going to the office after setting a registration appointment. If you register in the office, you must pay $275 with cash or money order. If you want to pay with a credit card in the office, you will be charged an additional convenience fee. When you enroll, be sure to pick up the proof of enrollment certificate and enrollment forms.

Defenses to DUI

Getting arrested for a first-time DUI can turn your life upside down. The legal landscape is complex and can leave a person unfamiliar with the process confused and uncertain about their future. Even if you have already been charged with a first-time DUI offense in Tallahassee, there is still a fighting chance to get the penalties lessened or the charges dropped altogether. By working with a skilled attorney with Pumphrey Law, our team will work on building a strong defense to your case that includes, but is not limited to:

  • Improper field sobriety tests;
  • Blood-alcohol content tests results are inaccurate;
  • The arresting officer lacked probable cause to pull the defendant over;
  • The DUI arrest was considered unlawful; or
  • The defendant’s constitutional rights were violated during the arrest.

Each DUI case will differ in its case details and therefore its possible defenses. Contact a criminal defense attorney with Pumphrey Law to discuss your options for defense.

Find a DUI Attorney in Tallahassee, FL

A DUI arrest can be an intimidating experience. You should not have to go through the process alone. Contact a criminal defense lawyer in Tallahassee after a DUI arrest in Leon County. Pumphrey Law has represented clients facing a variety of drunk driving charges, and the attorneys can help you fight for the best possible result in your case.

Call (850) 681-7777 to schedule a free case consultation.


Page updated on June 15, 2023

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