Penalties for a First DUI

If you were arrested for a first DUI, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be convicted of DUI. Many DUI offenses are reduced to less serious charges such as reckless driving.

The reduction of DUI charges is particularly likely for a first-time charge with no other significant criminal record, especially if you were polite and cooperative during the investigation. If you are not guilty of the crime, then the best result is getting the charges completely dropped so that the record can be expunged.

Click here to read more about our recent Case Results in DUI Cases.

A reduction to a less serious charge such as reckless driving is also more likely when you are not accused of any aggravating factor such as a crash causing property damage, having a child passenger in the vehicle, or having a BAC of over .15. If your attorney negotiates a withhold of adjudication for a charge of reckless driving, then you might be eligible to seal the criminal record to get rid of the mugshot and criminal history record.

Beginning March 1, 2008, the State Attorney’s Office in Tampa, FL, announced the creation of a DUI diversion program for a first DUI known as the Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism (“RIDR”) initiative. The State Attorney’s Office has indicated that it expects about 20% of DUI cases to be eligible for the new diversion program.

Call the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case. We fight every DUI case with the goal of getting the best possible result. In many cases, the goal is getting the charges dropped or at least reduced to the less serious charge of reckless driving.

Attorneys for a First DUI in Tampa, FL

If you were charged with a first DUI in Florida, this website might help you find information to make an informed decision about the best way to fight the drunk driving charges. Understanding how the process works may give you the motivation to fight the charges aggressively.

The first step is finding out why we ALWAYS recommend demanding a formal review hearing within the first ten (10) days after your arrest. Don’t seek an immediate hardship license and waive all your rights until after you have spoken to an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Your goal is winning the formal review hearing so that the administrative suspension is completely removed from your driving record. Your next goal is avoiding a DUI conviction in the courtroom.

Many of these first time DUI cases throughout the Tampa Bay area are reduced so that the driver can avoid a DUI conviction. Avoiding the DUI conviction can save you thousands of dollars from both the direct consequences of the plea and the indirect consequences of the plea.

Those indirect consequences of a DUI conviction can include a dramatic increase in your insurance premiums for the next three to five years.

Call (813) 250-0500 today.

What are the Chances of Getting Jail Time for a First DUI?

One of the most common questions we get during the initial consultation for a first DUI is: “Will I have to go back to jail?” The fact is, many people worry about their changes of getting jail time for a first DUI offense in Florida.

Statistically, the chances are very slim that you will get additional jail time for a first DUI offense. In fact, if you agree to a negotiated plea before trial, avoiding jail time is almost guaranteed. Even through jail time is unlikely, the minimum mandatory requirements for a first DUI conviction are substantial. Additionally, you should expect your car insurance to increase by at least 50% for at least the next three years.

Even if you decide to go to trial and get a guilty verdict, the judges in Hillsborough County are not known for giving jail time for a first offense (although they will probably sentence you to more than the minimum mandatory requirements).

Not getting jail time after a DUI conviction is particularly common if their are no aggravating factors in the case such as:

  • property damage or any type of injury;
  • a blood / breath alcohol concentration (BAC) over .15; or
  • a child passenger in the vehicle.

Keep in mind that jail time is mandatory after a misdemeanor DUI conviction for:

  • a second DUI within five years of a prior conviction (10 days in jail is required); or
  • a third DUI within ten years of a prior conviction (30 days in jail is required).

Additionally, if you agree to be on probation for a DUI offense and you violate the terms of probation, then you should expect the court to sentence you to some jail time (up to the statutory maximum which is six months in jail for a first offense with no aggravating factors).

The Minimum Mandatory Penalties for a First DUI Conviction

Although no jail time is required for a first DUI, Florida law imposes several minimum mandatory penalties after a DUI conviction. In other words, unless you avoid a DUI conviction, the court must impose the following minimum mandatory punishments:

  • Incarceration (Jail Time): For a first DUI, the court can impose a jail sentence of up to six (6) months in the Hillsborough County Jail. Certain circumstances result in an enhanced penalty that increases the statutory maximum amount of jail time to nine (9) months in jail for a first DUI if under the following circumstances:
    • if the blood or breath alcohol reading (often called BAL or BAC) is 0.15 or higher; or
    • if a minor was in the vehicle;
  • Period of Probation: Up to 12 (twelve) months of probation (but in no event may the total period of incarceration and probation exceed twelve months total);
  • Community Service Hours: Required minimum of 50 hours of community service (although the judge may permit the defendant to “buy out” any number of hours at a rate of $10 per hour);
  • Fine: Minimum fine of $500 but up to $1,000 (with a blood alcohol reading of .15 or higher or if a minor was in the vehicle, then the minimum fine is $1,000 but up to $2,000. For those individuals that are unable to pay the fines because of financial circumstances, the Court may allow the individual to perform community service hours for $10 credit per hour);
  • Period of Florida Driver’s License Revocation: At least a six (6) month suspension with a maximum suspension of up to twelve (12) months;
  • Hardship Driving Permit (Business Purposes Only or Employment Purposes Only Reinstatement): After the driver has completed DUI school, he may apply for a possible hardship reinstatement for business purposes or employment purposes only;
  • Immobilization or Impoundment of Vehicle: The Judge is required to impose a ten (10) days of vehicle immobilization requirement which cannot be served at the same time as the jail term. The court can grant an exception if the impoundment presents a hardship to a family member that has no other means of transportation or if the vehicle is used only by an employee of the defendant or if the vehicle is owned by the defendant’s business;
  • DUI School: The judge must impose a requirement that the driver complete either Level I DUI School (twelve (12) hour class or Level II DUI School that included a drug and alcohol abuse evaluation and completion of any recommended follow up treatment; and
  • Ignition Interlock Device: The judge is not required to impose an ignition interlock device be installed unless the driver’s blood alcohol reading was .15 or higher or a minor was in the vehicle in which case the court is required to impose this requirement for six (6) months.

The best way to avoid some or all of these minimum mandatory requirements is to avoid a DUI conviction by getting the charges dropped or at least reduced to a less serious offense such as reckless driving.

Driver’s License Suspension after a First DUI

Before you even go to court, administrative consequences are triggered by the arrest. In most cases, the officer will take your driver’s license and hand you a citation that acts as your “notice of suspension.”

Read the notice carefully. It may also act as your temporary 10-day permit to drive. Unless you take action to stop the administrative consequences then:

  • If you refused the chemical test then your Florida driver’s license will be suspended for 12 months with a 90-day hard suspension.
  • If you took the breath test and blew over .08 then your Florida driver’s license will be suspended for 6 months with a 30-day hard suspension.
  • For a DUI arrest that occurs after July 1, 2013, with no priors (meaning no prior DUI convictions or administrative suspensions), you might be able to avoid the hard suspension entirely by waiving your right to a review hearing within the first 10 days after the arrest.
  • If you are eligible for immediate reinstatement you must show proof of enrollment in DUI school and comply with the Florida real ID act. The downside is that you will NEVER be able to contest the administrative suspension that will remain on your driving record for the next 75 years.

If you hire an attorney within the first 10 days after the arrest the attorney can help you decide whether you should request a formal review hearing or a review of eligibility for immediate reinstatement.

Is a First DUI a Second Degree Misdemeanor?

Sometime you will see a first DUI classified as a “misdemeanor of the second degree.” A first offense of driving under the influence, however, is not explicitly referred to as a second-degree misdemeanor in the Florida Statutes.

The penalties assessed for a first offense of driving under the influence do not match the penalties typically associated with a second-degree misdemeanor. See ss. 775.082 and 775.083, F.S., and s. 316.193, F.S.

Unlike other types of misdemeanors, Florida Statute Section 316.656, prohibits a court from withholding an adjudication of guilt or imposition of sentence for any driving under the influence charge.

Section 316.656(1) provides that “no court may suspend, defer, or withhold adjudication of guilt or imposition of sentence for any violation of s. 316.193….” For all of these reasons, the penalties for a first DUI cannot be classified as either a first or a second-degree misdemeanor.

It is also important to remember that the minimum mandatory penalties for a first DUI are more serious than for most third-degree felonies. It could be argued that a first-offense DUI is neither a misdemeanor nor a felony but rather a criminal traffic offense.

In Miller v. State, 442 So. 2d 419, 420-21 (Fla. 4th Dist. Ct. App. 1983), the court cites the following Florida statute:

775.08 Classes and definitions of offenses.

–When used in the laws of this state:….

(2) The term “misdemeanor” shall mean any criminal offense that is punishable under the laws of this state, or that would be punishable if committed in this state, by a term of imprisonment in a county correctional facility, except an extended term, not in excess of 1 year. The term “misdemeanor” shall not mean a conviction for any violation of any provision of chapter 316 or any municipal or county ordinance.

Id. (quoting Fla. Stat. § 775.08 (1981)). See also Karl B. Grube, Does Florida Need A Statutory Driving Under the Influence (Dui/dwi) Pretrial Intervention Diversion Program?, 44 Stetson L. Rev. 735, 758 (2015).

Additional Resources

Administrative Suspension for a First DUI in Florida – Visit the website of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to learn more about the consequences of a first DUI for the administrative suspension of your driver’s license. Additionally, find information about the minimum mandatory penalties that must be imposed by the court after a second DUI conviction in Florida, either within 5 years of a prior or outside 5 years of a prior conviction. The website explains why the DUI program must provide a first offender (Level I) education course of 12 hours minimum of classroom instruction.

When was the first drunk driving arrest? – The automobile was invented in 1886 by Karl Benz. According to the History dot com website, the first drunk driving arrest occurred 11 years later on September 10, 1897, when 25-year-old Londoner George Smith, a London taxi driver, was arrested for drunk driving after he crashed into a building in “a four-shelled electric cab.” He pleaded guilty and was fined 20 shillings. Visit the History Channel to find out more about the history of drunk driving cases.

Finding a Lawyer to Fight a First DUI Offense

We represent clients arrested for a wide variety of different types of DUI offenses. We provide free consultations either in the office or over the phone.

Call us for a case in Tampa or Plant City in Hillsborough County or any of the surrounding Tampa Bay areas to discuss the potential penalties that might apply in your case and the best way to fight those charges.

If you were arrested for a first DUI in Tampa, FL, the arrest inquiry details on the website of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office will usually read “Driving under the Influence – 1st OFF – FINE.”

Our main office is located in downtown Tampa, FL. We also have a second office in New Port Richey, FL, in Pasco County, across from the West County Judicial Center.

We can help you understand the penalties and punishments for a first DUI. Call us to find out the best ways to avoid those penalties by fighting for an outright dismissal of the charges or a reduction to less serious offenses such as reckless driving.

Call (813) 250-0500 today.

This article was last updated on Friday, March 21, 2020.