As soon as you are arrested for a DUI, your mugshot goes online, you may lose your job (or your ability to get one), you may lose your security clearance, the list goes on and on. There are a lot of consequences that come with a DUI – some you see right away and others you will not realize until it is too late (for example, your car insurance premiums will increase by a few thousand dollars when you go to renew it).
That’s why it is important to hire an experienced attorney to help you with your DUI. Yes, there is pre-trial diversion in Orange County and Osceola County – but it does not exist in Seminole County. And just because you qualify for pretrial diversion does not mean you will get in! Hiring an attorney increases your chances of getting in and may very well save you all the time and frustration of having to go to court yourself. So if you think your case qualifies for PTD, call an attorney anyway to make sure. It’s free to talk to us and you will probably learn something invaluable just by making a quick phone call. Below is a little more on DUI law in Florida.
It is not illegal to drink and drive in Florida. It only becomes illegal to drive when your normal faculties are impaired. So what does that mean, right? Your normal faculties include the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, drive a car, judge distances and make decisions in emergency situations. Not everyone’s normal faculties are impaired when their body’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is above a .08, however, that is the standard legal limit in the State of Florida. Most people think that the legal limit in Florida is .08 or higher – but that’s not necessarily true. Someone could have a BAC of .09 and be perfectly fine. The flip side is that someone with a very low BAC, say .04, could be guilty of DUI. The key question is whether the person’s normal faculties were impaired.
Drunk driving is wrong. No question about it. However, it is also wrong to convict a person of a DUI unless there is proof beyond all reasonable doubt that they are, in fact, guilty. The punishments for DUI in Florida are severe and a DUI conviction will follow you for a long, long time in part because it can never be expunged from your record. In addition to the criminal record it creates, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will initiate action against you, which is an entirely separate proceeding that can result in your license being suspended and/or requiring you to attend treatment and/or require you to install an ignition interlock device in your car. Finally, you should be aware that a DUI can never be sealed or expunged from your record. Judges are prohibited by statute from sealing or expunging your DUI.
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Here are overviews of what DUIs convictions require. Please note that the below are the minimum required sentences – depending on the circumstances you can receive a harsher sentence, but never a lighter one. A terrific resource for looking up penalties is directly on the website of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles at http://www.flhsmv.gov
Florida criminalizes a second DUI differently depending on when the second occurred in relation to the first. If the second DUI occurs within five years of the conviction of the first, it is treated more severely than if the second occurred more than five years after the first. So the key question to ask is whether the second DUI arrest occurred inside or outside of 5 years of the first DUI conviction. Contact us for a free consultation to learn more.
I have had clients seeking to seal or expunge a petit theft charge, where they pleaded no contest for whatever reason. Now they can’t get a job because employers see the criminal history on their record. They qualify for a seal or expunction but for a DUI they have. If they didn’t have the DUI conviction, they could have had the petit theft wiped off their record. So beware that if you plead to a DUI, that will prevent you from being able to ever seal or expunge anything else from your record.
If you have a DUI conviction, it will be reflected on your Florida Driving Record, which may in turn result in your insurance company dropping you or requiring you to obtain SR-22 insurance.
Employers do not like applicants with criminal history records. DUI is a crime and having a conviction for it will likely hurt your chances of obtaining employment.
Any criminal conviction precludes you from ever being allowed to seal or expunge anything on your records. The only way you might be able to get it off your record is to appeal to the Officer of the Governor for a pardon. Under the current law, no DUI can ever have the adjudication withheld. In other words, if you plead guilty or no contest to a DUI, you must be formally convicted of it and the judge must adjudicate you guilty.
One way to “beat” a DUI charge is by getting the prosecutor to reduce the DUI to a reckless driving or reckless driving alcohol related. Reckless driving is still a criminal traffic offense, however, it will not require all the penalties that a DUI does. Reckless driving is defined as driving a vehicle with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Fla. Stat. 316.192. So what does that mean? “Willful” means intentionally, knowingly, and purposefully. “Wanton” means with a conscious and intentionally indifference to consequences and with knowledge that damage is likely to be doe to persons and property. W.E.B. v. State, 553. So.2d 323 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989).
Reckless driving is a second degree misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of 90 days in jail, 6 months of probation and/or a $500 fine (minimum fine of $25). However, just as DUI’s are enhanceable so are reckless driving charges if they involve property damage, injury, or prior convictions. A second reckless driving charge is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine (minimum $50).
A reckless driving charge on your record should not affect your auto insurance nearly as much as a DUI conviction. Car insurance companies usually require special SR22 insurance, which can be very expensive. If you are able to beat the DUI by getting a reckless driving charge, many times that may be in a person’s best interest – however consult a lawyer first. Reckless driving is still a crime, which can have side effects or consequences you may not expect.
Getting a reduction from a DUI to a reckless driving may also not be in your best interests if you are offered DUI pre-trial diversion. While it is true that a reckless driving plea may not require you to do the DUI counterattack school or community service, it is still a crime that may always be on your record. If you complete the DUI PTD program, the DUI is dismissed and there is no need to plead to anything. Employment applications frequently ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime or pleaded guilty or no contest to any crime. If you get a reckless driving, you may always have to answer yes to that question! Employers have options these days and there is no shortage of people looking for good jobs. One of the first things an employer may do to filter through applications for employment is throw out the applications with criminal records.
Some counties offer Pre-Trial Diversion and some don’t. In Orange County, Pre-Trial Diversion is offered for DUI as long as you meet a specific criteria. Some things that may exclude you from PTD in Orange County are a DUI involving a crash, a BAC exceeding .220, or any prior driving offense involving alcohol. You should call an attorney to see if the county offers PTD and if you would qualify.
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