Drivers in Florida know how aggressive state troopers can be, especially when people are spending a night out with friends and family. Getting pulled over after you have had a couple of drinks can be a very unpleasant experience, especially if the officer decides to take you in for a blood or breath test.
Many people find themselves in serious trouble once law enforcement has gathered enough evidence to charge them with a DUI. While penalties in Florida are severe, it is possible to mount an effective defense that can reduce or even eliminate penalties. For West Palm Beach residents, having an effective legal strategy is the first step toward fighting for your rights.
What are the penalties for a DUI?
In Florida, even a first DUI carries penalties that may include losing driving privileges, fines and even jail time. Under Florida law, impairment of normal faculties occurs when the blood or breath alcohol level (BAC) is 0.08% or higher, and penalties for a DUI include:
- First DUI: fines of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail.
- Second DUI: fines of up to $2,000, jail time of up to nine months.
- Third and Fourth DUI: felony offenses carrying a minimum $2,000 fine, possible jail time of 12 months to five years. If the conviction was within 10 years of a previous DUI, mandatory minimum prison sentence.
In addition, drivers may have to attend mandatory substance abuse counseling or perform community service. If there was a minor in the car, the penalties will be the same as if the driver had an aggravated DUI. An aggravated DUI is when the driver’s BAC was .15% or higher.
What DUI defenses work?
Depending on the unique circumstances of the case and the evidence that supports the charges, a defense team may try affirmative defenses to counter the accusations, such as:
- Involuntary intoxication, which could occur if the defendant drank spiked punch or an alcoholic beverage without their knowledge.
- Mistake of fact, when the defendant was on a medication that caused drowsiness but was not aware of this side effect when getting behind the wheel.
- Necessity, when the person chose DUI to avoid a greater harm or in which they had no choice but to drive while impaired.
- Entrapment, in which an officer encouraged the motorist to drive while impaired.
Defense attorneys often counter charges with countercharges, by questioning the results of the blood or breath test, or the officer’s or the lab’s competency. They may also successfully argue that the initial stop lacked probable cause and for this reason the judge should dismiss the case.