• Everything You Need to Know About First-Time DUI in Hillsborough County

Everything You Need to Know About First-Time DUIs in Hillsborough County

Facing your first DUI charge in Hillsborough County can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to define your future. Many people in the area have faced similar situations and successfully moved on. With the right approach and proactive steps, you can overcome this challenge.

This comprehensive guide is designed specifically for those facing a first-time DUI charge in Hillsborough County. Each year, thousands of people are arrested for DUI charges here, but with our guidance, you won’t be just another number. Our well-established reputation offers a significant advantage, but it’s your active involvement that will help us secure the best possible outcome for you.

Why Choosing Our Firm Makes a Difference

For over 66 years, our law firm has been helping individuals facing DUI charges in Hillsborough County. Our team of highly experienced DUI attorneys has handled more DUI cases than any other firm in the region, giving us unmatched expertise. We maintain strong relationships with local judges and prosecutors, ensuring the best possible representation. Our team comprises five skilled defense lawyers. Two of our lawyers were former prosecutors, and one was a former probation officer. We provide top-quality defense services at competitive rates, guiding you through every step to clear your charges.

In every DUI case, our primary objectives are consistent: to help you retain your driving privileges, safeguard your record from permanent damage, and avoid incarceration.

Understanding First-Time DUI Offenses and Their Consequences

A first-time DUI in Hillsborough County carries consequences. Upon conviction, individuals face significant penalties under Florida law. Here is what you may face:


For individuals facing a first-time DUI offense in Hillsborough County, fines and court costs amount to $983. This fee is applicable if the breathalyzer or urine test was refused, or if the blood alcohol content registered below .15. However, if the blood alcohol content exceeds .15, the total fine escalates to $1,518.


In Hillsborough County, for first-time DUI offenses, incarceration is not obligatory. Nevertheless, the court retains the authority to impose a jail sentence of up to six months. This duration may extend to nine months if the blood alcohol content (BAC) level surpasses 0.15 or if a minor was in the vehicle during the offense. Typically, first-time misdemeanor DUI cases do not lead to imprisonment unless certain aggravating factors are present.


In Hillsborough County, a 12-month probation period is required for every DUI case by the court. However, judges have the discretion to terminate probation early if all conditions are satisfied, sometimes even granting automatic early termination upon fulfillment of requirements. This flexibility often enables our clients to swiftly conclude their probationary period.

Conviction or Adjudication of Guilt

In Hillsborough County, individuals who plead guilty or are found guilty of a DUI will receive a misdemeanor DUI conviction. It’s crucial to understand that there is no option for withholding adjudication for a DUI offense.

Vehicle Impoundment

In Hillsborough County, a 10-day vehicle impoundment is mandated for DUI incidents. To arrange this, individuals should contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, bearing in mind there is a $50 fee for installing a steering wheel lock. If the vehicle is no longer owned or belongs to someone else, impoundment may be waived. Additionally, the court may grant waivers in cases where impoundment causes hardship to an innocent third party. Our firm actively seeks waivers in such situations when there’s a valid basis.

DUI School

The completion of Level One DUI school is mandatory as ordered by the judge. Typically, individuals will have fulfilled this requirement before resolving their DUI case due to DMV regulations for obtaining the BPO license. For Hillsborough County residents or workers, DUI school can be undertaken through Counterattack.

Alcohol or Substance Abuse Counseling

In every DUI case, individuals are required to undergo an alcohol or substance abuse evaluation and fulfill any recommended treatment. Thankfully, DUI school encompasses this evaluation and treatment within its requirements. As a result, participants are often in the process of or have already completed these steps prior to resolving their DUI case.

Community Service Hours

In Hillsborough County, the court mandates 50 hours of community service for level one, 75 hours for level two, and 50 hours for level three DUI offenders. These service hours can be fulfilled at various non-profit organizations such as animal rescue facilities, churches, the Boley Center, Goodwill, or Salvation Army. Documentation of these hours is required, and the probation officer must be able to verify them by contacting the facility. Additionally, judges in Hillsborough County offer the option to buy out either all or half of the mandated hours at a rate of $10 per hour. For instance, if the judge allows a full buyout, the offender can pay $500 in lieu of completing the hours. If only a partial buyout is permitted, the offender would need to complete the specified number of hours and can then pay the remaining amount accordingly.

Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device, designed to prevent vehicle operation by individuals who have consumed alcohol, is installed by a private company. Proof of installation must be provided to the DMV. The court is not obligated to impose this device unless the blood alcohol level exceeded .15. If the BAC surpasses .15, the court must mandate the device for a minimum duration of 6 months.

Victim Impact Panel (VIP)

The Victim Impact Panel (VIP) is an online educational program designed for DUI offenders, managed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It entails a fee of $53 and typically spans around 1.5 hours. The session commonly features a MADD representative and a bereaved mother sharing their experiences related to drunk driving. In Hillsborough County, the requirement to attend a VIP varies depending on the judge. However, if you were involved in a crash, it’s probable that the judge will include VIP attendance as part of your sentencing conditions. This program is obligatory for participation in the RIDR program prior to entering a plea.

Investigative Costs

Investigative costs encompass the expenses incurred by law enforcement for investigating the DUI case and handling related paperwork. These costs are typically detailed in the bottom right-hand corner of the arrest affidavit provided upon release from jail. In Hillsborough County, these costs are routinely ordered by the courts in every DUI case.

Exploring Alternative Resolutions for First-Time DUI Offenders in Hillsborough County

First-time DUI offenders in Hillsborough County have alternatives to traditional sentencing that focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment. These options provide opportunities for offenders to learn from their mistakes and avoid severe penalties, helping to minimize the long-term impact on their lives.

1. Reduction to Reckless or Careless Driving

Plea bargains can reduce DUI charges to lesser offenses like reckless or careless driving, resulting in lighter penalties and fewer long-term consequences.

2. Reducing Impaired Driving Program (RIDR) in Hillsborough County

The Reducing Impaired Driving Program (RIDR), initiated on March 1, 2018, offers first-time DUI offenders an opportunity to avoid a DUI conviction on their record. This diversion program guarantees that participants will have their DUI charge reduced to reckless driving. While the requirements for RIDR are similar to those for a DUI, successful completion means no DUI conviction, no driver’s license suspension, and no need for costly FR-44 car insurance.

The RIDR program represents a significant shift in how DUIs are handled in Hillsborough County. Although acceptance into the program is discretionary, it provides a valuable alternative for eligible individuals. To qualify for RIDR, the following criteria must be met:

  • Your breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) must not exceed .20, or you refused to provide a sample.
  • There was no crash involving bodily injury or significant property damage.
  • There were no minor children in your vehicle.
  • Your DUI charge does not include leaving the scene of a crash.
  • Your DUI charge does not include a felony.
  • You have no pending charges and are not on any form of supervision or release, such as probation or parole.
  • You have no prior convictions for DUI/BUI, alcohol-related reckless driving, driving while license suspended with serious bodily injury or death, leaving the scene of an accident with injury or death, or vehicular homicide.
  • You had a valid driver’s license on the date of the offense.

For more information about the RIDR program, visit the official website.

RIDR Program Levels

Level One RIDR

Designed for individuals with a BAC at or below .15.

Level Two RIDR

Applicable for those with a BAC between .15 and .20 or those who refused the breath or urine test.

Level Three RIDR

Intended for drug-related DUIs.

Differences Among RIDR Levels

All levels require participants to remain crime-free, complete DUI school and any recommended treatment, attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel (VIP), and perform 10 hours of community service.

  • Level One: Participants must install an ignition interlock device or wear an alcohol-monitoring ankle device for three months.
  • Level Two: Participants are required to use an ignition interlock device or an alcohol-monitoring ankle device for six months.
  • Level Three: Participants must wear a PharmCheck Drugs of Abuse Patch for three months, with results submitted to the Office of the State Attorney.

Handling BAC Levels Near .20

If one of your breath tests registers at or below .20 and the other above, the Office of the State Attorney will consider the lower result. Therefore, as long as one result is .20 or below, you are eligible for the RIDR program.

Safeguarding Your Driving Privileges: Understanding License Suspension Laws in Hillsborough County

Another significant repercussion of a DUI conviction is its impact on your driver’s license. Upon being charged with DUI, it’s probable that law enforcement will have confiscated your license. It’s crucial to note that this suspension is a civil matter overseen by the DMV, separate from the criminal proceedings related to the DUI offense. However, you do have the opportunity to request a Business Purpose Only (BPO) permit, commonly referred to as a hardship license.

Pro tip: Remember, you have a limited window of 10 days to apply for a hardship license, so prompt action is essential!

Impact on Driver’s License Status

A first-time DUI charge in Hillsborough County can swiftly impact your driving privileges:

License Confiscation: Upon arrest, law enforcement may seize your license.

Immediate Suspension: A blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher triggers an automatic six-month suspension. Refusal of a breath or urine test leads to a 12-month suspension. However, if you possessed a valid driver’s license during the DUI incident, you’re eligible for a hardship license.

BPO Eligibility: Check the DUI citation for indications of eligibility for a Business Purpose Only (BPO) permit. Look for specific lines at the bottom of the citation, which may provide details.

Effectively managing the DMV suspension process in Hillsborough County requires timely action:

Ten-Day Window: Following your DUI arrest, utilize your DUI citation as a temporary permit for driving within the initial ten-day period.

Waiver Review Hearing: Within this timeframe, submit an application for a waiver review hearing to contest the suspension and potentially acquire a hardship license.

Important Note: This procedure is applicable solely to first-time DUI cases. Individuals with prior alcohol-related driving offenses do not qualify for the waiver review hearing. Our office can offer assistance in navigating the process for applying for the waiver review hearing and securing a hardship license in such instances.

Eligibility for Business Purpose Only (BPO) Permit

During the period of suspension, obtaining a Business Purpose Only (BPO) permit is feasible under the following conditions:

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Possession of a valid license at the time of the DUI incident
  • Enrollment in DUI school
  • Application submitted within ten days of arrest

BPO Permit Limitations:

Driving is restricted solely to business-related activities, such as work, school, and medical appointments.

Recreational driving is prohibited.

Understanding these aspects is essential to safeguard your driving privileges and ensure some level of mobility during this challenging period.

Where Can I Drive with the Hardship License?

Many individuals inquire about the permissible destinations while using a hardship license. As the DMV does not provide statutory interpretations, this license, known as a Business Purposes Only (BPO) license, strictly limits driving to business-related purposes.

Our recommendation: refrain from recreational driving and abstain from alcohol consumption before driving with this license. It can be utilized for commuting to work or school, picking up children, attending appointments, and similar essential tasks. However, using the license for recreational activities, such as dining out or going to the movies, is prohibited.

Pro tip: Unless medically necessary, going to the gym is considered recreational and is not permitted under the terms of the hardship license.

Can I Drive Immediately After the DUI Arrest?

Yes, you can utilize the DUI citation as a temporary driver’s license until midnight on the 10th day post-arrest. Within this period, it’s crucial for first-time DUI offenders in Hillsborough County to visit the DMV Office of Administrative Reviews and apply for a waiver review hearing. Proper handling of this process ensures uninterrupted driving privileges for business purposes throughout the case proceedings.

Car Insurance Requirements After a DUI

The court does not impose specific insurance requirements for a DUI conviction. However, once convicted, Florida categorizes you as a high-risk driver. To obtain or retain a driver’s license or vehicle registration post-DUI, you must secure FR-44 insurance for three years.

Following your conviction, you will receive a notification via mail, typically within a few weeks, indicating that you must provide proof of FR-44 insurance to avoid suspension of your license. FR-44 insurance is notably expensive due to its high coverage limits of 100/300/50. This means $100,000 for bodily injury per person, $300,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $50,000 for property damage. These limits are intended to ensure substantial coverage for any potential accidents you might cause within the next three years, thereby protecting other parties involved.

What If I’m Clearly Guilty?

Not all DUIs can be avoided, and some people prefer to resolve the situation quickly. In such cases, we expedite the process, often achieving automatic early termination of probation, allowing some clients to complete probation in one day.

For clients with a BAC over 0.15, which typically increases fines and mandates a 6-month ignition interlock device, we can sometimes negotiate with the State Attorney to consider the BAC as below 0.15. This reduces fines and eliminates the interlock requirement, potentially benefiting insurance rates as well.

Our DUI attorneys employ various strategies to avoid a DUI conviction. We advise starting DUI school, beginning any recommended counseling, and completing as many conditions as possible immediately. This proactive approach, appreciated by the State Attorney’s Office, is not an admission of guilt. After reviewing the evidence, we often request a charge reduction, typically to reckless driving, and in some cases, to careless driving, a civil infraction.

To-Do List Following a DUI Arrest

1. Understand the Charges: Recognize you have two concurrent cases: civil suspension of your license by the DMV and a criminal DUI charge.

2. License Suspension:

  • Enroll in DUI school to qualify for a hardship license.
  • Start the BPO hardship license application process immediately.

3. DUI Case:

  • Complete DUI school.
  • Attend a Victim Impact Panel.
  • Perform community service.

4. Gather Evidence: Collect receipts, pictures, and witness information. Provide detailed background information and secure letters of recommendation if advised.

5. Communicate with Your Attorney: Send all collected evidence and documentation to your attorney and share anything that could strengthen your defense.

Will I Have to Appear in Court?

Typically, DUI citations feature a section labeled “CALL OF THE COURT” for the first court appearance. While you can contact the clerk to arrange this date, it’s not obligatory. Once our firm represents you, we’ll receive notification of the initial court date and manage all court proceedings on your behalf. This means you won’t need to attend any court hearings until your case reaches a resolution.

Contact Our DUI Attorneys in Hillsborough County for a Free Consultation

If you have been arrested for a first-time DUI, contact our criminal defense lawyers immediately to discuss your options. The days following the incident are crucial for implementing an effective defense strategy. Our consultations are always free so you can explore your options without any obligation.

Free Consultation: Let’s Discuss Your Case

Defending Your Rights

Our Criminal Defense Attorneys have been successfully defending people charged with crimes and traffic offenses for over 66 years. Given our vast experience and substantial connections, our firm is reasonably priced for the quality of legal services that we provide. Our lawyers are highly respected by the courts and we want to be able to help.

For more information please contact one of our Criminal Defense Attorneys today to schedule a free consultation. We have three convenient locations in Pinellas County and Hillsborough County to better serve you.

St Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney
5858 Central Ave suite
St. Petersburg, FL 33707
727) 381-2300

St Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney – Downtown Office
136 4th St N #2233-B
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 381-2300

Riverview Criminal Defense Attorney
12953 US-301 #102c
Riverview, FL 33578
(813) 639-8111

Sean McQuaid