• Have You Been Charged with a First DUI in Pasco County?

Have You Been Charged with a First DUI in Pasco County?

Facing your first DUI charge in Pasco County can feel overwhelming, but you can get past it with the right help. You are not alone. Many people have faced similar circumstances and managed to move on with their lives. By implementing effective tactics and taking proactive steps, it is possible to overcome this challenge, safeguard your reputation, and avoid incarceration.

This comprehensive guide is tailored for those dealing with a first-time DUI charge In Pasco County, thousands of individuals are arrested for DUI every year. But with our expert guidance, you won’t be just another statistic. Our reputation gives you an advantage, and your active participation will help us achieve the best possible outcome for you.

Why Choosing Our Attorneys Makes a Difference

For over 66 years, our law firm has been helping people facing DUI charges in Pasco County. Our team of experienced DUI attorneys has handled more DUI cases than any other firm in the area, giving us unmatched expertise. We have strong ties to local judges and prosecutors, ensuring the best possible outcomes. Our team consists of five skilled defense lawyers; two former prosecutors and one 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 main objectives are consistent: maintaining your driving privileges, safeguarding your record from permanent damage, and avoiding jail time.

Understanding First-Time DUI Offenses and Their Consequences

A first-time DUI in Pasco County has serious consequences. Here is what could happen if you are convicted:

Fines

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

Jail

In Pasco County, people who are convicted of their first DUI offense usually don’t go to jail. However, the court has the option to sentence them to up to six months in jail. This period can be extended to nine months if either the blood alcohol content (BAC) level is above 0.15 or if there was a child in the car when they were arrested. Usually, first-time DUI cases for misdemeanors don’t lead to imprisonment unless there are specific aggravating factors present.

Probation

The court of Pasco County mandates a 12-month probation period for every DUI case. However, judges have the discretion to terminate probation ahead of time if all conditions are satisfied, and sometimes they do so automatically once the requirements are fulfilled. This flexibility often enables our clients to complete their probationary period expeditiously.

Conviction or Adjudication of Guilt

In Pasco County, if you plead guilty or are found guilty of a DUI, you will receive a misdemeanor DUI conviction. It’s important to note that there is no possibility of withholding adjudication for a DUI offense.

Vehicle Impoundment

DUI arrests require a 10-day vehicle impoundment in Pasco County. To set this up, you need to get in touch with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. Just remember that there’s a $50 charge for getting a steering wheel lock installed. However, if the vehicle is no longer yours or belongs to another person, impoundment might not be necessary. There’s also a chance that the court could approve waivers if impoundment would create difficulties for someone who is not involved in the incident. In these cases, our law firm actively works towards obtaining waivers based on valid reasons.

DUI School

The judge will required you to complete Level One DUI school. Most people finish this step before settling their DUI case due to DMV rules for obtaining a BPO license. If you’re in Pasco County, you can complete DUI school at the Pride Integrated Services.

Alcohol or Substance Abuse Counseling

In every DUI case, people have to get checked for alcohol or drug issues and follow any suggested treatment. Luckily, DUI school covers this check-up and treatment as part of what you need to do. So, participants are usually already doing these steps or have finished them before their DUI case is resolved.

Community Service Hours

The court mandates the completion of 50 hours of community service, which can be fulfilled at almost any non-profit organization. Many of my clients choose to volunteer at places like animal rescue facilities, churches, the Boley Center, Goodwill, or the Salvation Army. It’s essential that these hours are documented, and a probation officer must be able to contact the facility to verify the completed hours.

In Pasco County, judges typically offer the option to buy out either all or half of the required community service hours at a rate of $10 per hour. For instance, if the judge permits a complete buyout, you would pay $500 instead of performing the hours. If only a partial buyout is allowed, you would complete 25 hours of service and pay $250 for the remaining hours.

Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device, installed by a private company, stops people from drinking and driving. You need to show the DMV that it’s installed. The court doesn’t need to order this device unless the blood alcohol level is over .15. If it is above .15, the court must require the device for at least 6 months.

Victim Impact Panel (VIP)

The Victim Impact Panel (VIP) is an online educational program made for people who have committed DUI offenses. It is run by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), It costs $53 and typically lasts about 1.5 hours. During the session, a MADD representative and a grieving mother often share their stories about drunk driving. In Pasco County, whether you have to attend a VIP depends on the judge. However, if you were in a crash, the judge will probably make it a part of your sentencing. You need to finish this program before entering a plea in the DROP program.

Investigative Costs

Investigative costs are the expenses that law enforcement has while looking into a DUI case and handling related paperwork. You can see a detailed list of these costs in the bottom right corner of the arrest affidavit you received after being released from jail. In Pasco County, it’s normal for the courts to ask for payment of these costs in all DUI cases.

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

First-time DUI offenders in Pasco County can choose alternatives to regular sentencing that emphasize rehabilitation over punishment. These options allow offenders to learn from their mistakes and escape harsh penalties, reducing the long-term effects on their lives.

1. Reduction to Reckless or Careless Driving

Plea deals can lower DUI charges to lesser offenses like reckless or careless driving, leading to lighter penalties and fewer long-term effects.

2. Driver Rehabilitation and Offender Education (DROP) Program

The DUI Rehabilitation of Offenders Program (DROP), initiated on June 1, 2021, is continuously being refined by the Pasco County State Attorney’s Office. This diversion program aims to help first-time DUI offenders avoid a DUI conviction on their record.

If you are accepted into DROP, your DUI charge will be downgraded to reckless driving. Although the program’s requirements are similar to those for a DUI, you will avoid a DUI conviction, license suspension, and the necessity for expensive FR-44 car insurance.

DROP signifies a major shift in how DUIs are managed in Pasco County. Participation in the program is at the discretion of the State Attorney’s Office, but it presents a valuable opportunity for eligible individuals.

The DROP program is divided into two tiers based on the severity of the offense:

Tier One DROP: This applies to offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .120 or less, or those involved in drug-related DUIs. A unique aspect of this tier is that the Office will recommend not convicting you of the reckless driving charge, with probation lasting up to six months.

Tier Two DROP: This tier is for those with a BAC between .120 and .150, or who refused breath or urine tests. In this tier, the Office will recommend finding you guilty of the reckless driving charge (resulting in a conviction) and sentencing you to probation for up to nine months.

Qualification for DROP Based on Blood Alcohol Content

If you have two breathalyzer results, one at or below .150 and the other above .150, you can still qualify for the DUI Rehabilitation of Offenders Program (DROP). The State Attorney’s Office will use the lower of the two readings to decide if you’re eligible. So, as long as one result is .150 or below, you can join the program.

Eligibility Criteria for the DROP Program

Getting into the DUI Rehabilitation of Offenders Program (DROP) is not guaranteed, but it’s a great option for those who qualify. To be eligible for DROP, your situation must meet these conditions:

  • Your breath or blood sample must not show a BAC over .150, or you refused to provide a breath, blood, or urine sample.
  • There was no crash causing injury or major property damage.
  • No children were in your vehicle at the time of the offense.
  • Your DUI charge does not include leaving the scene of a crash.
  • Your DUI charge does not include any felony charges.
  • You have no pending charges and are not on probation, parole, or any other form of supervision.
  • You have no prior DUI/BUI convictions or similar offenses, even if they were resolved through diversion programs or reduced charges.
  • You had a valid driver’s license on the date of the offense.
  • You cannot hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

To learn more about the program, please review the info provided by the Florida State Attorney’s office.

Requirements of the DROP Program

If you join the DROP program, you’ll need to:

  • Attend regular classes
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs while in the program
  • Take part in regular testing and monitoring

Benefits of Completing the DROP Program

First-time DUI offenders who complete the DROP program can enjoy several benefits:

Reduced Charges: The DUI offense may be downgraded to a less severe charge with lighter penalties.

Charge Dismissal: Sometimes, finishing the program can lead to the DUI charges being dropped entirely.

Fewer Long-term Consequences: By dealing with the issues behind impaired driving, offenders can avoid or lessen the long-term impacts of a DUI conviction, like higher insurance rates and fewer job opportunities.

Can I Get DROP if One Blow is at or Below .15 and the Other is Above?

Yes, you can. The State Attorney’s Office looks at the lower of the two blood alcohol levels. If one of your results is .15 or below, you qualify for the DROP program.

Keeping Your Driving Privileges and Avoiding License Suspension in Pasco County

One major consequence of a DUI conviction is its impact on your driving privileges. When you’re charged with a DUI, law enforcement will likely confiscate your license. It’s important to know that this suspension is handled by the DMV as a civil matter, separate from your criminal case. However, you may still be able to apply for a Business Purpose Only (BPO) permit, often called a hardship license.

Pro tip: You only have 10 days to apply for a hardship license, so act quickly!

Impact on Driver’s License Status

A first-time DUI charge in Pasco County can quickly impact your driving privileges:

License Confiscation: Law enforcement may seize your license upon arrest.

Immediate Suspension: If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher, your license will be suspended for six months. Refusing a breath or urine test results in a 12-month suspension. If you had a valid driver’s license at the time of the DUI, you may qualify for a hardship license.

BPO Eligibility: Check your DUI citation for information on eligibility for a Business Purpose Only (BPO) permit. Specific details may be listed at the bottom of the citation. To navigate the DMV suspension process in Pasco County effectively, prompt action is essential:

Ten-Day Window: Your DUI citation serves as a temporary permit for the first ten days after your arrest.

Waiver Review Hearing: Within this period, you can apply for a waiver review hearing to challenge the suspension and potentially secure a hardship license.

Important Note: This procedure applies only to first-time DUI cases. Individuals with previous alcohol-related driving offenses are not eligible for the waiver review hearing. If this is your situation, our office can guide you through the process of applying for the waiver review hearing and obtaining a hardship license.

Eligibility for Business Purpose Only (BPO) Permit

During the suspension period, you can get a Business Purpose Only (BPO) permit if you meet these requirements:

  • Having a valid license when the DUI happened
  • Signing up for DUI classes
  • Submitting an application within ten days of the arrest

BPO Permit Limitations:

You can only drive for things like work, school, and medical appointments. Driving for fun is not allowed. It’s important to follow these rules to keep your driving privileges and still be able to get around during this tough time.

Where Can I Drive with the Hardship License?

Many people want to know where they can drive with a hardship license. The DMV doesn’t give detailed explanations, but a hardship license, also known as a Business Purposes Only (BPO) license, only allows driving for work-related reasons.

Here’s what we suggest:

  • Don’t drive for fun
  • Don’t drink alcohol before driving with this license

You can use the license for things like going to work or school, picking up your children, going to appointments, and other important tasks. But you can’t use it for recreational activities like eating out or going to the movies.

Pro tip: Unless you have a medical need and a doctor’s note, going to the gym is considered recreational and isn’t allowed with a hardship license.

Can I Drive Immediately After the DUI Arrest?

Yes, you can use the DUI ticket as a temporary driver’s license until midnight on the 10th day after your arrest. During this period, first-time DUI offenders in Pasco County need to visit the DMV Office of Administrative Reviews and request a waiver review hearing. Doing this right will make sure you can keep driving to work without any breaks during the case.

Car Insurance Requirements After a DUI

If you’re convicted of a DUI in Florida, the state will classify you as a high-risk driver. To retain your driver’s license or vehicle registration, you must obtain FR-44 insurance for three years.

After your conviction, you will receive a notification by mail within a few weeks. This notice will inform you that you need to provide proof of FR-44 insurance or your license will be suspended. FR-44 insurance is costly because it requires high coverage limits: $100,000 for each person’s injuries, $300,000 total for injuries in an accident, and $50,000 for property damage. These limits are designed to ensure substantial coverage for any accidents you may cause over the next three years, protecting others involved.

What If I’m Clearly Guilty?

Not all DUI cases can be avoided, and some individuals prefer to resolve the matter quickly. In these instances, we expedite the process, often achieving early termination of probation, allowing some clients to complete their probation in just one day.

For clients with a BAC over 0.15, which usually results in higher fines and a mandatory 6-month ignition interlock device, we can sometimes negotiate with the State Attorney to treat the BAC as below 0.15. This can reduce fines, eliminate the interlock requirement, and potentially benefit your insurance rates.

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

To-Do List Following a DUI Arrest

1. Understand the Charges: Recognize that you are facing two concurrent cases: the DMV suspending your license 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 background details and secure letters of recommendation if needed.

5. Communicate with Your Attorney: Send all gathered evidence and documents to your attorney. Include any additional material that supports your defense case.

Will I Have to Appear in Court?

Usually, DUI tickets have a section called “CALL OF THE COURT” for the first court appearance. You can get in touch with the clerk to set up this date, but it’s not required. Once we represent you, we’ll be notified of the first court date and handle all court proceedings for you. This means you won’t have to attend any court hearings until your case is resolved.

Expert Guidance from a Pasco County First-Time DUI Defense Attorney

Facing a first-time DUI charge in Pasco County can be daunting, but obtaining the right legal counsel is crucial. A seasoned DUI defense attorney can help you navigate the complexities of your case. A DUI conviction in Florida is a serious offense that can lead to fines, increased penalties, and potentially jail time. The outcome of your case largely depends on the quality of your legal representation.

A DUI lawyer, such as Pasco County Criminal Defense Attorney Sean McQuaid, offers tailored advice to suit your unique situation. The repercussions of a DUI conviction vary based on factors such as blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest and any prior offenses. An experienced attorney will gather all pertinent information and analyze the specifics of your case to develop an effective defense strategy.

Common defenses in DUI cases include challenging the validity of the traffic stop, questioning the accuracy of breathalyzer or blood test results, and demonstrating procedural errors by law enforcement. Additionally, your attorney might negotiate with the court to reduce your charges, potentially converting a DUI to a lesser offense such as reckless driving.

A skilled lawyer will also provide comprehensive information on how to mitigate the long-term consequences of a DUI conviction, such as higher insurance premiums and limited employment opportunities. Legal advice from an attorney who routinely handles DUI cases can be invaluable in minimizing the impact on your life. Moreover, an attorney can represent you in court, presenting your case in the best possible light to avoid the most severe penalties.

Contact Our DUI Attorneys in Pasco County for a Free Consultation

If you’re facing a first-time DUI charge in Pasco County, securing experienced legal counsel is essential to navigate the complexities of your case and avoid severe penalties. A Pasco County DUI defense attorney can provide the expertise needed to help you through this challenging time. At St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorneys, we understand the gravity of a DUI charge and are dedicated to offering comprehensive defense strategies tailored to your unique circumstances.

One of the first steps our attorney will take is to thoroughly investigate your DUI charge’s details. This includes examining the circumstances of your arrest, the accuracy of any sobriety tests administered, and whether your rights were upheld throughout the process. Acting quickly is crucial; our experienced lawyer will help you explore all possible avenues to mitigate the repercussions of a DUI conviction.

The consequences of a DUI conviction can be severe, including fines, license suspension, and potentially jail time. These penalties can escalate if not addressed promptly and effectively. Therefore, enlisting a skilled lawyer’s help can significantly influence your case’s outcome. We work tirelessly to ensure you have the best defense possible, aiming to reduce or even dismiss the charges against you.

At St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorneys, we are committed to providing you with the highest quality legal representation, ensuring your rights are protected throughout the entire process. Contact our attorney today to discuss your case and take the first step toward resolving this legal issue.

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 c

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