First-Time DUI in St. Petersburg, FL
What Happens After a First DUI?
If you have been arrested or charged with a first time DUI or Driving Under the Influence in Pinellas County, you will likely be upset and have many questions. If you were booked into the Pinellas County Jail, you probably had to sit in jail for hours or until you saw a judge the following day. Some people may have been released on a bond, on ROR, and some even were ordered to have a Continuous Alcohol Monitor (CAM) placed on their ankle. You will likely be worried about what is going to happen to your driving privileges. You may wonder if you are going to have to go back to jail. You likely had your car towed and have to pay high fees to get it back. To add insult to injury, if you were arrested by St. Petersburg Police Department, you were likely charged an additional $500 penalty to get your car released.
DUI cases are some of the most complex types of criminal cases that exist. Even though a first time DUI is considered a misdemeanor, the penalties are severe. It is estimated that a DUI will cost an average of $10,000 between the fines, penalties, lawyer fees, and insurance increases. This figure doesn’t include the loss of wages you will incur.
DUIs must be taken seriously, especially in Pinellas County, Florida. The State Attorney for Pinellas County has taken a zero-tolerance approach to DUIs. This means that the prosecution of all DUI cases is intense and it is very difficult to avoid a conviction. In fact, according to the annual statistics released by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, from 2011-17, the lowest conviction rate of any one year was 91%. That means that at least 91% of all people arrested for a DUI in Pinellas County each year either plead or are convicted at trial. Those are staggering statistics and illustrate just how serious Pinellas County takes DUI charges.
Possible Outcomes of a 1st Time DUI
Just because you have been charged with a 1st time DUI in Pinellas County, does not mean that your situation is hopeless. In fact, those who have hired DUI lawyers are often prepared better than those who use the Public Defender and their chances at avoiding the DUI are much better.
We have a variety of strategies following the arrest to avoid a DUI conviction. In every case, I recommend starting DUI school, beginning any recommended counseling and completing as many conditions as possible. The State Attorney’s Office appreciates acceptance of responsibility and the fact that you have completed these conditions is not an admission of guilt. Once, we have completed a review of the video and the police reports, we submit a request for an amendment or reduction of the charge. This reduction is usually to a reckless driving. However, in certain circumstances, we are able to obtain a careless driving charge, which is a civil infraction.
We also look to any legal defenses in every case:
- Was the stop proper?
- Was the arrest proper?
- Were there problems with the intoxilyzer?
These all can be defenses to the DUI that the State Attorney may find valid and can result in a dismissal or reduction of the charge. If the State Attorney does not agree that you have a valid defense, we can present the Motion to the judge or even take your DUI to trial. All of these methods significantly increase your chances to avoid the DUI.
What Should I Do If I Am Clearly Guilty of DUI?
Not all DUIs are possible to avoid. There are many situations where someone has clearly made a mistake by driving while impaired. Some people also simply want the situation over as quickly and painlessly as possible. For these types of DUI cases, we try and get the conditions done as quickly as possible. For many of my clients, the judge will allow an automatic early termination of probation. This early termination results in many of my clients being one and off of probation in one day. Thus, their case is over as quickly as is possible.
There are other situations where clients have blown over a .15 on the intoxilyzer. This is considered an aggravated blow and increases the fine and requires the person to have a 6 month ignition interlock device installed on their cars. An ignition interlock device detects alcohol on one’s breath and will only allow a car to be operated by a sober person. Most people do not want to deal with the hassle of this requirement. In certain cases where someone has blown over a .15, I am still able to have the State Attorney agree that the blow was below a .15. This means, the fine is reduced and the ignition interlock requirement is eliminated. This below .15 stipulation may also have some insurance benefits.
What Happens to My Driver’s License After a First DUI Charge?
If you were charged with DUI, you likely have had your license taken by law enforcement. On the bottom of the DUI citation, the officer may have circled whether you are eligible for a BPO or Business Purpose Only permit. There are two lines at the bottom of every citation. The first box states whether your license has been suspended and the second shows if you are eligible for a permit. The good news is that if you had a valid driver’s license at the time of the DUI, you are eligible for a BPO permit/license. If you blew over the legal limit of .08, your license was suspended by the DMV for 6 months. If you refused either the intoxilyzer or a urine test, your license was suspended for 12 months. These suspensions are civil suspensions controlled by DMV. They have nothing to do with the criminal DUI case other than it may affect your DUI lawyer’s strategy.
In both cases, you will be able to use the DUI citation as a full driver’s license until midnight of the 10th day following the arrest. Within those first 10 days, I recommend for 1st time DUI offenders to go to the DMV Office of Administrative Reviews and apply for a waiver review hearing. Once you have met certain conditions, you will be granted a BPO license for the remainder of your suspension period. Thus, if your DUI is handled correctly, you should never go a day without at least being able to drive for business purposes only throughout the entire case. Remember, this procedure is only for first time DUI cases. If you have a prior alcohol related driving offense, you will not be eligible for the waiver review hearing.
DUI Attorney in Pinellas County
DUIs are extremely complicated and costly due to the multiple moving parts. If you have been arrested for a first time DUI, I encourage you to contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately to discuss your options. The days following the incident are the most important in order to implement a strategy toward the defense of the case. If you have any questions about a 1st time DUI in Pinellas County, my consultations are always free.
What Are the Penalties for a 1st Time DUI in Pinellas County?
If you decide to resolve your DUI case in Pinellas County with a plea, there are certain minimum statutory requirements. The following will address what the minimum requirements are, the maximum, and what is realistic if your case is handled properly by an experienced DUI lawyer.
No jail is required for a first time DUI. However, the maximum is 6 months in the Pinellas County Jail. The maximum increases to 9 months if the BAC level was over a .15 or if a minor was in the vehicle at the time. Most misdemeanor first time DUIs do not result in any jail time unless there was something aggravated about the case.
The court is required to order 12 months of probation for every case. However, most judges will permit early termination at the halfway point if all the conditions of the sentence are completed by then. Some judges even permit automatic early termination of probation. This means that probation is over as soon as all of the conditions are completed. Many of my clients are able to get off of probation in one day.
Conviction or Adjudication of Guilt
In all cases where there is a plea to a DUI, the offender is convicted of a misdemeanor DUI. There is no such thing as a withhold of adjudication for a DUI. Also, as of the date of this article, Pinellas County does not offer a diversion program to avoid a conviction.
Fine and Court Costs
The standard amount of fines and court costs for a first time DUI is $983. This applies if you refused the intoxilyzer or a urine test or blew under .15. If you had a blow over a .15, the total will be $1518.
Impound of the Vehicle
The judge is required to order the impoundment of the vehicle used at the time of the DUI for 10 days. You must contact the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office to arrange for the impound. It costs $50 and they will come to your home to install a steering wheel lock on the vehicle. If you no longer have a vehicle or if the vehicle used belonged to someone else, the impound will be waived. Also, if the impound of the vehicle creates a hardship to an innocent third party, it will be waived.
The judge must order the completion of Level One DUI school. Most people will have already completed the school prior to resolving the DUI because of the DMV requirements to get the BPO license. If you live or work in Pinellas County, you can complete DUI school through the Suncoast Safety Council.
Alcohol or Substance Abuse Counseling
One of the conditions of all DUIs is to get an alcohol or substance abuse evaluation and complete any recommended treatment. The good news is that this evaluation and treatment is a required part of the DUI school, so likely will already have been completed or at least started prior to resolving the DUI case.
Community Service Hours
The court must order the completion of 50 hours of community service. These hours can be done at virtually any non-profit. Many of my clients will volunteer at animal rescue facilities, churches, the Boley Center, Goodwill, or Salvation Army as examples. These hours simply need to be documented and the probation officer has to be able to call someone at the facility to verify that the hours were done. In Pinellas County, every judge will also allow a buy out of the hours at a rate of $10/hour. So, if you do not want to perform the community service hours, you can simply pay $500 to satisfy this condition.
Ignition Interlock Device
As mentioned in the above, an ignition interlock device is a device installed in a vehicle that prevents it from being operated by someone who has consumed alcohol. The ignition interlock is installed by a private company and proof must be shown to DMV. The judge is not required to impose an ignition interlock device unless the blood alcohol level was over a .15. If the BAC was above a .15, the court must impose this condition for a period of at least 6 months.
Victim Impact Panel (VIP)
The victim impact panel is an educational class for those convicted of DUI run by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It is conducted at St. Pete College at 2465 Drew St. in Clearwater and is offered monthly. It costs $53 and lasts about an hour and a half. The panel usually has a speaker from MADD and then a mother who lost a loved one. In Pinellas County, it depends on the judge as to whether you will have to take a VIP. However, if you were involved in a crash, you will likely have the VIP ordered as a condition.
Investigative costs are the fees that law enforcement charge you for their time in investigating the DUI case and completing the paperwork. They are found on the bottom right hand corner of the arrest affidavit you were given when you were released from jail. These costs are ordered in every DUI case in Pinellas County.
There are no insurance requirements that are ordered by the court for a DUI. However, after you are convicted of the DUI, you are considered to be a high risk driver by Florida. If you ever want to get a driver’s license or own a car after the DUI, you will be required to purchase FR-44 insurance for 3 years. You will receive a letter in the mail a couple of weeks after court stating that you must present a proof of FR-44 insurance or your license will be suspended. FR-44 insurance is expensive because it requires high insurance limits of 100/300/50. 100k is for bodily injury coverage payable to any person injured by your driving, 300k to be paid in case there are multiple injured people, and 50k toward the property damage to the other vehicles. This is designed to specifically protect others if you cause an accident during the next 3 years.
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