First-Time DUI in Pinellas County2024-05-14T13:03:13-04:00

First-Time DUI in Pinellas County

St Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney
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What Happens After a First DUI?

The most important thing for you to realize is that your life isn’t over. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are literally tens of thousands of people living in Pinellas County who have been charged with a DUI in their past. They don’t talk about it and you would never know it. You can get on with your life as long as you take the DUI seriously and are proactive.

Our law firm has been helping people with DUI charges in Pinellas County for over 65 years. Our DUI attorneys have handled countless DUIs and more cases than any other law firm in the area. We know all the judges and the prosecutors that you will be in front of. We have five criminal defense lawyers who all handle DUI defense including two former prosecutors and a former probation officer. Not only are we the best around, but we are also fair with our prices. We will help you get through this situation and hopefully get you out of the DUI.

We put together this guide for first time DUI charges because it will help you get a head start on everyone else. There are thousands of people who get charged with DUI in Pinellas County every year. You don’t want to be treated like everyone else. Our law firm’s name alone will get you special attention, but we need the ammunition to be able to help you achieve the best result.

What Are the Goals?

Our goal in every DUI case is to keep you driving, protect your record, and make sure that you never go back to the Pinellas County jail.

Possible Outcomes of a 1st Time DUI

1) DROP Program

The DUI Rehabilitation of Offenders Program (DROP) began on June 1, 2021. Because the program is relatively new, the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office is still a bit inconsistent as it tries to find out what works best.

The DROP program is intended to be a diversion program so that first time DUI offenders can avoid a DUI conviction on their record. If accepted into DROP, you are guaranteed to have your DUI reduced to a reckless driving. While the conditions for the program are very similar to the conditions that you would have to complete for a DUI, there is no DUI conviction, no driver’s license suspension, and thus, no requirement to carry the expensive FR-44 car insurance.

DROP has been a huge change to how DUIs are handled in Pinellas County. Acceptance into the DROP program is discretionary, but it is a great option to keep in your back pocket. In order to qualify for DROP, the following must apply to your case:

  • The breath or blood sample you provided cannot exceed .150; or you refused to provide a breath, blood, or urine sample.
  • There was no crash with bodily injury or significant property damage.
  • There were no minor children in your vehicle.
  • Your DUI does not have an accompanying Leaving the Scene of a Crash charge.
  • Your DUI does not have an accompanying felony charge.
  • You must not have any pending charges and cannot be on any form of supervision or release status, such as probation or parole.
  • You cannot have a prior conviction for DUI/BUI or similar offense, including those that were resolved by a diversion program or a reduced charge.
  • You must have had a valid driver’s license on the date of the offense.
  • You cannot have a CDL.

To learn more about the program, please review this link: .

Tier One DROP

Tier One DROP is for those whose blow or blood alcohol level is .120 or below and for Drug related DUIs.

Tier Two DROP

Tier Two DROP is for those whose blow or blood alcohol levels are above .120 and at or below .150 and those who refused the breath or urine test.

What’s the Difference Between Tier One and Tier Two?

Under Tier One, the Office of the State Attorney will recommend that adjudication be withheld (no conviction) on the reckless driving and probation be for a period up to six (6) months. Under Tier Two, they will recommend that the reckless driving be adjudicated guilty (conviction) and probation be for a period up to nine (9) months.

Can I Get into DROP if One Blow is at or below .150 and the Other Above?

Yes. The Office of the State Attorney uses the lower of the two blood alcohol levels. So, as long as you had one result that was .150 or below, you can get into the DROP program.

2) Reduction to Reckless or Careless Driving

If you are not eligible for the DROP program for whatever reason, our DUI attorneys will ask for a reduction of the DUI to either a reckless driving or careless driving. The difference between reckless and careless driving is that reckless driving is a crime, while careless driving is a civil infraction. It is very difficult to get a DUI reduced to careless driving, but we are able to do so in cases where there is a critical flaw.

Many of our clients who are eligible for DROP may still ask for an amendment of the DUI charge to careless or reckless driving. Some are given the option of what they would like to choose. We can discuss what is the best option for your situation.

3) What Should I Do If I Am Clearly Guilty of DUI?

Not all DUIs are possible to avoid. There are 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, our DUI attorneys try and get the conditions done as quickly as possible. For many of our clients, the judge will allow an automatic early termination of probation. This early termination results in many of our clients being on and off of probation in one day. Thus, their case is over as quickly as 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 in 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, we are 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.

4) Defend the DUI

Our DUI attorneys prepare every case as if we were going to go to trial even though we know that very few cases will. Before we make any decisions, we look for any legal defenses in every case:

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, our DUI attorneys can present the Motion to the judge or even take your DUI to trial. All of these methods increase your chances to avoid the DUI.

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.. 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. The good news is that if you had a valid driver’s license at the time of the DUI, you are eligible for a hardship license. These suspensions are civil suspensions controlled by DMV. They have nothing to do with the criminal DUI case.

*Pro tip- you only have 10 days to apply for the hardship license, so do not wait!

Can I Drive After the DUI Arrest?

Yes, 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, 1st time DUI offenders should 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. In those situations, our office can give you specific instructions on how to apply for the waiver review hearing and get the hardship license.

Where Can I Drive on the Hardship License?

We get this question a lot because the DMV will not interpret the language of the statute for you. The hardship license is called a Business Purposes Only (BPO). Our advice to our clients is to never drive for recreational purposes and never have a sip of alcohol and get behind the wheel on this license. You can still go to work, to school, to pick up your children, to appointments, etc. But, recreational driving such as going to dinner or the movies is not permitted.

*Pro tip- going to the gym is considered recreational unless you have a doctor’s note that requires it for a health issue.

First-Time DUI in St. Petersburg, FL
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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, We 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, our consultations are always free.

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What Are the Penalties for a 1st Time DUI in Pinellas County?

If our DUI attorneys cannot beat the DUI or get it reduced and 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 very quickly.

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.

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. Our goal is to always waive this impoundment if we have a valid reason.

DUI School

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 the 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 online educational class for those convicted of DUI run by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). 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

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.

Insurance Requirements

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.

What Should I Be Doing After the DUI?

Remember that you have two cases going on at the same time- the civil suspension of your driver’s license by DMV and the criminal charge.

License suspension- in order to qualify for the hardship license, you must be signed up for DUI school. Thus, our advice is to do this immediately and start the application process for the hardship.

DUI case- we recommend to our clients that at a minimum they should sign up and complete the DUI school, the Victim Impact Panel, and perform 25 hours of community service (not 20).

Completing these conditions is not an admission of guilt. The judge and the prosecutor will reward you for being proactive, so the more that you can do, the better.

Pro tip- we like our clients to compile all evidence such as receipts, pictures, and witness information. We like to know about your background and your family. In certain cases, our DUI attorneys like letters of recommendation too. Send us anything that you think can help your defense and make you look good in front of the judge and prosecutor.

Will I have to Go to Court?

Most people have a section in the middle of their DUI ticket that says “CALL OF THE COURT” for their first court date. If this is the case, then you were likely told by the police officer or even a deputy at the jail to call the clerk and set a court date. While you can do that, you are not required to do so. If you do not call the clerk, the clerk will simply mail you a court date. There is no penalty or benefit either way. For cases where we are the lawyer, we get notice of this court date, called an ARRAIGNMENT. We always waive this hearing. We also then will waive your appearance at all future court dates until your case is ready to be resolved. Our clients really like us to handle the court appearances for them.

DUI Attorney in Pinellas County

We hope that this article has been helpful and provides some answers for you. If you have been arrested for a first time DUI, we encourage you to contact our criminal defense lawyers 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, our consultations are always free.


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