A criminal DUI conviction in Florida carries significant penalties. For a first offense, a judge may sentence you to six months in jail and order you to pay a fine of between $500 and $1,000. In addition, your driver’s license can be suspended up to 1 year. And when you are permitted to drive again, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device–i.e., a blood-alcohol detector connected to your dashboard–to operate a vehicle.
But there are also circumstances where, even as a first-time offender with no prior drunk driving or criminal record, you may face enhanced penalties under Florida law. To put it bluntly, not all DUI arrests are the same. And you need to be aware of the type of actions that may lead the state to accuse you of an enhanced DUI offense.
Excessive Blood-Alcohol Level
You probably already know that a person is legally too drunk to drive if his or her blood-alcohol concentration is at least 0.08 percent–or in technical terms, 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. The 0.08 standard is currently the DUI threshold in all 50 states. While there are other ways to get charged with a DUI, most people are arrested based on a chemical test assessing their blood-alcohol level.
Now, you might think your specific blood-alcohol level does not matter once it exceeds 0.08 percent. But under the law, it matters a great deal. If you are convicted of DUI based on evidence that your blood-alcohol level was 0.15 percent or higher, you will face enhanced penalties under the law. Once again, it does not matter if you have any prior DUI convictions.
For a first offense, an enhanced DUI carries a maximum jail term of 9 months, as opposed to 6 months for a non-enhanced DUI. The fine level is also doubled. So while a judge can fine you up to $1,000 for a non-enhanced DUI, the enhanced maximum penalty is $2,000.
The enhanced DUI penalties also affect a second conviction. For a non-enhanced DUI, a second offense carries a maximum jail term of 9 months. But for an enhanced DUI it is 1 year. And keep in mind, the enhancement applies only based on the current offense. In other words, if you had a 0.08 blood-alcohol level during your first DUI, and a 0.15 at the time of the second, you are subject to the enhanced penalties for the latter.
Minors In the Car
The enhanced DUI penalties described above also apply in cases where the accused driver “was accompanied in the vehicle by a person under the age of 18,” according to Section 316.193 of the Florida Statutes. This means that you could go to jail for a longer period of time if your minor child was in the car with you at the time of your arrest. Whether or not the child was actually harmed due to your alleged drunk driving is irrelevant. The prosecution only needs to prove there was a person under the age of 18 in the car at the same time as you.
If you are looking at a possible enhanced DUI charge, you need to be proactive. These cases do not settle or go away on their own. The first thing you need to do is contact an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney who understands the Florida legal system and will fight to protect your rights. Call the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at (407) 377-0150 to discuss your situation with us.