From the time you were in high school and thinking about getting your driver's license, you probably heard warnings about the dangers of drinking and driving. Perhaps those warnings desensitized you to the problem. Maybe your friends convinced you that driving after drinking is no big deal and that a DUI is nothing to worry about.
If you think of a DUI as something similar to a speeding ticket, you are mistaken. An arrest for drunk driving is the beginning of a long and serious legal process. If it ends in a conviction, you will deal with the ramifications for years to come. When the circumstances that surround your DUI are more complicated, you may find your life is suddenly going in a direction you do not recognize.
First offense is no traffic ticket
In Florida, a first-offense DUI is a misdemeanor. You may get away without serving jail time for a first-offense DUI, but more courts are moving toward mandatory incarceration for every DUI conviction. Imagine spending six months in jail. Will your employer hold your job for you? Will you be able to retain any professional license you hold? In addition to potential jail time, some of the other penalties you may face include the following:
- Fines that can reach thousands of dollars
- Community service
- DUI education and alcohol counseling at your own expense
- Ignition interlock at your own expense
- License suspension for at least 180 days and up to 10 years for subsequent convictions
Just one of these consequences can be a tremendous inconvenience. For example, having your license suspended for six months or longer means finding alternative transportation to and from work and other obligations. This could mean the added cost of taxis or ridesharing or the embarrassment of bumming rides from friends and family.
That was just the beginning
Some circumstances that can instantly raise the severity of the charges against you and therefore enhance the potential penalties for a conviction include any of the following:
- A second or third conviction within 10 years of the previous conviction
- A blood alcohol concentration of .15 or higher
- An accident that results in damage to someone's property
- An accident that results in the injury or death of someone in your vehicle or another vehicle
If you are facing DUI charges, you may already understand how serious your situation is. Dealing with the legal process on your own may result in critical mistakes that can affect your future in ways you cannot imagine. Instead, you may wish to contact an experienced attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you on the best course of action.