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This Is My First DUI. What Should I Expect?

Gutin & Wolverton: Harley I. Gutin Aug. 11, 2023

We all know it’s illegal to drink and drive, but even good, law-abiding citizens can find themselves in a situation where they’re facing drunk driving charges. This could be due to a momentary lapse of judgment or a misunderstanding. In any case, if this is your first DUI offense, you need to take it seriously since the consequences that can come from it can be far more extensive than you imagine.  

That said, getting a DUI isn’t the end of the world, and working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer can greatly increase your chances of getting a more lenient sentence or having your charges dismissed altogether. If you’d like to speak with a lawyer and are in the Cocoa, Florida, area or anywhere throughout Brevard County, including Titusville, Melbourne, and Palm Bay, call us at Gutin & Wolverton: Harley I. Gutin

DUI Charges in Florida

A charge of driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida can refer to being impaired by both alcohol and other drugs. However, there are much more reliable measures for determining whether someone is under the influence of alcohol compared with other chemicals and controlled substances.  

For example, state law says that a person is considered under the influence if their “normal faculties are impaired or to the extent that the person is deprived of full possession of normal faculties.” For alcohol, this is typically measured by using a breath test (commonly referred to as a breathalyzer) which measures your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In most cases, if you have a BAC of above 0.08%, you’re considered impaired. For commercial drivers, the BAC limit is reduced to only 0.04%, or 0.02% for drivers under the age of 21. 

All 50 states have what’s called an “implied consent” law regarding testing during a DUI stop. This law says that all drivers implicitly consent to a chemical test (breath, urine, or blood) when they operate a vehicle on the state’s roadways. If you refuse this test, you will likely face a mandatory one-year license suspension.  

The Process You’ll Go Through

For any DUI arrest (even if it’s your first time), you’ll go through the same basic process:  

  1. After you’ve been pulled over and arrested, you’ll be taken in for booking where personal information will be collected and you’ll be placed in jail. You may or may not be asked to submit to another chemical test here, which you are also required to comply with.  

  1. Next, bail may be set for your release on the grounds that you will return to the courthouse for your arraignment, though you will likely have to spend at least 8 hours in jail for your BAC level to drop.  

  1. If you cannot afford bail, you have the option to make a first appearance before a judge. At this point, the judge is only looking to see whether the officer had probable cause to arrest you and whether the charges should go through. 

  1. At this point (if not earlier), you should contact an attorney who can represent you during your arraignment and advise you on your next steps. 

  1. During your arraignment, your official charges will be issued, and you will enter your plea. 

  1. The order of the next steps will depend on the approach you and your attorney choose to take. In some cases, you may reach a plea deal with the prosecution and avoid having to go to trial completely, while in others, you may begin the discovery and pre-trial stages of the process. 

  1. If your case goes to trial, a jury will hear arguments and testimony from both the prosecution and the defense before deliberating and issuing their verdict. 

  1. The judge will then use this verdict to determine your sentence. 

Possible Penalties for First Offense

DUI penalties will vary depending on the specifics of your case and whether it’s classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. However, most first-time offenders can expect misdemeanor charges, which may bring with them jail time, fines, having your license suspended for DUI, and being required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car. 

In some cases, you may be able to request a hardship license, which can allow you to drive under very limited circumstances, such as to and from your job or for work-related duties. To get this, you will have to attend DUI school as well as pay the applicable filing fee. You’ll then have to attend a hardship license hearing where an officer will determine whether to issue the license. 

Take Your Next Steps Forward 

If you’ve recently been arrested for DUI for the first time and are in the Cocoa, Florida, area, reach out to our team at Gutin & Wolverton: Harley I. Gutin to learn more about your options.