The hard truth about DUI in Florida is that a conviction stays on your permanent criminal record for 75 years.
By state law, DUI charges can’t be sealed or expunged; however, there are two ways to “remove” a charge. There are also fines and community service imposed on anyone convicted of driving with blood alcohol beyond legal limits.
But conviction isn’t the only outcome of a DUI charge.
Here are some actions that might prevent a DUI going on your permanent record.
Plead to a Lesser Charge
It’s not uncommon for prosecutors to agree to reduce DUI charges to reckless driving. Of course, there is no formula for this so there’s no way to say under what circumstances this outcome is possible.
But pleading guilty to a lesser charge allows the court to withhold adjudication. Without adjudication of the DUI, the trial can be expunged from your record. You can then also seal the record of reckless driving.
When a record is sealed, you can legally deny the conviction. In practical terms, it’s as if it never happened. The conviction to the lesser charge will still be visible to certain government agencies, but not the public.
Pre-Trial Diversion Program
If you are facing your first charge of DUI in Florida, you may be eligible to enter a diversion program sponsored by the State Attorney’s Office of Brevard and Seminole County.
Participants must meet a series of eligibility requirements and sign a contract to agree to the terms of the program. Successful completion will lead to the dismissal of the DUI charges. That means no conviction to permanently mar your record.
But space in the program is limited and the requirements are stringent, so this isn’t always an option.
Hire an Attorney
Any time you face a complex or significant legal challenge, hiring an attorney is a wise decision. But if you’ve been charged with DUI in Florida, it’s critical.
Even if you want to try for a lesser charge or be accepted into a diversion program, an attorney can make the processes less stressful for you. Plus, you are often more likely to be accepted into a diversion program or have charges reduced when you have legal representation.
Attorneys are comfortable within the legal system and know how to navigate processes and procedures. They are fluent in the language of law. They know how to protect and exercise your rights.
Having that kind of professional in your corner when facing a DUI in Florida can be the difference between a short-lived difficulty and a life-long criminal record.
Attorneys with experience helping clients charged with DUI know what to do to help you get the best possible outcome. They understand that avoiding conviction is most people’s goal. When you hire an attorney, he or she can present you with all legal options for keeping your record clean of a DUI conviction.
There can be many circumstances that make your DUI charge complex. Examples include:
- It’s your second DUI — or third or fourth
- You’re under legal drinking age
- You were driving without a valid license
- There are co-existing charges
In reality, many DUI cases are complex and hiring an attorney to represent you is essential. Remember, conviction of a DUI in Florida cannot be expunged for 75 years. For all intents and purposes, that is the rest of your life.
The Ins and Outs of License Suspension
As soon as you are arrested for DUI, your license is suspended by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). If it’s your first offense, the suspension will be for 6 months. If you’ve faced previous suspensions for DUI, you’ll lose your license for 18 months.
An attorney can advise you on any possible exceptions to those terms. For example, they know that for the first 10 days after your arrest, the ticket presented during your arrest acts as a permit to drive but only to and from your place of business.
During those same 10 days, you can request an Administrative Hearing. This is a procedure to determine if the arresting officer had probable cause for the arrest. If there is reasonable doubt about cause, the DUI charges can be dropped and you avoid a conviction on your permanent record.
An attorney has the experience to advise on the benefits of exercising your right to an Administrative Hearing.
If you don’t opt for an Administrative Hearing, you can receive a Business Purpose Only (BPO) license right away, provided you are facing your first DUI charge.
Don’t Let One Mistake Lead to Another
As you can see, even the rules and possibilities for retaining your driver’s license after a DUI arrest can be complex. Avoiding conviction requires a thorough understanding of the law and the legal system.
You’ve made a mistake by drinking and driving. Don’t make another mistake by not hiring an attorney. And, if possible, hire an attorney with experience helping clients avoid being convicted of DUI in Florida.
Don’t Treat a DUI in Florida Lightly
The consequences of drinking and driving in Florida are serious. They can include fines, community service, loss of driver’s license, probation, and imprisonment.
And penalties grow more severe with every previous conviction you may have. This is also true if you cause an accident where there is loss of life.
If you’re in the unfortunate and stressful position of being arrested for DUI, hire an attorney with DUI experience right away.
And once you’re comfortable with their approach and you hire them, listen to their advice. Your attorney knows better than anyone that facing DUI charges in Florida can be serious. Your attorney is there to represent your best interests.
Finally, while facing DUI charges, follow any and all restrictions, limits, or requirements imposed by the court or State. Every act of compliance can only help improve the chances you’ll avoid conviction.
If you or a loved has been arrested for DUI in Florida, contact us right away. We’re available 24/7 and have Spanish-speaking interpreters available.