Although Florida judges view driving under the influence as a serious charge, a motorist’s first and second offense may classify as a misdemeanor. When a DUI arrest involves severe bodily injuries or a death, however, the charge may be a felony offense.
An individual facing a DUI offense may attempt to counter the evidence and defend against allegations of impairment. Generally, a prosecutor presents the court with lab test results to show a motorist’s blood alcohol content was above 0.08%. The results, however, could appear higher than the true amount because of smoking or mouthwash, as noted by WebMD.
First DUI offense conviction
To convict a motorist for a first-time misdemeanor DUI, a prosecutor must convince the court of the accused’s alleged impairment at the time of the arrest. If the evidence convinces a court, a convicted defendant could pay a fine between $500 and $1,000 and receive a six-month license suspension. A judge may also order up to six months in jail.
Second conviction and punishment
Individuals convicted of a second DUI offense may face a stricter punishment, such as up to nine months of incarceration. A conviction may also bring a fine of between $1,000 and $2,000. The second offense, however, still classifies as a misdemeanor on a motorist’s record if a death or severe injury did not occur.
When a DUI becomes a felony
A third DUI conviction within 10 years of the prior two results in a felony. A fourth offense — regardless of how many years have passed since an individual’s third offense — falls within the guidelines of a felony charge. Penalties could include paying a maximum $5,000 fine and spending up to five years in a Florida prison.
Options for possible sentence reductions
Some offenders may request minimizing their charge or completing a treatment program as an alternative to a sentence with incarceration. The court may also consider probation or community service as a replacement for time in jail. Each individual’s circumstances differ, and an alternative punishment is usually up to the presiding judge.