How Serious is a First Offense Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Charge?
Have you been charged with a DUI for the first time? If you have, you are not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Signs: Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults - United States, 2010; available at http://www.cdc.gov, every two hours, three people are killed in alcohol-related highway crashes. The consequences of drinking and driving are arrests, property damage, injuries, and thousands of deaths each year. An estimated 4 million U.S. adults reported driving under the influence of alcohol at least once in 2010—yielding an estimated 112 million alcohol-impaired driving episodes. Men accounted for 81 percent of these incidents.1
Given the rate of driving under the influence of alcohol, it is incredible that the fatality rate is not greater. Alcohol-related highway crashes accounted for 13,365 deaths in 2010. In addition, alcohol-related highway crashes annually cost Americans an estimated $37 billion.2
Driving under the influence is only a misdemeanor if nobody gets hurt, but anyone who drives while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causes serious bodily injury to another is guilty of a felony of the third degree. Most job applications ask whether or not you have been convicted of a felony and will not hire anyone who answers yes, but misdemeanors usually do not have to be disclosed. Keep in mind that driving with a blood alcohol level over the state's maximum permissible blood alcohol limit (.08%) might require as few as two (2) drinks, depending on. your body weight. Without the help of a lawyer, your driver’s license can be taken away for 6-12 months after a first offense DUI conviction, and if you can’t get to work without a car, you might lose your job.
You are probably worried and have many questions regarding what will happen after you are charged with a DUI, given how serious an issue it is, such as:
- Will my license by suspended and if it is, how will I get to and from work in Florida, a state with minimal public transportation?
- Will I have to pay a fine or do community service?
- Will I have to spend any time in jail?
- How much will the cost of my auto insurance go up next year if I am convicted of a DUI?
Not everyone who is charged with a DUI has any alcohol in his system. If you were charged with a DUI and drank no alcohol, that is most likely because you can be arrested for driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs, even legal prescription drugs. If you pass a breathalyzer test but fail a field sobriety test, that might be enough for a conviction. Any signs of impairment that could affect your driving can be cause for arrest. Not only that, but some prescription drugs can cause you to fail a breathalyzer test.
There are many ways a lawyer can help you if you have been charged with a DUI. Sometimes the police make mistakes and a lawyer can get your case dismissed because of an illegal search. A police officer must have probable cause before an arrest is made and failure to follow strict guidelines leading up to and following your arrest may result in an outright dismissal of your case.
A failure to give Miranda warnings as well as implied consent warnings may also seriously damage a case pending against a DUI defendant.
Most people expect police officers to know and follow the law at all times, but they often don’t. Fortunately, their mistakes can often work in your favor. When the police officers who handled your case mishandle a very important aspect of your case, the evidence that was obtained illegally may be thrown out of court. This is particularly important as the prosecution is entirely dependent on the evidence that he or she has obtained in seeking a conviction. Sometimes police officers make inaccurate statements about your arrest that are motivated by their own prejudices and this can be devastating to the prosecuting attorney’s case against you. Sometimes, the circumstances and conditions under which the exercises were given and what the officer considers “failing” the test may be forms of police misconduct. Sometimes the breathalyzer machine has not been serviced or calibrated, and this could be grounds for suppression. Lastly, sometimes police officers do not show up at your hearing and your case may be thrown out of court.
If you would like a lawyer to call you to discuss your specific DUI charge, please fill out the form at the bottom on the page.
1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Signs: Alcohol-Impaired Driving among Adults - United States, 2010; available at http://www.cdc.gov as of April 2012.