Treatment of first-time DUI charges in Ft. Lauderdale will depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular case and the individual’s record. With a first time DUI offense, the prosecutors may be more lenient and willing to strike a deal or come to a resolution that is reasonable. When someone has prior DUIs, however, prosecutors look at the new case differently and often treat it more severely.
With that said, the facts of the particular cases are important and an experienced Ft. Lauderdale DUI attorneys will want to investigate the various aspects of the offense, such as the results of breath or blood tests. A Ft. Lauderdale first-offense DUI lawyer will be thorough and effective to help in defending a first offense charge and obtaining a positive outcome in their client’s case. En Español.
Prosecutors treat a case differently when a person has a blood alcohol level just barely over the legal limit versus two or more times the legal limit. They will want to know all aspects of a case, such as the following:
- Was there was an accident involved?
- Was anybody injured?
- How did the individual react and respond to law enforcement?
- Were they cooperative?
- Was there a video recording involved?
The case might be one that the prosecutor feels they would have difficulties proving in front of a jury. They look at the strengths and the weaknesses of their case, aggravating circumstances, and mitigating factors. A Ft. Lauderdale first-offense DUI lawyer can help present their client’s best case to the court. Somebody with a clean record without any prior DUI is treated somewhat differently as compared to somebody who comes back into the system for the second or third time.
First time DUI charges in Florida are almost always heard in state court. There are situations where the charge is a federal DUI but those are rarer. The overwhelming majority of DUI cases are heard in Florida State courts, either in the county court or circuit court. County courts litigate misdemeanors. Circuit courts litigate felonies. The majority of DUIs are misdemeanors. A DUI can be a felony which is handled in circuit court. However, a first-time DUI offense (not resulting in serious bodily injury or death) is a misdemeanor and is heard in county court.
Most DUIs are handled in Broward and Palm Beach County are handled in Ft. Lauderdale or West Palm Beach by county court judges.
Judge and Jury Expectations
Most Florida judges feel the penalties for a first-time offense for DUI in Florida are substantial. The legislature in Florida set minimum mandatory penalties and sentencing for first-time DUI offenders. The penalties are lengthy and a great deal is required of someone who is sentenced for a first DUI offense.
Judges can get frustrated because their hands are tied due to the minimum mandatory sentencing requirements. Even if a judge feels the penalties are too harsh and the person has no prior record, they cannot go below what the legislature set. However, plea bargaining can occur when a person resolves their case without a trial. Prosecutors tend to be a bit more lenient than if the case goes to trial and they are making an argument to the Judge regarding what they feel the sentence should be. When someone goes to trial and wins, there is no penalty as a result of the jury returning a verdict of not guilty. A person on a trial utilizes a lot of the court’s time and resources. Witnesses must come in and a jury must be impaneled.
The system is set up so that there is an encouragement to try to resolve cases without taking up too much time because the court does not have the time or resources to have every case go to trial. With first time DUI charges, short of any aggravating circumstances, there may be a certain level of sympathy or compassion for someone who is going into the system for the first time.
Florida laws account for aggravating factors for first-offense DUIs in Ft. Lauderdale. The legal limit in the state of Florida is 0.08. A blood alcohol level above 0.15 triggers additional mandatory penalties. Even for a first offense, an ignition interlock device installation may into play with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or above. The legislature recognizes that not all first DUI offenses should be treated equally so there are statutory thresholds for higher breathalyzer readings.
Regarding the penalties, an individual involved in an accident is looked at a differently by the courts than someone who was pulled over for speeding. The type of supervision someone might receive is different for a Ft. Lauderdale first-offense DUI case then someone pulled over for speeding who did not cause property damage or personal injury. Other aggravating factors or circumstances could include other charges received at the same time. Those include whether the person has a valid driver’s license, any open containers of alcohol in the car, if there were any minors in the car, or if any drugs or other illegal contraband were found in the vehicle. A first-offense DUI lawyer in Ft. Lauderdale is helpful in understanding the aggravating factors of a case and presenting the best possible case forward to the court.