There is a mandatory conviction for all DUI cases in Florida, and even a misdemeanor case in Florida mandates a conviction. First-offense DUIs in Ft. Lauderdale can also have serious mandatory minimums meaning that even if the judge feels that an individual deserves a lighter sentence, they legally cannot impose it.
If you are facing serious penalties for your first-offense DUI in Ft. Lauderdale, it is important to build a defense early on. A skilled first-offense DUI defense attorney may be able to help you fight your charges and mitigate any potential penalties with a strong defense.
A DUI in Florida comes with a mandatory conviction that remains on a person’s record. The Department of Motor Vehicle says the conviction stays on a person’s record for 75 years. There are also mandatory fines, court costs are roughly about a $1,000 for a first time DUI offense. The mandatory probation minimum is six months. The mandatory driver’s license suspension is a minimum of six months. There is also mandatory community service with a minimum amount of 50 service hours. Some judges allow an individual to “buy out” their community service instead of actually performing the work. That depends on the facts and circumstances of each case, the individual, and the judge involved in the case.
A minimum of 12 hours in DUI school is also mandatory. DUI school must be completed in person, in a classroom situation – there is no online option. A mandatory substance abuse evaluation is conducted to determine whether or not a person needs follow-up counseling and that is determined on a case-by-case basis. The other mandatory part of a first time DUI sentence is a vehicle immobilization or impoundment.
Impoundment of a Vehicle
Florida law mandates that a vehicle owned or used by the person when they committed the DUI offense or owned by the person at the time of sentencing is subject to being immobilized or impounded for a period of 10 days at some point during their sentence. There are some exceptions to that penalty after a first-time DUI in Ft. Lauderdale. That is one of the few parts of the sentence where a judge has some discretion. Judges may waive the immobilization requirement but there are statutory requirements with respect to that.
Certain jurisdictions recently decided to utilize diversion programs for first-time DUI offenses. Miami-Dade County uses a diversion program for first-time DUI offenders. The counties with diversion programs have their own set of rules and prerequisites. Generally, the offense must be a first DUI, there can be no other DUIs on a person’s record or history. The case cannot involve an automobile crash or accident.
There can be no aggravating factors or circumstances, for example, no minors or animals in the vehicle. They consider whether or not there are other similar types of offenses on a person’s record and sometimes if there are any other criminal offenses. Diversion programs normally involve the same penalties for first-time DUI offenders in Ft. Lauderdale. Usually, prosecutors have a difficult time offering a diversion program in a DUI case when an individual comes in with prior arrests or convictions for more serious offenses.
Requirements of Diversion Programs
The person must be lawfully driving at the time with a valid driver’s license. Diversion usually involves agreeing to be supervised, paying some costs, doing community service, and getting some counseling. DUI diversion is similar to a DUI sentence. The person completes a period of supervision, completes some tasks, pays the fines, does community service, and receives counseling. If they successfully complete those tasks, most prosecutors may agree to reduce the charge from DUI to reckless driving, which is a second-degree misdemeanor instead of a first-degree misdemeanor.
Because of the reduction of charge, the prosecutor then has the discretion to keep the conviction off of an individual’s record. It is commonly referred to as a withholding of adjudication. There is no such opportunity with a DUI. The prosecutor cannot legally withhold adjudication on a DUI, but they can for reckless driving. As a result of entering and completing a diversion program, the initial charge is reduced and there is no conviction on the record.
There are a few reasons why avoiding a first-offense DUI conviction on a record is important. When the DUI is a first and only offense, the individual can still say that they were never convicted of a criminal act or a crime. It also opens up the possibility of getting the record sealed. If they are successful in doing that, they can eliminate the DUI arrest. Just because the charge was reduced from DUI to reckless driving, that does not change the fact that the person was originally arrested for a DUI. They can then eliminate the arrest and the record of the reduction of the charge and procedure they went through to get to that reckless driving.
Working with an Attorney
Ft. Lauderdale DUI first-offense attorneys can negotiate different penalties and diversion with the prosecutor and advocate on behalf of an individual who is looking for that result, which is a really good result. Obviously, if the person is not guilty and they feel that they did nothing wrong, they have the right to a trial and have a jury hear their case or litigate the case otherwise. But for people facing charges where the government has a strong case and the person runs the risk of getting a DUI conviction, these diversion programs are a very good alternative to ordinary DUI prosecutions and DUI sentencing. Someone charged with a DUI should have an attorney that is experienced and knows what the qualifications are and what it takes to get a prosecutor to lessen those potential penalties.