A conviction for driving under the influence, or DUI, can have a serious and lasting impact on the rest of your life, far beyond the specific penalties you receive for that offense. A DUI conviction will impact your chances at obtaining affordable insurance and even affect your future employment opportunities. Because of the devastating consequences a DUI conviction can have on an individual’s everyday life, you should always have a qualified criminal defense attorney on your side. An attorney can help to minimize or even eliminate the amount of jail time, fines, and other legal consequences that can derail your professional and personal life. An attorney can, also, answer important questions like- Do I have to be convicted of the DUI? Is there another option than pleading guilty to a DUI offense? If I refused to take the breath/urine test, does my license have to be suspended for one year? Are there circumstances where I could get a hardship license to continue driving?

In Florida, a charge of driving under the influence is established when a driver’s normal faculties are impaired or when their blood alcohol content is .08 or above. Under Florida law, a driver can receive a DUI for being under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs or any controlled substance, including prescription medications. Additionally, refusing to submit to a breath/urine test will result in an automatic fine and license suspension of at least one year. There are two aspects to a DUI arrest that an individual must be aware of: 1) the administrative process and 2) the criminal case.  

Upon arrest, a person will be permitted to drive for an additional 10 days on the citation they received. Within those days, a person should request an administrative hearing from The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle.  This hearing will determine if the person’s license should be suspended or not, meaning that a person may not necessarily lose their driving privileges regardless of whether they chose to refuse the breath/urine test.  The administrative process is just as important as the criminal case because it directly affects a person’s ability to drive. This administrative process is why it is imperative that if you or someone you know was arrested for DUI, an attorney must be contacted within the first 10 days of arrest.  

The criminal case will run at the same time, but separate from the administrative process. The severity of penalties for a DUI conviction increase with every subsequent offense. Additionally, if there is an extenuating circumstance that the law views as particularly egregious, such as the presence of a minor in the car at the time of the offense or a breath test over .20, the penalty will be more severe than if that circumstance were not present.

In addition to the jail time, fines, and driver’s license suspension that people convicted of DUI face, there are other real-world ramifications that will make a person’s life much harder in the future. Those convicted of DUI may be obligated to disclose their conviction as part of their criminal history to prospective employers, making it much harder to obtain the job they want. Applicants with criminal history are often excluded from positions for which they obtained college degrees or spent years accumulating work experience, forcing them into alternate careers with lower salaries. Many insurance companies refuse to insure drivers with a history of DUI or only do so at an exorbitant rate which the average consumer cannot afford. Also, regardless of whether you won the administrative hearing, a DUI conviction will result in a driver’s license suspension, which will undoubtedly affect the ability to travel for any purpose.

Remember that there are many nuances to a DUI, both administratively and criminally.  Some people mistakenly believe they should just plead guilty and get it over with, but there are defenses and alternative options available that could help you avoid the devastating impact of a conviction. Because a DUI conviction can have a lasting impact on someone’s daily life for years to come, having a knowledgeable attorney by your side is not only helpful, but essential.  If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge in Florida, contact the Law Offices of Sabrina Puglisi today and let us fight to protect your future.