I have been a lawyer in Gainesville for the last fifteen years. My practice is currently focused on criminal defense and automobile personal injury cases representing injured people in our community.
It occurred to me recently that there has not been a single time during my career that I did not have at least one client accused of driving under the influence (DUI). In Florida, DUI is punishable in a variety of ways. The statute that governs the criminal penalties for DUI in Florida is Florida Statute 316.193. If you are big fan of wandering, confusing statutes, you’ll love this one.
The possible punishments for DUI depend on a variety of factors, including the following: whether the person has ever been convicted of DUI before; whether the incident caused property damage, injury or death; the amount of alcohol found in a person’s blood or breath sample; and whether children were present in the vehicle.
At an absolute minimum, a person who is convicted of a first offense DUI would face the following mandatory minimum penalties:
1) 12 months of supervised probation
2) $500 fine
3) Court Costs
4) Cost of Prosecution
5) Adjudication of Guilt, which means the charge will stay on the person’s record forever and they will not be eligible for a sealing or expunction of that record
6) 6-month suspension of the privilege to drive
7) 10-day vehicle impoundment
8) 50 hours of community service
9) Completion of the victim impact panel class
10) Completion of the DUI School
11) No alcohol or illegal or non-prescribed drugs with random screens
12) Evaluation for a substance abuse program and completion of any recommended treatment
While those are the penalties for a run-of-the-mill, first-time offense, a person convicted of DUI manslaughter faces a mandatory prison sentence of no less than 4 years and the possibility of going to prison for 30 years. It has always struck me that the level of criminal intent between the person who hits a mailbox and gets probation and the person who hits a bicyclist and goes to prison for 10 years is not that much different. The outcomes are horrifically different but the actions leading up to that point could be identical.
Of course, if any of the aggravators (prior DUI convictions, breath test above a .15, injury or death) are present, then a variety of consequences can be added to this list. In many cases where the aggravators exist, there are mandatory jail sentences, longer suspension of driving privileges, and the requirement that a person install an ignition interlock device – which acts like a breathalyzer in a car to measure for the presence of alcohol on the driver and disables the vehicle if there is alcohol.
In addition to these consequences through the criminal justice system, a person arrested for a DUI faces possible suspension of their driving license through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) even before they are convicted of a DUI. If a person’s license is suspended, the DHSMV will also require that the person register for the DUI School prior to obtaining a business purpose only license. In addition, almost every person is required to attend substance abuse counseling as part of the DUI School. In other words, even before a person is convicted – when they should still be presumed innocent – they will mostly likely incur fees of well over $500 to sign up for this school and classes.
Then there are insurance consequences for a person who is convicted of a DUI. For three years after a DUI conviction, additional insurance is required as part of completing a document called an FR 44 form. A complete breakdown of the DUI penalties is maintained at the DHSMV website here.
As if all of that was not enough, many employers and schools add additional consequences for those accused and convicted of DUI. Employment can be lost. Students can be suspended or placed on restricted access to school. And professional licenses can be jeopardized with a DUI arrest.
Over the last few years, many people in the criminal justice system have noticed a downward trend in the number of DUIs. At Glassman & Zissimopulos Law we think this is great news. Everyone – even lawyers and attorneys who defend those accused of DUI – think that a community is safer when there are not drivers impaired by alcohol. In fact, every year Glassman & Zissimopulos Law handles auto accident cases for people injured by DUI drivers.
The cause for the decrease in the number of DUI arrest may be attributed to more awareness or may simply be because of the advent of popular apps like Uber and Lyft. Whatever the cause, it is great. Any attorney who practices criminal defense gets this question fairly regularly in casual conversation with non-lawyer friends – “How do you beat a DUI?” My standard answer: don’t drink and drive. These transportation apps make that easier than ever to choose the smart, DUI-free path.
Of course, a DUI case is often full of interesting legal questions – including whether the traffic stop was legal, whether the roadside detention was legal, whether proper procedures were followed by police officers during field sobriety exercises, whether there was coercion in obtaining breath or blood samples, and whether the equipment used to test these samples was maintained in proper working order.
At Glassman & Zissimopulos Law we have spent years working on these issues and defending DUI cases. We believe the presumption of innocence must be zealously defended and we will continue defending DUI cases. However, if more awareness about the negative consequences of a DUI arrest and more access to safe alternatives means fewer impaired drivers on Gainesville roads, then Glassman & Zissimopulos Law completely supports that.