People driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol face serious penalties if they are involved in an accident or arrested. These penalties come more severe with each arrest, and defendants face mandatory jail time, loss of livelihood, relationships and reputation. Repeat DUI charges are difficult to defend when the facts of the case do not lend themselves to litigation and many offenders find themselves behind bars. An experienced and savvy defense attorney can utilize alternative sentencing options to help clients avoid incarceration.
Repeated DUI Penalties
Florida law determines the parameters of the penalties a court may impose on a convicted DUI offender, which includes both fines and imprisonment. These regulations give the judge some choices when imposing jail time, though for repeat offenders, mandatory minimums must be imposed.
- First Conviction: Not more than 6 months. With BAL (Blood Alcohol Level) of .15 or higher or minor in the vehicle: Not more than 9 months.
- Second Conviction: Not more than 9 months. With BAL of .15 or higher or minor in the vehicle: Not more than 12 months. If second conviction occurs within 5 years, mandatory imprisonment of at least 10 days. At least 48 hours of confinement must be consecutive.
- Third Conviction: If third conviction occurs within 10 years, mandatory imprisonment of at least 30 days. At least 48 hours of confinement must be consecutive. If third conviction more than 10 years, imprisonment for not more than 12 months.
- Fourth or Subsequent Conviction: Not more than 5 years or as provided in s.775.084, Florida Statutes, as habitual/violent offender.
It is important to note that at the judge’s discretion, sentencing terms may be served in a residential alcoholism or drug abuse treatment program, credited toward term of imprisonment.
Local Alternative Sentencing Option
Despite the mandatory minimum sentences for repeat DUI convictions, experienced defense attorneys know that some Florida counties provide opportunities for convicted offenders to avoid jail time. For example, the Pasco County Sherriff Department utilizes a program called “Operation Payback” which allows those sentenced with certain crimes to complete community service requirements as an alternative to jail time. Each eight hours of community service is exchanged for one day of jail time. Criminal Defense Attorney, Ben Stechschulte has helped many clients avoid jail time and retain their jobs through the use of this program, often working with the Prosecutor’s Office or State Attorney’s Office to prequalify his clients for this program prior to sentencing.
State-wide Alternative Sentencing Option
Under the regulation cited above, a judge has the discretion to accept an offender’s treatment in a residential program to serve as an alternative to incarceration. When representing repeat DUI defendants, Ben Stechschulte has successfully used this option to help his clients receive the treatment they need while avoiding jail time. First, he urges his clients to contact their health insurance company and admit themselves to a residential drug or alcohol treatment program. Second, Stechschulte requests that the judge allow his clients to remain in treatment rather than disrupt the program for jail time. Such a disruption could land the individual back at “square one” with regard to their addiction and increase the chances of a re-event.
Mandatory jail time for repeat DUI offenders is designed to protect the public but often exacerbates the problem as offenders may lose their jobs while incarcerated. When released, many return to their addiction as a way to cope with their stress. Board certified, criminal defense attorney, Ben Stechschulte works with local and state programs to help his clients avoid these pitfalls, retain their jobs, and receive the treatment they need.