DUI Charges vs. Conviction: What is the Difference?

If you have been charged with DUI in Florida, you may be punishing yourself with feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and self-loathing. It’s easy to get down on yourself when you find yourself in a police station holding cell or standing before a judge accused of a crime. But do not give up and do not give in without first speaking with a qualified, experienced Florida DUI defense lawyer. 


There is a BIG difference  

between a DUI charge and a DUI conviction. 


At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we have spent many years successfully representing clients who thought their DUI charges were hopeless or that the consequences of their poor judgment could not be curtailed. Our decades of study and years of courtroom experience defending Florida DUI cases enable us to assure every client that we will forcefully pursue the best possible legal defense on their behalf. 



What Is a DUI Charge? 


Despite a driver’s unpleasant experience during the DUI arrest and criminal charging process, every DUI charge is merely a ticket to the courtroom. It is merely an allegation made by a police officer and brought to court by a prosecutor. 


The prosecutor must then present legally admissible evidence proving every single element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to a fact finder. 


The best, most qualified DUI defense lawyers in Florida know precisely how to challenge the police and prosecution’s evidence by testing it with targeted, informed cross-examination.  


Testing evidence against the required legal standards often results in the exposure of critical errors by police. These mistakes may seem trivial to a layman, but professional DUI attorneys and judges understand that the failure to comply with every required procedural protocol can render a piece of evidence inadmissible in court.  


The result is often a dismissal of the charges or an agreement by the prosecutor to amend the charge to a lesser offense that can be expunged from the driver’s record after a short time. 


What is a DUI Conviction? 


A DUI conviction is a permanent mark on a Florida driver’s publicly accessible record and a painful and expensive source of embarrassment and lost opportunities.  


The sentence imposed by the court following a DUI conviction is a certainty that can be anticipated and usually includes no surprises.  


In Florida, the penalties for DUI include the following: 


  • 1st Offense — Up to 6 months in jail, 1-year probation, $500 – $1,000 fine, license suspension for 180 days minimum, vehicle impound 10 days, 50 hours of community service, complete DUI school, substance abuse eval. and treatment 
  • 2nd Offense (in 5 years) — Min. 10 days to 9 mos. in jail, up to a $2,000 fine, and 5-year license suspension, mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) for one year, DUI school, substance abuse evaluation and treatment,
  • Penalties for a third offense are more severe, with a fourth offense becoming a 3rd-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in state prison and permanent revocation of the driver’s license. 


As unpleasant as serving a sentence is, it pales in comparison to the unforeseen consequences that follow a person convicted of DUI for many years. 


A DUI conviction can cause prospective employers to decide against hiring a job applicant, a lender to deny a mortgage application, or a landlord may refuse to rent an apartment to a potential tenant. In addition to these collateral consequences, a DUI conviction will lead to higher auto and life insurance premiums.  


Unfortunately, the fallout from a DUI conviction is not limited to financial or economic matters. Suffering a DUI conviction can diminish the social standing previously held by the driver.  


Family relationships suffer incalculable damage because the DUI episode may expose an unknown alcohol use disorder or cause a loss of trust between a married couple. A driver’s relatives, including their children, parents, in-laws, and other relatives can lose esteem for the driver.  


Even community relationships can be negatively impacted, such as when other parents at the little league fear letting you drive their kids home after practice. Or perhaps a party invitation is withheld because the hosts think your drinking could become a problem or that others’ drinking will make you uncomfortable. 


Understanding Florida DUI Charges and the Process for DUI Conviction 


A person charged with DUI in Florida may wonder what an experienced DUI defense lawyer can do to help them. After all, they think, the police caught them; they failed the field sobriety tests and blew a high breathalyzer reading. 


What can a lawyer do to prevent a conviction?  


The work of a skilled DUI defense attorney begins as soon as the client contacts them. One of the most fruitful analyses the lawyer performs is deconstructing the entire police narrative to isolate the many significant procedures the arresting officer needed to observe and execute properly for the case to be viable for the prosecution. 


A conviction will be difficult for the government to obtain if the police officer made any of the following errors: 

  • no reasonable articulable suspicion justifying the traffic stop, 
  • insufficient observations or facts during personal interaction with the driver to warrant field sobriety tests, 
  • improper weather, lighting, or ground conditions to conduct field sobriety tests,  
  • failing to follow proper instruction procedures or demonstrations during the field sobriety tests, 
  • failing to score the driver’s field sobriety test performance accurately, 
  • conducting the field sobriety tests with a driver who has improper footwear, relevant physical disability, or condition that affects their capacity to perform the tests, 
  • lack of probable cause to arrest the driver, 
  • failure to fully apprise the driver of their legal rights, 
  • failure of the rights to be in a language understandable by the driver, 
  • failure to observe the driver continuously before the breathalyzer to ensure they did not eat, smoke, burp, drink, or vomit. 
  • failure to read pre-breathalyzer warnings to driver with driver’s understanding them,  
  • improper calibration or the absence of calibration records, breathalyzer operator not certified, 
  • machine maintenance records not retained and updated, 
  • failure to properly fill in or file the necessary legal documents with the court, 
  • and more. 


As you can see, there is a great deal for an experienced DUI defense lawyer to pour through in search of significant police errors and oversights. Evidence recorded on dashboard cameras and bodycams is also of value. 


Read More > What to Do After a DUI Arrest in Florida  


Florida DUI Defense  

DUI charges are never lost before being fully examined, dissected, argued, and litigated by a qualified DUI defense lawyer with years of courtroom experience prosecuting and defending DUI cases.  


And even cases in which the evidence is strong can be resolved favorably by a talented DUI defense lawyer when a client’s personal history and life circumstances are passionately presented as mitigation to a prosecutor. We are on your side, contact us at 813-280-1244 for a free DUI case review today.  

To learn more about how we can help

Contact us Today