How Likely Is Jail Time for a First DUI Offense?

DUI-related deaths account for more than 25 percent of all traffic fatalities in Florida. The strict DUI laws in Florida are intended to deter people from getting behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That is why even a first offense DUI conviction carries a potential of up to 6 months in jail along with the other severe penalties. 

Most DUI first-offenders will not be sentenced to jail, but a judge will impose jail in first-offense cases where certain circumstances are present. If you or your family member is facing any DUI charge, you should contact an expert DUI defense lawyer immediately.  

In Tampa, attorneys Ben Stechschulte and Amy Nell specialize in defending all DUI cases, ranging from first offenses to repeat offenses, including those with aggravating facts that increase the likelihood of incarceration for longer periods. 

Other Penalties, Fines, License Revocations, Probations, and Counseling 

This blog post focuses primarily on the potential jail sentences in Florida for DUI first offenders and whether jail is likely to be imposed. Take note that DUI convictions at all levels carry other penalties as well, including substantial periods in which the driver’s license is revoked, fines are imposed from a minimum of $500 up to a maximum of $15,000, and alcohol counseling, driver retraining, and community service is required. 

Your DUI defense attorney will inform you of all the penalties you face in your particular case. But please keep in mind that the possibility of losing your freedom is part of every DUI prosecution. The paragraphs below describe case circumstances in which a court is more likely to order some jail or prison time, even in a first offense DUI case.    

What DUI First Offense Brings Jail in Florida?  

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not a one-size-fits-all criminal charge. Higher levels of punishment are imposed on those drivers whose drunk or drugged behavior behind the wheel represents the greatest threat to the public or whose impaired driving resulted in death, serious injury, or property damage. 

1st Offense DUI with BAC over .08 and under .15 with a child passenger 

Driving drunk, or under the influence of drugs, with a child passenger elevates a first offense DUI to a higher potential penalty. A first offense DUI without a child in the car carries a maximum of 6 months in jail, but a jail sentence is rare without other aggravating factors. A DUI with a child passenger, even a 17-year-old, not only increases the potential jail sentence to 9 months, but it also makes some jail sentences more likely to be imposed.  

Whether a DUI with a child passenger results in any jail depends largely on the judge before whom the case is seen, the skill of your DUI defense lawyer, and your other life circumstances. Generally, no jail is likely in most first offense DUIs, but the same cannot be said for a DUI with a child passenger. 

Learn More> It’s Not Minor: DUI with Kids in the Car  

1st Offense DUI with BAC over .15 

The legal limit for a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading in Florida is .08. Under Florida law, anyone whose BAC reading is .15 or over faces an enhanced penalty. The reasoning rests on the fact that a BAC at almost twice the legal limit left the driver exponentially more impaired than would be the case at .08.  

The maximum jail sentence for a .15 or above DUI is 9 months in jail. For a first offender, a .15 does not mean an automatic jail sentence, but many judges believe that a short stay in jail will underscore the extreme danger of a driver with a BAC above 1.5. 

The higher the driver’s reading is above .15, the more that first offender is likely to see some jail. 

First Offense DUI resulting in property damage or non-serious injury 

Another circumstance that increases the likelihood of a judge imposing some period of incarceration in the sentence for a first offense DUI conviction is when the DUI caused another person to suffer property damage or a non-serious bodily injury.  

Again, no mandatory minimum jail sentence is required by law, but each judge can assess circumstances differently. A slight dent to another vehicle would be viewed more leniently than a forceful collision with another car or a building. The likelihood of a jail sentence in a first offense DUI depends greatly on the extent of the damage inflicted on others and the danger posed by a crash that “nearly” caused a serious injury. 

What’s a Serious Bodily Injury?  

In Florida, a serious bodily injury in the context of DUI means an injury that consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or a protracted loss or impairment of function in any organ or bodily member.  

First Offense DUI resulting in serious bodily injury 

The seriousness of this DUI offense, even for a first offender, must be understood. This offense is a criminal 3rd-degree felony. Under Florida’s sentence scoring system, a jail or prison sentence is a virtual certainty for any DUI first offender who causes a victim to suffer a serious bodily injury. A conviction under this section can trigger incarceration for up to 5 long years. 

Hiring an expert, board-certified criminal defense lawyer who specializes in DUI defenses like Stechschulte Nell is absolutely necessary for anyone facing such a serious criminal prosecution. In Tampa and throughout Hillsborough County, Stechschulte Nell is recognized as among the very best qualified and most successful DUI legal firms. Attorneys with years of experience in DUI defense will fight to mitigate your criminal culpability and work to persuade the sentencing judge to reduce the sentencing score or to forego its application in your case based on your life circumstances.   

First Offense DUI resulting in death 

A first offense DUI which resulted in the death of another person immediately introduces the threat of a 4-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. Only a DUI criminal defense attorney with a mastery of the law and a deep understanding of criminal procedure can ensure the most favorable disposition possible in this situation. The tragedy of the victim’s death means only a talented DUI defense lawyer can protect a DUI driver from the maximum 15-year prison sentence on this criminal count. 

Charged With Your First DUI? 

Get DUI defense help from expert, board-certified criminal DUI defense lawyers. Contact Stechschulte Nell attorneys at law today. Call (813) 280-1244 for a DUI case review.  

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