What are the penalties for a DUI in Florida? This is one of the best questions someone can ask about a DUI charge. The short answer is never popular, but true: it depends. Aggravating and mitigating factors affect any plea bargain in a DUI case. The Internet is rarely helpful. The minimum penalties for DUI charges in Florida are well known. However, prosecutors do not have to recommend the minimums. The can, and do, ask for more punishment.
From the perspective of each and every client, the entire experience feels like a punishment. There are bail bonds to consider, legal fees, employment, career or business consequences, and all of these things are in addition to any legal punishment. Some want to have a lawyer fight the charge to the Supreme Court, others want to get it over with as painlessly as possible without making a mistake that makes their situation worse.
Do you need a defense lawyer if you want to just get it over quickly, with as little punishment as possible?
Yes. You don’t know what you don’t know. There are a lot of additional factors that will affect the outcome in each DUI case individually. There are a series of things you must do, several you should do, and some you definitely do not want to do, even by mistake or lack of familiarity with the criminal court system.
Here is just part of why unwary First Offenders get surprise jail time and extra probation conditions when they go to court without a skilled criminal defense attorney
This catches people by surprise. Courthouse surprise.
The two main ways a certified, criminal trial law specialist helps you with your DUI case: litigation and mitigation
Litigation is the discovery of legal defenses based upon evidence discovery under Rule 3.220(b). Litigation is a key component of every aspect of criminal case management, from plea bargaining through trial. This slows the case down enough to gather the evidence and test legal issues of admissibility, relevance, reliability, bias, motive, hearsay, rights violations, improper stops, illegal searches and seizures, and a number of other defensive issues that should be examined in every case, and as cost effectively as possible.
Mitigation is the discovery of legally valid and compelling reasons for reductions of charge, dismissal of counts and punishment reduction generally. This is highly specialized, and Criminal Defense Law Firm is the world leader in SPECT brain imaging mitigation. This is discussed in more detail elsewhere on the site as well.
Litigation and mitigation have different aspects in every case because every case has a unique fact pattern. After handling tens of thousands of criminal cases, there are similarities that we call experience. Nevertheless, each DUI case has a unique legal DNA.
Local expertise matters in each county on a courthouse by courthouse basis: the First Judicial Circuit
There are five courthouses in the four counties of the First Judicial Circuit. Each has a county court judge with a set of beliefs about criminal cases, defendants and DUI charges. Let’s break it down courthouse by courthouse:
DUI cases in Okaloosa are generally handled in the misdemeanor criminal traffic courts. One court is in Crestview. There is only one division and most cases are handled in the county court. Therefore, when litigating and negotiating, one judge, one prosecutor and their beliefs, biases and policies have to be factored in.
Santa Rosa County
All court appearances are held in Milton at the present time for DUI cases. There are two judges and one to two prosecutors (high turnover) in each division. On one hand, we can normally handle many types of misdemeanor cases – including DUI – without you having the stress and upset of going to court at all. On the other hand, settlement of a DUI case in this county is more complex and detailed than in most counties, even when DUI charges are reduced or substituted.
Walton County DUI cases are handled in one division with two prosecutors and one judge, The Honorable David Green. This is the smallest county in the circuit – and one of the most dangerous for DUI cases. Bump a traffic cone or a bumper, cause no damage at all, be prepared for ten (10) days in the Walton County Jail in addition to DUI probation. The good news is that the procedural aspect of court appearances is well executed: many DUI defendants of the Cobb Criminal Defense Law Firm never are required to appear in court.
This is where you have total chaos: five county court divisions and ten prosecutors. Worse, this county has the highest turnover. Having two to three prosecutors handle a DUI prosecution is unusual, but not uncommon. This is not popular or politically correct, but you need to know the truth: this courthouse has a serious problem in several divisions with pointless court appearances that take up time needlessly. A tourist can legally waive arraignment and settle a DUI charge with a Written Plea in Absentia according to the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. Nevertheless, local people are required to attend proceedings – including the entry of a plea or no contest – when out of staters can use the legally proscribed methods when represented by competent counsel. For many, explaining to an employer recurring time away from work in order to attend these mandatory court proceedings is a threat to their job. This is an unseen discussed punishment, a double standard, and it even punishes the innocent.
Thus at this juncture, we have eleven (11) county court judges and over twice as many prosecutors. So, what are the penalties for a DUI in Florida? It depends. That’s too generic. Let’s rephrase to “what are the penalties for a DUI in Florida in my case, with my facts, with this prosecutor, this judge and the available defenses I have to mitigate punishment?”
The prosecution and the court is thinking in terms of “minimum penalties plus” and you need the best legal advocate to help you achieve “minimum penalties minus” when it comes to settling your DUI case without a trial.
We Can Help You No Matter What Your Needs In Florida DUI Cases. Stephen G. Cobb is certified by the Florida Bar as a Criminal Law Specialist.
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