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Florida is one of the strictest states when it comes to drunk driving laws. If police recently arrested you for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, you may have a long, complicated time ahead of you.

With each year, it seems that states pass new and tougher laws to keep drunk drivers off the road. However, no matter the circumstances that got you in this position, you still have rights. You can exercise those rights firstly by learning as much as you can about the criminal and administrative processes you are about to face.

Criminal penalties

If this is your first DUI arrest, you have the benefit of no prior convictions. Prior convictions quickly complicate your case because they can be more difficult to defend and carry much tougher penalties. With a first offense conviction, you already have the potential for some serious consequences, such as:

  • Jail for up to six months
  • Fines between $500 and $1,000
  • Vehicle impoundment for as long as 10 days at your expense
  • Other charges and fees related to your arrest and sentencing

Subsequent convictions quickly multiply these and other penalties. For example, incarceration for a second offense jumps to nine months, and fines double. Other factors, such as your blood alcohol concentration, a crash with injuries or death, or a DUI arrest while driving a commercial vehicle can make your situation very serious and potentially life-altering.

Your driver’s license

In addition to the criminal consequences for a DUI conviction, you will face administrative penalties through the Florida Department of Highway of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. This is a separate procedure that has no effect on the outcome of your criminal trial. Penalties generally include a six-month license suspension for a first offense with no aggravating factors. Each subsequent offense leads to a longer suspension.

You may request a hardship license if this is your first offense, but the state requires you to complete DUI school first. A hardship license will allow you to drive to work, but there is no guarantee the FLHSMV will approve your request. When seeking assistance with your criminal charges, you would benefit from an attorney who also has experience with the administrative process. Once you are under arrest, you have a limited time to schedule your hearings with the FLHSMV, so quick action is recommended.