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DUI is a unique crime, and defendants come from literally all walks of life. There is no specific category of person who is more likely to be charged, and anyone who drinks alcohol, uses controlled substances or takes prescription medication can find themselves facing DUI charges. While repeat offenders are more likely to be heavier drinkers or drug users, first-time offenders are often social drinkers who never thought they would find themselves under arrest for drunk driving. This means anyone from teenagers to retirees, and students to professionals could be a DUI defendant. In 2018 there were over 2,000 DUI arrests in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, and over 1,600 in Miami-Dade County. A large majority of the thousands of new DUI cases in Florida are first-time offenders who have never been arrested or charged with a crime.
Being arrested for DUI is often described as the worst day in a person’s life, and this is especially true for a first-time offender. The initial range of emotions can go from fear over being arrested and regret over the events that lead to the arrest. Embarrassment then usually follows when it comes time to tell family and loved ones about the arrest, and then concern over how it will affect the future sets in. This is the point where consulting an experienced lawyer becomes essential. Nobody can erase what happened, but retaining a skilled and experienced lawyer can minimize the effects the arrest has on your future. Benjamin Herbst is a South Florida criminal defense lawyer who specializes in first offense DUI cases. He fights to assure that his DUI clients will achieve the best possible outcome, and that their way of life, careers and/or school will not be negatively impacted by the charges. He has won numerous DUI trials in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County, and is also an experienced Treasure Coast criminal lawyer for clients facing charges in Martin and St. Lucie County. Benjamin is available 7 days a week at (954) 543-0305 for a free consultation, and has flexible meeting hours in his Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach offices.
DUI is one of the few offenses in Florida that carries mandatory penalties for anyone who is convicted. Mandatory penalties are usually reserved for far more serious offenses, but lawmakers around the country have continued to pass strict DUI laws due to powerful lobbyist organizations like MADD and SADD. Upon conviction of a first DUI a defendant will be placed on probation for a minimum 6 months, ordered to pay a minimum $500 fine and ordered to complete 50 hours of community service. Community service may be bought out at a rate of $10 per hour, but this is up to the judge. In addition, the judge must order that the defendant put an immobilization device such as a boot on his or her car for a minimum of 10 days. Defendants will also be ordered to complete alcohol education and attend an impact panel meeting where victims of drunk driving speak and present. Perhaps the most severe penalty for a first DUI in Florida is that adjudication cannot be withheld. This means anyone convicted will have a permanent record for a misdemeanor offense that cannot be sealed or expunged. This also means points will always be assessed upon a guilty finding, which could result in a driver’s license suspension even for out of state defendants. In certain cases, the state may offer programs for defendants to avoid a DUI conviction, and in other cases a lawyer may be able to negotiate a reduction of charges to a reckless driving or other offense. In addition to prevailing at jury trial, Benjamin has also successfully negotiated that DUI cases be reduced to reckless or negligent driving, which would allow a defendant to receive a withhold of adjudication. He has also successfully argued numerous motions such as motions to suppress illegal traffic stops, unlawfully obtained breath samples and improper roadside sobriety exercises. If you have been arrested for a first DUI in Florida contact Benjamin anytime to discuss which defenses may be available in your case.