Driving under the influence (DUI) really is one of the most common criminal charges that people face in Florida. Since so many people get charged with this offense, there is a lot of misinformation floating around out there about what happens during a first DUI proceeding and what consequences someone faces for a first conviction or guilty plea.

Some people worry that they will face extensive jail time because of misinformation, while others mistakenly believe that a first offense will only result in a slap on the wrist. The better you understand how Florida penalizes pending DUI charges, the more informed you will be when making decisions about your defense strategy.

First offenses can cost you your license and result in fines and jail time

The exact circumstances that result in a DUI arrest will influence the charges that someone faces. There are certain circumstances that will aggravate DUI charges, including having an extremely high blood alcohol concentration or driving with minors in the vehicle. Additionally, if you cause any kind of property damage or injury to another person while under the influence, the state may increase the charges and penalties you face.

For a standard first-time DUI charge without so-called aggravating factors, the likely penalties are a fine of between $500 and $1,000, up to six months in jail, 10 days of vehicle impoundment and loss of licensing for between 180 days and a year.

Taking first-time charges seriously protects you in the future

Too many people make the mistake of having a flippant attitude toward a first criminal charge, especially if it is a DUI offense without any property damage or injuries. There is no such thing as a minor charge when it comes to your criminal record. A DUI offense could follow you around for years, affecting everything from your educational prospects to your career.

Beyond that, there’s also the significant risk of recidivism involved with DUI charges. Quite a few people who get convicted of one DUI will eventually wind up arrested and charged for the same offense again. Given that Florida increases the penalties with each successive charge, it is important for people to take even an initial charge seriously or face more substantial consequences in the future.