By Catherine Powell
|Image courtesy of Pixabay|
Last month I covered the costs incurred when a driver gets a traffic citation. This month I thought I'd concentrate on one of the costliest infractions. If you should be charged with driving while under the influence of either alcohol or drugs, you're going to find out just how costly the legal system can be in terms of time and money. That's because a DUI is taken very seriously by the courts, especially in Florida, which is a zero-tolerance state. Just how seriously depends on three things: How intoxicated you were, whether it was your first time being so charged, and if there were other charges filed that related to the DUI. Below are ten things you need to know about when it comes to driving while under the influence.
#1: Just because it's your first time doesn't mean the court is going to go easy on you. - Some of the penalties imposed on first-time offenders can include everything from fines that range from $500-$5,000, to license suspension, impoundment of a vehicle, and possible jail time. While there is no mandatory jail time required of first-time DUI offenders, offenders can be given sentences ranging from six months to five years depending on the charges. Florida judges are currently required to place all first-time offenders whose sentences don't exceed one year on probation. However, one of the conditions for those on probation is to complete at least fifty hours of community service. The judge may also require those convicted of DUI who had a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher to install an Ignition Interlock Device that disables a vehicle should the device detect even a hint of alcohol on one's breath. (The cost to install an IID is $75-$150 with a monthly service fee of $60-$90.)
#2: Party now, pay later. - As nightmarish as being arrested for a DUI might seem, depending on your situation when pulled over, you could be facing enhanced penalties that can make your situation even worse. If your blood alcohol concentration was at or above .15, this can double the fines and criminal penalties. The same is true if you had a passenger in your car aged eighteen or younger or caused minor damage to property or injured another person. Should you cause serious bodily injury while under the influence, you may face jail time of five years and a fine of $5,000 as a first-time offender.
#3: Can you be stone cold sober and still be charged with a DUI? - You bet you can. Driving while under the influence includes everything from alcohol consumption to drug use. Even the legal use of prescription drugs can land you in jail if you display impaired judgment while behind the wheel. If you're arrested for a DUI, expect to spend a minimum of eight hours in jail, provided you can afford to pay from $100-$750 in bail. If you can't make bail, you'll be incarcerated until you can go in front of a judge to plead for what's known as a supervised pretrial release in lieu of bail.
#4: In Florida, you don't have to be convicted to have your license suspended. - Innocent until proven guilty doesn't apply when it comes to having your license suspended if you're charged with a DUI. Any motorist who is arrested on such a charge can expect to have their license suspended for six months should they register as little as .08 BAC. Those who refuse a breathalyzer test face a suspension of one year.
#5: What other expenses can you expect to pay if you're charged with DUI? - Aside from court costs and legal fees, a judge can require a person charged with DUI to participate in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program. The cost for such programs can range from $2,000-$25,000 depending on the treatment and facility nominated by the judge. While some of the rehab costs may be absorbed by health insurance, those who are uninsured will be required to pay these expenses out of pocket.
#6: How long does it take for DUI charges to be processed? - That depends on where you live. In rural areas, charges may take anywhere from 3-6 months to be filed. In major metropolitan areas, those accused of a DUI can expect it to take upwards of a year. In the meantime, you'll have to contend with all the inconvenience and stigma that the charge can bring.
#7: How can you get around if your license is suspended? - Those whose license has been suspended due to a DUI can apply for a hardship license. This will only allow driving to and from work, school, doctor's appointments, and church. An administrative suspension can apply regardless of whether a person is convicted of the charge or not. If the accused refuses a breathalyzer test, a hardship license will be withheld for the first ninety days of the suspension.
#8: How long will a DUI conviction stay on a driving record? - In Florida, a DUI conviction will stay on a driver's record for 75 years. This means even a first offense can result in complications that can last a lifetime. Anyone running a criminal background check will discover a DUI conviction. This can affect everything from obtaining gainful employment to obtaining auto insurance.
#9: How much worse can the situation get if you've had a previous DUI? - Those who wind up convicted of a second DUI can expect increased fines and mandatory jail time of ten days to nine months. Those who are charged three or more times within ten years could wind up in state prison for five years. They may also find their driver's license revoked permanently by the court if you are a repeat offender
#10: How will a DUI conviction affect your auto insurance? - A DUI conviction can not only cost you thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of inconvenience, the final ignominy is that it will affect your auto insurance coverage as well. That's right, many insurers can and do cancel auto coverage for motorists who are convicted of a DUI. Those who do provide coverage to those with a DUI on their record will charge significantly higher rates for coverage. That's because not only do insurers consider those with a DUI on their record a high-risk driver, that same driver is required by the state to increase their coverage levels to $300,000 death and disability coverage, $100,000 bodily injury, and $50,000 property coverage. Drivers who do secure a 300/100/50 policy can expect to pay the increased cost of coverage for 3-5 years.
The bottom line is every driver needs to think twice before they drink and drive. It's much cheaper to take an Uber than it is to shoulder the cost of a DUI.
Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com