After a formal charge of DUI is filed, the first court appearance is the arraignment. An arraignment is a court date where a defendant can plead guilty or not guilty. A plea of guilty will resolve the case and result in a conviction in the context of a DUI case. A plea of not guilty means that the defendant would like to see the evidence that the State plans to use against them at trial. A not guilty plea can be withdrawn at a later date to allow the defendant to resolve the case if that is in the defendant’s best interests. A plea of not guilty will require the State to provide the evidence, or discovery, to the defendant and will also result in another court date being set. In Manatee and Sarasota Counties, those court dates are called pre-trial conferences. At the pretrial conference the prosecutor and your attorney will meet to decide whether additional time is needed to complete the discovery process, motions or other issues, or whether the case will be set to resolve itself through trial or a plea. The key to this decision is educating both the client, the defense attorney, and most importantly, the prosecutor on the facts and circumstances of each individual case. Only then can you determine which course of action is in your best interests.
The State of Florida requires any person who resolves their DUI case through a plea or who is found guilty at trial to complete certain mandatory sanctions. The court must convict a person charged with DUI who is pleading to a DUI or who has been found guilty of DUI at trial and has no discretion to withhold adjudication. The legislature established mandatory sentencing criteria for each level of DUI. The judge has the authority to sentence defendants charged with DUI and can ask for additional penalties beyond the minimums, but cannot sentence a person charged with DUI below the minimums required by law. For a first time DUI, the judge can sentence a defendant to 9 months in jail, 12 months probation, license suspension of a year, impoundment or immobilization of the vehicle the defendant was driving for 10 days. Penalties can be enhanced by a breath test above .15; refusal of the breath test; having a minor in the vehicle; prior DUI offenses in Florida or in other States; or if the DUI involved an accident causing injury or property damage.
If you are found guilty of a DUI or plead guilty to a DUI in the following situations, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device on a vehicle registered to you.
- A Breath Test result above .15
- A second conviction for DUI
The ignition interlock device is a machine installed in your vehicle that will prevent the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected on your breath. You must blow into the device before starting the car. You will have to pay the cost of installation and maintenance of the device. It is within the court’s discretion to make the condition of an interlock device a part of probation. Even where the court does not impose the ignition interlock as a condition of probation, the DHSMV may still require it as a condition of any temporary driving permit or reinstatement of your driving privilege.