Am I Going to Jail?

Jail time is often the foremost thought on the mind of anyone arrested for DUI in Fort Lauderdale. Even a short stint in jail can have lasting effects on one’s life. It can impede one’s ability to work, care for children, pay bills and cover child support.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale DUI defense attorneys are well-versed in the state’s criminal statute, as well as the local court system’s procedures and players. We work to minimize the chances of incarceration because we know just how greatly it can impact your life.

We recognize that most people arrested for DUI will go to jail – at least for a few hours. The question is once you are released after booking (if you are released after booking), will you have to return to serve a sentence.

The answer depends on many factors specific to your case. What we can tell you for certain is a skillful, well-prepared criminal defense lawyer often makes a huge difference in the outcome of your case.

Broward County DUI Booking

Following a DUI arrest, inmates will next be required to endure the booking process. You will be booked either at your local municipal police station or the county jail (Broward County Jail for those in Fort Lauderdale). Then, if additional holding is required, suspect may be transported to the jail.

During the booking process, the arresting officer and/ or support staff will:

  • Collect suspect’s personal information (name, age, physical characteristics, etc.);
  • Record information about the alleged offense;
  • Perform a criminal background check;
  • Take photographs (mugshots), fingerprints;
  • Conduct a full search of suspect;
  • Confiscate any personal property, to be stored and returned to suspect upon release;
  • Place suspect in holding cell or in local jail facility.

In DUI arrests, assuming no one was seriously hurt or killed, the goal is to complete the process quickly and, assuming suspect is not a danger to himself or others, release them, as jail is expensive. Suspects may be:

  • Released on their own recognizance;
  • Given the chance to post bail at police station/ jail shortly after booking;
  • Appear before a judge, who will decide whether to allow release/ bail;
  • Required to remain in jail (typically in cases wherein suspect has multiple prior DUIs, was involved in an accident or is deemed a flight risk).

Most first-time DUI suspects are released on their own recognizance, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Still, even this brief time can feel overwhelming. It is important that you do not discuss the incident or the case with anyone until you speak to Fort Lauderdale DUI defense lawyer.

Florida DUI Penalties

The best way to avoid jail time after a DUI arrest is to avoid conviction. The criminal justice system is designed to establish that you are innocent until proven guilty, but prosecutors have many advantages. They are typically smart, well-resourced and experienced in handling these cases. If there are any holes in the case, it’s going to be up to your defense attorney to highlight them.

As one analysis by The Miami Herald revealed DUI sentences can vary widely. Broward has a reputation of being harsher than Miami-Dade, and major metropolitan areas tend to have higher sentences than more rural areas. However, that’s not always a guarantee because such disparities are complex, with outcomes swayed by:

  • Strength of evidence;
  • Skill of your defense lawyer;
  • Circumstances of the arrest/ crash;
  • Defendant’s criminal record;
  • How much media attention a case gets;
  • Wishes of victims’/ loved ones.

If it is not possible to avoid conviction, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea deal that will result in lower charges or lesser consequences.

In looking at the worst-case scenario in terms of incarceration, F.S. 316.193 outlines definitions and penalties for driving under the influence.

  • First-time DUI arrest: Maximum 6 months in jail. This could be increased to nine months if you had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher or if you had a minor under 18 in the vehicle.
  • Second-time DUI arrest: Maximum nine months in jail. This could be increased to 12 months in jail for the aforementioned aggravating factors.
  • Third-time DUI arrest: Maximum five years in prison. That assumes the third offense was within 10 years of the second. Otherwise, the maximum penalty is 12 months.
  • Fourth-time DUI arrest. Maximum five years in prison. This is true regardless of how long ago previous DUI arrests occurred.

It should be noted that just because jail time is on the table doesn’t mean it’s a given, at least not in these cases. Unless someone is killed in a crash you caused while driving drunk, there is no requirement that the judge impose jail time. However, courts are less likely to be lenient with a host of aggravating factors. Because judicial discretion plays such an important role in the outcome, so too does the abilities of your defense attorney.

Meanwhile, if you are involved in a DUI crash that caused serious injury or death, you will likely serve some jail time, regardless of how many prior convictions you have. A DUI crash resulting in serious injury is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Meanwhile, a DUI crash that results in a death is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison – with a minimum mandatory of four years.

If a defendant flees the scene of a deadly crash and fails to render aid, as required by F.S. 316.062, the charge is upped to a first-degree felony, carrying a maximum sentence of 30 years.

If you have been arrested for DUI in Fort Lauderdale, call The Ansara Law Firm today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.