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It's my first DUI - what should I do?

You watched the Super Bowl on the big-screen TV at a friend's house, and enjoyed a fantastic tailgate party. You had a few beers to offset the spicy wings, but when the game ended you felt perfectly fine to drive home, just a few miles away. Unfortunately, there was a DUI checkpoint on the way. A Breathalyzer test revealed that you were just barely above the legal limit at .081. So what happens now? First, don't panic. It happens. You probably feel guilty. While you made a mistake, nobody was injured - and you've learned that your idea of "how much is too much" was not quite right. According to BACtrack, a company that makes Breathalyzers that work with smartphones to monitor blood alcohol content (BAC), its users recorded an average BAC of .091 on Super Bowl Sunday. The only days that people drank more were New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day. Designating a driver for any event where there will be drinking-like a Super Bowl party-is always the right thing to do.Having learned that lesson, what else can you expect after receiving this charge, and how can you keep it from ruining the rest of the year? Here are five things you should know:

  • First, you should contact an attorney who focuses on criminal defense and in particular DUI defense. In Florida, time is of the essence. An attorney must act within 10 days after the arrest to get in touch with the Florida DMV to request a hearing on the charges.
  • There's a difference in the penalties you face based on the results of your Breathalyzer test. A .08 reading is not treated the same as a >.15 reading. Anyone with a BAC >.15 can face much more severe penalties, such as having an ignition interlock device installed on their car.
  • Your attorney may be able to get your charge dismissed due to technical errors. Was the Breathalyzer functioning properly? Was everything at the sobriety checkpoint done by the book? Write down what you remember. If someone was with you, have them contribute.
  • If convicted, you'll face fines, possible jail time and community service. Your license can be suspended for up to 12 months. The license suspension could affect your ability to get to work or school, which could create more problems for you.
  • Once you get a DUI conviction on your record, any others you receive will come with tougher penalties, potentially leading to felony charges.

The bottom line? It's important to quickly take action to address these first DUI charges, so that they don't impact your life. And next year, team up with buddies to name a designated driver-better yet, volunteer. 

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