Felony DUI in Florida: Understanding the Potential Consequences of Conviction
A felony DUI in Florida carries the potential for penalties that may include thousands of dollars in fines and jail time. Drunk driving – also known as DUI (driving under the influence) – is typically charged as a misdemeanor offense in Florida.
Authorities may elevate the charges to a felony offense in cases where the accused is considered a “repeat offender” (a person who has been previously convicted of the same crime) or when there has been an accident involving serious bodily injuries or fatalities.
When are felony DUI charges leveled?
A DUI case may be moved from the county misdemeanor courts to the circuit felony court in the following cases:
- it is the suspect’s third DUI arrest (having occurred within 10 years of any prior DUI convictions);
- it is the suspect’s fourth DUI arrest in a lifetime; and
- a suspected DUI accident has resulted in serious physical injury.
A suspected DUI accident involving manslaughter (the unlawful killing of a human being without express or implied malice) or a DUI manslaughter that involved leaving the scene of the accident are also considered to be felony charges.
Potential Punishments for Felony DUI
Florida DUI laws provide an outline of penalties for those convicted of felony DUI charges:
- conviction of third or fourth (or more) DUI – a third-degree felony resulting in as much as $5,000 in fines and as much as five years imprisonment; and
- conviction of DUI with bodily injury – a third-degree felony resulting in as much as $5,000 in fines and as much as five years imprisonment (additional or varying penalties may apply for suspects who qualify as habitual or violent offenders).
Felony vs. Misdemeanor Charges
A felony conviction can carry a prison term of one year or more. Felony crimes are measured on a scale that ranges from capital felonies (the most serious crimes, like murder and homicide) all the way down to third-degree felonies (which includes charges like drug possession and trespassing).
Most cases of felony DUI are considered to be third-degree felonies. In cases where someone has died in a suspected DUI accident, those charges may be elevated to second- or first-degree felony charges.
A misdemeanor conviction carries a sentence of no more than one year of imprisonment. Misdemeanor charges are broken down into first- and second-degree. In Florida, DUI is typically charged as a misdemeanor offense, except in those circumstances outlined above. A legal defense strategy may include petitioning the court to have felony DUI charges reduced to misdemeanor charges.
After a Felony DUI Charge is Leveled
Florida residents or visitors to the state who have been charged with felony DUI may wish to contact a DUI defense attorney familiar with the state’s drunk driving laws.