When is a DUI a Felony in Florida?
You may know that Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a crime in Florida and has legal implications for your driver’s license. However, you may not be aware that a DUI can be a felony under certain circumstances. When charged as a felony as compared to a misdemeanor, the fines are higher, the potential jail sentence is longer, and additional sanctions may apply. You should discuss the specifics of your case with an experienced DUI defense lawyer, but an overview may be helpful.
Misdemeanor Penalties for a DUI Conviction: Though it is a lesser charge, the consequences of a misdemeanor DUI conviction are still significant. For a first offense, you face a fine between $500-$1,000, incarceration up to six months, and a driver’s license suspension up to six months.
When a DUI is a Felony in Florida: More serious circumstances lead to more considerable penalties, so you may be charged with a felony in a drunk driving case. Examples include:
Third DUI in 10 Years: If you are arrested a third time on drunk driving charges, the lookback period is 10 years. For official purposes, the key date is the day you were convicted. The crime is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.
- Fourth Drunk Driving Conviction: There is no lookback period for a fourth DUI conviction, so the statute applies to your entire driving lifetime. A fourth drunk driving offense is also a third degree felony with the same penalties described above.
- DUI Accident with Serious Bodily Injury: Even if you have never been arrested for drunk driving in the past, you face third degree felony charges if you are in an accident and someone is hurt. The identity of the victim is irrelevant, so it could even be a person in your own car. Besides the above penalties, you could be sued for damages in a civil lawsuit.
- Manslaughter: If you are involved in an accident that results in a fatality, the charge is a second degree felony. For purposes of DUI manslaughter, an unborn child is taken into account. A judge may sentence you to a maximum of 15 years in prison, along with a fine up to $10,000. The family of the victim may sue you in a wrongful death claim, which is also a civil case.
There are also consequences for your driving privileges in all felony DUI cases. You could lose your license for a year or more, and may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle when you do get it back.
Consult with a Florida DUI Defense Attorney Right Away
If you are facing felony drunk driving charges, it is critical to retain an experienced DUI defense lawyer. It may be possible to reduce the offense to a misdemeanor, which carries less severe penalties. For more information on felony DUIs, please contact attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can answer your questions or schedule a consultation at our office in Fort Lauderdale, FL.