Defending Against Serious Felony Allegations in Ft. Lauderdale
Many people think of driving under the influence (DUI) as a relatively minor crime, perhaps because they have known someone who was arrested for this offense. However, DUI is always a serious matter in Florida, even for a first offense. In some situations, the charge can be escalated from a misdemeanor to a felony, and you should never wait any longer to call a highly experienced Ft. Lauderdale defense lawyer if you are facing felony charges.
If a prosecutor charges you with a felony stemming from a DUI, they are claiming serious allegations against you. If you are convicted, you could get sent to prison for years and have a felony on your record for the rest of your life. A prosecutor may try to convince you that you have no choice but to plead guilty, but this is not the truth. You always have the right to plead not guilty and seek representation from a skilled attorney who can defend against these serious charges.
At Meldon Law, we handle all types of DUI-related cases, from first-offense misdemeanors to felony DUI. We can begin protecting your rights from the time you are arrested, so please don’t delay in calling our office for assistance right away.
When Can a DUI Become a Felony?
Felony charges are reserved for more serious criminal offenses and come with substantially harsher penalties. It is important to know when a DUI can become a felony and to seek immediate legal help if you are charged with felony DUI. The following circumstances can allow a prosecutor to seek a felony conviction:
- This is your third DUI charge within 10 years. Florida has a “look back” period for multiple DUI charges. For a third charge, this period is ten years. If your last DUI conviction was within that time, your charge can be enhanced to a felony.
- This is your fourth (or more) DUI charge. For more than three DUI cases, there is no longer a look back period. Instead, if you have three prior convictions and are charged again, the charge can automatically be a felony no matter how much time has passed.
- You are accused of causing an accident while you were under the influence that resulted in serious injuries or death to another person. In such situations, you can be charged with DUI Causing Serious Bodily Injury or DUI manslaughter, which are both felonies. Vehicular homicide charges may also be issued.
As you can see, there are several ways that a DUI charge can be escalated to a felony. If you are arrested and you know you have prior convictions or that you may have injured someone in an accident, it could just be a matter of time before you face a felony case.
Possible Penalties for Felony DUI Convictions
Each type of felony DUI charge has its own potential penalties. The law sets out maximum penalties and a judge often has significant discretion when it comes to issuing a sentence up to the maximum. In some cases, the law sets out mandatory minimum sentences, such as a certain period of time in jail. Some possible penalties of felony DUI include:
- Third DUI within 10 years – If you are convicted of this felony charge, you could face up to five years in prison and a judge must sentence you to a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail. Your fine will have to be between $2,000 and $5,000, plus court costs. You will likely lose your driver’s license for ten years and your vehicle will be impounded – at your own expense – for 90 days. If you had a minor in your vehicle or if your blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeded 0.15 percent, you can receive an enhanced sentence.
- Fourth or subsequent DUI – The penalties for this felony are similar to a third DUI felony charge, as they include five years in prison and fines up to $5,000. However, a fourth conviction means your driver’s license will be revoked permanently. You likely will not be able to obtain any type of hardship license, which means you may never be able to drive in Florida again.
- DUI causing serious bodily injury – If you are convicted of causing serious bodily injury, you can face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, even if this is your first DUI offense. Your license can be revoked for three years and you will probably have to attend DUI education classes and undergo supervised probation.
- DUI manslaughter – This felony charge carries the most severe penalties, as this can be a second-degree felony instead of a third-degree. A conviction can mean up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Additionally, the minimum prison sentence for DUI manslaughter is four years, so convicted defendants will be heading to state prison.
Defending Against Felony DUI Charges
Because the penalties for felony DUI convictions are so severe, you need the best possible defense. There are many ways our attorneys can defend against these charges to have your case dropped or your charges and sentence reduced. There are different defenses available for different cases, including 4th Amendment violations, challenging chemical BAC tests, and more. We will develop the strongest possible defense in every individual case to obtain the best outcome for you and minimize the long-term effects on your life.
Find Out How Our Felony DUI Defense Attorneys Can Assist You
At Meldon Law, our DUI defense lawyers never shy away from serious felony cases. We know that a felony conviction can affect your freedom and finances, as well as limit your employment, educational, and housing opportunities. We take every case seriously and bring our experience and knowledge to the table to best assist you. With years of experience in Ft. Lauderdale criminal court, we know how to be tough negotiators to protect your rights. If you have been arrested and charged with a felony DUI, call (954) 334-1276 or contact our office online to get started working on your defense.