Florida Felony DUI
DUI in Florida is a misdemeanor offense, carrying penalties including up to $1,000 in fines and up to a year in jail, along with a driver’s license suspension from six months to one year. In some circumstances, however, DUI can be charged as a felony, and if convicted you could be looking at years in prison.
The Florida DUI defense attorneys at Meldon Law have decades of experience defending people charged with both misdemeanor DUI offenses and felony DUI. No matter how serious the charges are against you, you can count on our attorneys to put in the time and effort to fight for you and work to get the best results obtainable.
If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving and charged with a felony DUI in Florida, don’t take chances with your future. Call Meldon Law for immediate advice and assistance to secure the best outcome in your case.
What Makes a DUI a Felony in Florida?
There are four different ways you can be charged with felony DUI in Florida:
Third DUI within the last ten years – If you have two prior DUI convictions within the last ten years (commonly known as the “lookback” or “washout” period), then your third DUI arrest can be charged as a third-degree felony. Conviction of a third-degree felony carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. The law also requires mandatory placement of an ignition interlock device (IID) for at least two years, maintained at the defendant’s expense, on every car individually or jointly leased or owned and routinely operated by the person, assuming they qualify for a permanent or restricted driver’s license. The IID requires the operator to submit a clean breath sample before the car will start. Total costs can approach a thousand dollars.
Fourth or subsequent DUI at any time – A fourth DUI arrest, or any DUI arrest beyond that number, can be charged as a third-degree felony, no matter how long ago the first offense or other offenses occurred. The potential penalties here too include up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, but the law requires the person to be assessed at least a mandatory $2,000 fine.
Accident involving serious bodily injury – If you were involved in a crash or other accident that caused serious bodily injury to another person, and you are arrested for DUI in connection with the accident, you can be charged with a third-degree felony DUI.
Fatal accident – If you were involved in a fatal accident in connection with the DUI arrest, you can be charged with DUI manslaughter, which is either a second-degree or first-degree felony in Florida. A person convicted of a second-degree felony can be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, while a first-degree felony is punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment. DUI manslaughter is a first-degree felony if the person, at the time of the crash, knew or should have known that the crash occurred but failed to exchange personal information or render aid as required by law.
Defending Against Felony DUI Charges
People arrested for DUI often think their case is hopeless. Before you despair, remember that under the law and the constitution, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the prosecution’s burden to prove their charges, and you are entitled to put up a defense against those charges. Getting good advice and representation in a DUI matter is even more important in the case of a felony DUI, where the stakes are much higher.
Some criminal offenses are known in the legal community as “wobblers,” meaning they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. Initially, the prosecutor decides what charges to bring. Often, they will bring the most serious charges they can, but a strong and experienced defense attorney can sometimes get those charges knocked down from a felony to a misdemeanor. Avoiding the uncertainty of a trial and the possibility of a felony conviction is often a good result, depending on the facts and the strengths and weaknesses of the case for both sides.
If your case goes to trial on felony charges, you might still have strong defenses to fight the charges, including:
- Challenging the validity of the initial stop
- Challenging how the stop was conducted, such as the way field sobriety tests were performed
- Challenging the accuracy of a chemical test of your blood-alcohol
- Challenging the testimony of the arresting officer and other government witnesses
- Casting reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case by offering reasonable alternatives that explain why you were stopped
Give Yourself a Fighting Chance by Calling Our Florida Felony DUI Defense Attorneys Today
A felony DUI is much more serious than a misdemeanor DUI, and not just because the penalties are so much greater. Having a felony conviction on your record can cause problems for you regarding employment, housing, voting, owning a firearm, leasing an apartment, getting a loan, and more, and these difficulties can last for decades. You owe it to yourself and your family to try and avoid the worst consequences of a felony DUI conviction if you can.
If you have been charged with felony DUI in Florida, call the DUI defense trial team at Meldon Law for a free consultation about the charges you are facing and how our firm can help.