There is a difference between a misdemeanor and a felony under Florida law, even when the offense is a violation for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A recent Miami ABC Local 10 News report highlighted how a DUI charge can turn into a case with severe legal, financial and personal consequences under certain circumstances. There are defenses to a felony DUI in Florida, and hiring an experienced attorney will ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

How can I be charged with felony DUI?

There are a few situations where you may be charged for a felony DUI:

  • You have three or more DUI offenses within a 10-year period;
  • You are charged with a fourth DUI within any amount of time; or,
  • Your actions caused serious bodily injury or death to another person, no matter how many violations in your past.
To be a felony DUI as a result of harming someone else, that person must have suffered serious bodily injury. An injury that causes permanent disability, a risk of death, bodily disfigurement, or long-term loss of bodily functions may be considered serious injury, depending on the circumstances.

What are the penalties for a felony DUI conviction in Florida?

The penalties vary depending on the circumstances leading up to your felony DUI charge:

  • If the offense is your third DUI in 10 years, you may be sentenced to up to five years in prison; however, there is a mandatory jail sentence of 30 days. In addition, there is a minimum fine of $2,000, which could reach $5,000 depending on the judge's decision.
  • A fourth offense for DUI is a felony punishable by 1-5 years in prison, plus a fine of $2,000-$5,000.
  • If your felony DUI charge involves serious bodily injury to someone else, you can be imprisoned up to five years and fined up to $5,000. You may also be sentenced to probation for a period after your release.
  • A felony DUI that causes death to another person, the penalties are quite severe. You could be sentenced up to 15 years in prison, followed by probation up to 15 years after you are released.
In addition to criminal penalties, your driving privileges may be suspended or even permanently revoked depending on the facts of your case.

Do I have any defenses for felony DUI?

You may be able to beat a felony DUI if you're able to successfully challenge:

  • The Stop: A law enforcement officer must have probable cause to pull you over, which means a reasonable suspicion that you are driving while intoxicated. If the officer didn't have a valid reason, you may be able to defend the stop.
  • Field Sobriety Tests: These tests are used to determine your impairment, such as by walking a straight line or touching your finger to your nose. If there are reasons besides intoxication that you cannot perform these tests, you may have a defense.
  • Chemical Tests: Blood, breath, and urine tests are subject to error if the machines aren't properly maintained and the test conditions are monitored. You may defend against a felony DUI if there are errors in the testing.
  • Reading of Your Rights: If a law enforcement officer doesn't advise of your rights, including the right to remain silent and consult with a lawyer, you may be able to defend against felony DUI charges.
If you've been charged with a felony DUI in Florida, you need a qualified lawyer to represent your interests. An attorney with experience in drunk driving cases will fight for your rights and argue your legal defenses to obtain the least severe penalties allowed by law. For more information on felony DUIs and potential defenses, please contact the lawyers at Musca Law to schedule a consultation.