DUIs in Florida are typically charged as misdemeanor crimes. However, when repeated DUIs within a 10 year period or injuries occur, the charge suddenly becomes a Felony DUI. This article will outline the Felony DUI charges and their effects on your life.
DUI offenses in Florida that relate to a Felony charge
A third DUI offense within a 10 year period, or four(and any other subsequent) DUI offenses will trigger felony DUI charges. These felony DUI charges will result in a fine maximum of $5,000 fine and/or 5 years maximum imprisonment. If the third conviction is within 10 years, there is a mandatory imprisonment of at least 30 days, 48 hours of which confinement must be consecutive. If the third conviction was more than 10 years ago from the first, then the maximum jail time is 12 months.
If you cause serious bodily injury while driving under the influence, you will be guilty of a Third Degree Felony, facing a maximum of $5,000 fine and/or maximum 5 years in prison. If you are convicted of a DUI Manslaughter, where someone dies as a result of your drunk driving, you are looking at a maximum 15 years in prison and $10,000 fine.
Arrest and Court Procedures
At the time of your arrest, you may be placed in jail until bail is posted or you appear before the judge. If it is a simple DUI misdemeanor arrest, you will usually be booked and be free to leave, assuming you have someone who can drive you home. In the case of a felony DUI, you may be allowed to be released pending your hearing, or you will be taken into custody. At this preliminary hearing, called an arraignment, you will enter a guilty or not guilty plea. From there, you will go to a pretrial conference to negotiate a possible early resolution of the case, or go on to trial. Early resolutions are encouraged so as to get the case off the calendar and reach a solution that will please the prosecution and the defendant. Once at trial, you will present evidence in your favor, and the prosecution will present its evidence as well. If you are convicted, you will receive your sentence at the end of trial.
Effect on Records and Employment
Because it is a felony conviction, the DUI will stay on your criminal record for a period of time, and on your Florida driving record forever. Once you have completed probation and paid your fines, it may be possible to have the court make an expungement of the DUI off your criminal record. While the court does not have to automatically do so, it will look at your criminal history and your performance on probation to see if you are deserving of an expungement. Until your record is sealed, you have to report the felony to your employer or potential employer if asked.
DMV/DUI Implications for Felony DUIs
Then there is a Third DUI Conviction within 10 Years of the second conviction, your drivers license will be revoked for a minimum 10 years period, and you may be eligible for a hardship reinstatement after two years. In order to qualify for a reinstatement, you must complete DUI school and remain in the DUI supervision program for the remainder of the revocation period. If you fail to report for counseling or treatment, your hardship license will be revoked. You cannot consume any alcoholic beverage or controlled substance or driven a motor vehicle for 12 months prior to reinstatement. Finally, you must install an ignition interlock device for two years.
If you receive a fourth Conviction, the Florida DMV requires a mandatory permanent revocation with no hardship reinstatement.
Felony DUI Defense Options
At your hearing, you can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest (essentially a guilty plea that you do not admit to). If you plea not guilty, some of the likely defense options will include: pleading to a lesser charge, challenging the results of the sobriety tests based on defect or error, medication effect that results in a false positive, and many others. These defense options are best explained and argued by experienced DUI lawyers.
Getting Help from a Lawyer
If you are charged with a felony DUI, the most important thing to do is to retain an experienced DUI lawyer to handle your matter and ensure that your rights are protected. Without a lawyer to help, you may plea to an agreement that is not in your favor, and jeopardize your chances of getting a lesser sentence and expunge your record at a later date. Having an experienced DUI lawyer may help you beat your DUI charge if the facts and circumstances support a defense possibility.