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What makes a DUI a felony in Florida?

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2024 | Blog, CRIMINAL LAW - Felonies, Drunk Driving, Felonies

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a severe crime in Florida, and the penalties range from fines to the suspension of the individual’s driver’s license to imprisonment.

Most convictions for driving under the influence are misdemeanors, which are crimes that are less severe than felonies. However, sometimes DUIs can be felonies.

In these situations, the punishments are harsher, so understanding the differences between the two is critical.

Misdemeanor DUIs

In Florida, a DUI is usually a misdemeanor if it is a first or second offense within a specific period. However, several factors determine whether the DUI is a felony.

Felony DUIs

  • A third DUI conviction within ten years of a prior conviction is a felony.
  • Each subsequent offense carries increasingly severe penalties, including longer license suspensions and imprisonment.
  • If a DUI results in a severe injury to another person, the driver may face felony charges.
  • If a driver causes the death of another person because of a DUI, law enforcement authorities can charge them with DUI manslaughter, which is also a felony offense.
  • Having a previous DUI felony conviction enhances subsequent DUI charges to felony status.
  • Driving under the influence with a child inside the vehicle can cause a felony DUI, even if it is a first DUI, given that the driver is endangering the life of the child.
  • If a DUI causes property damage, particularly severe damage, the authorities may elevate the charge to a felony.
  • Suppose the police pull over a person for a suspected DUI, and the person refuses testing. In that case, the state can charge them with felony DUI in certain circumstances.
  • Driving under the influence on a suspended or revoked license because of a prior DUI conviction can lead to a felony charge.

You may be wondering what happens if a person gets a felony DUI and what their life may look like after a conviction.

This is important to know because it helps understand the seriousness of the distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony.

What’s the matter with a felony?

Felony convictions result in severe consequences, such as longer prison sentences, significant fines, extended periods of suspension or revocation of a driver’s license, and other punishments, including community service and the installation of an ignition interlock device if the person can drive again.

Long-term consequences

In addition, the long-term consequences of a felony DUI extend beyond the above. For example, an individual with a felony conviction can have difficulty seeking and securing employment, housing, financial aid, and other privileges.

Given the seriousness of felony convictions, people must understand the differences between misdemeanors and felonies, in this case, when the offense is a DUI.

Being aware of this empowers individuals to take action to prevent it. In the event of being charged with a felony DUI, they can seek appropriate legal aid, depending on the severity of the situation.