Is a DUI a Felony in Florida?

The answer to the question above, like so many other legal questions, depends on a variety of factors and circumstances. But ordinarily in Florida, if a person is arrested for the offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) that did not result in significant injuries and they don’t have at least two prior DUI convictions, then they would be facing a misdemeanor DUI.   

That said a Misdemeanor DUI, is still an incredibly serious charge that can significantly impact your life. Not only could it affect your ability to drive in the near future, but it could also result in significant fines, a permanent criminal record, probation, and even jail time. Furthermore, the State of Florida can pursue charges of DUI based on one of two theories. First deals with whether an individual’s blood/breath alcohol content was above the legal limit of a 0.08 when the person was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle. While the second theory focuses on whether a person’s normal faculties, like seeing, walking, talking, or driving, were imparied or diminished in a material way.

It is also worth knowing that here in Florida a person doesn’t have to be driving to be charged or convicted of DUI. That’s due to the fact that Florida not only criminalizes being in “actual physical control of a vehicle” when impaired or when you have an elevated blood/breath alcohol content. Actual physical control is defined as being in or on a vehicle and having the capability to operate it. As such Florida is one place you probably don’t want to try sleeping off a night of drinking in your car.    

So, since a DUI in Florida can come with life-altering repercussions. It is important for you to understand just what the law requires and how the judge can sentence you if you are charged with a DUI.

What is a Misdemeanor in Florida?

Here in Florida a misdemeanor is any offense for which the maximum sentence can not exceed 364 days in the county jail. As such misdemeanors are less serious offenses than felonies, but still remain quite serious. After all some misdemeanors like domestic battery and DUI can have impacts well beyond any that a Judge were to impose as some can impact your ability to find housing or maintain licensure for certain occupations.   

So if you find yourself facing a misdemeanor, whether for DUI, Domestic Battery, or another offense, it’s vital to remember that such a charge is a big deal and could have devastating implications on your life. That’s why it’s so important that you reach out to an experienced defense attorney should you have questions about or be facing such an offense. 

What Happens if Convicted of a Misdemeanor DUI in Florida?

The punishment for a misdemeanor DUI will depend on a variety of factors including the specific facts of your case, your prior record, the Judge you are before, how high your blood alcohol level was, whether the DUI resulted in damage, and if a minor was present for the offense. That said the minimum penalties that a person inn Florida could receive for a first-time misdemeanor DUI include: 

  • A formal conviction for DUI
  • Six months of Probation
  • A six-month suspension of their drivers license
  • 50-hours of community service
  • A fine of $500.00
  • Attendance at DUI School
  • Attendance at a Victim Impact Panel
  • 10-day vehicle impoundment
  • And being sentenced to the jail time one has already served

It’s also important to remember that the penalties listed above are simply the minimums allowable under the law. Should a person have a case that involved a particularly high breath alcohol sample or involved damage the penalties can become far more severe. Additionally, should a defendant fail to comply with their sentence for DUI, they can be brought back before the Judge and face additional jail time and sanctions. 

It is also critical to understand that subsequent DUI offenses will always be more serious than those that preceded them and as such they will open a person up to far greater penalties. For instance, the minimum potential sentence for a second DUI within five years of a person’s first include: 

  • A formal conviction for DUI
  • Twelve months of Probation
  • A five-year suspension of their drivers license
  • Ignition Interlock Device
  • A fine of $1000.00
  • Attendance at DUI School
  • Attendance at a Victim Impact Panel
  • 30-day vehicle impoundment
  • No less than 10 days incarceration in the county jail

Misdemeanor charges may also require you to have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed. This tiny device is actually a breathalyzer that determines whether or not you can safely drive your vehicle. Not only can these devices be expensive, but they are also frequently inconvenient and embarrassing. As such the best thing you or a loved one can do when facing a serious offense like DUI is to consult with an experienced and well-trained defense attorney

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Florida?

In Florida, a conviction for DUI charge will stay on your record forever. Thus, a conviction on a DUI will mean that anyone who runs a background check on you, be it a landlord, banker, or a potential employer will know about your past indiscretion. Additionally, if you have a sealable or expungable offense on your record, but haven’t yet had it removed, a conviction for DUI will prevent you from doing so as well. This is why it is so important to get appropriate legal counsel if you have been charged with a DUI. After all there is a huge difference between being arrested for an offense and being convicted of it. 

What Would Make a DUI in Florida a Felony?

Now as mentioned above, not all DUI offenses are the same and some DUI offenses in Florida are charged as felonies. A felony is generally described as any offense for which the maximum sentence can exceed 365 days in the county jail. As such, felonies are far more serious than misdemeanors, due to the significantly harsher penalties they carry and the tremendous negative impacts they can have on a person’s life. However, in order for a DUI in Florida to be charged as a felony generally the offense must have either: resulted in the death of another, DUI Manslaughter, OR resulted in serious bodily injury of another, DUI with serious bodily injury, OR have been a third of subsequent DUI. Any of which are extremely serious. So, if you or a loved one finds yourself facing a felony DUI don’t wait, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can assist you. 

At What Point During a DUI Can I Lose My License? 

Although you are innocent until presumed guilty, it’s important to know that the ability to drive an automobile in Florida is considered to be a privilege, not a right. As such it is important to know that the choices you make if arrested for DUI will directly impact the status of your driver’s license.

More specifically if you are arrested for a first time DUI and you provide a breath sample above the legal limit the DMV will suspend your privilege to drive for six month. If however you are arrested for a first time DUI and you refuse to provide a breath sample the DMV will suspend your privilege to drive for 12 months. What’s more if after having your license suspended for refusing to provide a breath sample you ever refuse to provide a breath sample again that constitutes its own crime known as Criminal Refusal. 

But don’t despair if your license has been taken after a DUI arrest. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to assist you in challenging the suspension of your license. That said the deadline for doing so is 10 days from the date your license was suspended. Additionally, if your license was lawfully suspended you may qualify for a hardship license, so if you have just lost your license following a DUI arrest, don’t delay, reach out to the firm of Lufrano Legal, P.A. today.

What Should You Do After Being Charged with a DUI or Arrested?

If you have been charged with a DUI, it is vital that you immediately contact a DUI attorney. Such an attorney should be well-versed in all of the minutiae of the law surrounding DUI convictions and can help you make the right choices and say the right things in court. It is especially important to hire an attorney if you believe that you have been wrongfully arrested or if there were aggravating factors involved. Your lawyer will be able to help you work quickly in getting a court date and addressing any license suspension that may have occurred. So, if you or a loved one was recently arrested or charged with a DUI contact the firm of Lufrano Legal, P.A for a free consultation.

Furthermore, while the best solution to avoid prosecution is never to drink and drive, you or someone you care about may someday be charged with a DUI. But by knowing the laws and working with an attorney, you will find yourself prepared for this stressful time and can get through it without undue stress.