Is DUI A Felony in Florida? Misdemeanor DUI vs Felony DUI

David Weisselberger | January 25, 2024

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Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious legal offense that occurs when individuals operate a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Typically considered a misdemeanor, DUI is a grave concern in traffic law. 

In this article, we will explore the answer to your question: is dui a felony in florida? Also, we will uncover the consequences and legal implications associated with DUI, shedding light on terms such as first DUI offense, second DUI offense, and the classification of DUI as a misdemeanor. 

Understanding these key concepts is crucial for anyone navigating the legal landscape surrounding impaired driving.

When Is DUI A Felony in Florida?

when is DUI a felony in florida

A DUI in Florida becomes a felony under specific circumstances, primarily involving repeat offenses or aggravating factors. If an individual faces a second or subsequent DUI within a specified timeframe, typically ten years, the offense is elevated to a felony. 

Additionally, serious aggravating factors such as a significantly high blood alcohol concentration, reckless driving, or incidents leading to serious injury, much worse, death can lead to felony charges. Understanding these conditions is crucial, as felony DUI convictions in Florida carry more severe penalties, including increased fines, longer imprisonment, and potential permanent license revocation.

What is the Difference Between A Misdemeanor DUI and A Felony DUI?

Understanding the difference between a misdemeanor DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and a felony DUI in Florida is crucial for individuals facing impaired driving charges. The distinctions center around the nature of the offense, repeat offenses, aggravating factors, consequences, and the impact on one's criminal record. So, is a DUI a felony or a misdemeanor? Let’s find out the difference between a misdemeanor and felony DUI!

Nature of the Offense

  • Misdemeanor DUI: First-time offenses are typically misdemeanors involving impaired driving without severe factors like serious injury, death, or prior DUI convictions.
  • Felony DUI: Involves more severe circumstances such as repeat offenses, aggravating factors, or incidents resulting in significant harm or fatalities.

Repeat Offenses

Misdemeanor DUI: First offenses are generally treated as misdemeanors, but subsequent convictions within a specified timeframe can escalate to felonies.

Felony DUI: Repeat DUI convictions, especially second and third offenses, are often classified as felonies, resulting in harsher penalties.

Aggravating Factors

Misdemeanor DUI: Involves straightforward DUI cases without additional aggravating factors, typically exceeding the legal BAC limit.

Felony DUI: Includes factors like reckless driving, significantly high BAC, driving with a suspended license, or other serious traffic violations leading to felony charges.

Consequences and Penalties

Misdemeanor DUI: Penalties may include fines, probation, alcohol education programs, and temporary license suspension. Jail time is possible but not mandatory for first offenses.

Felony DUI: Convictions result in more severe consequences, including higher fines, longer jail sentences, extended probation, and the potential for permanent license revocation.

Impact on Criminal Record

Misdemeanor DUI: This can impact one's criminal record but may be eligible for expungement or sealing.

Felony DUI: Leaves enduring marks on the criminal record, making expungement challenging and affecting various aspects of life, such as employment opportunities.

Penalties for DUI in Florida

Florida imposes strict penalties for individuals convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). The severity of the penalties is based on various factors, such as the number of prior offenses and the presence of aggravating circumstances.

penalty for DUI

First DUI Offense

  • Fines: Typically ranging from $500 to $1,000.
  • License Suspension: Minimum 180 days up to one year.
  • Probation: Up to one year.
  • Community Service: Mandatory hours.
  • DUI School: Completion of a state-approved DUI education program.
  • Possible Jail Time: Up to six months (mandatory imprisonment is not always imposed for a first offense).

Second DUI Offense

  • Fines: Fines were increased compared to a first offense.
  • License Suspension: Minimum five years if within five years of the first conviction.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Mandatory installation at the individual's expense.
  • Mandatory Jail Time: Up to nine months (mandatory imprisonment is typically required).

Third DUI Offense

  • Fines: Higher fines than previous offenses.
  • License Suspension: Minimum ten years if within ten years of the second conviction.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Mandatory installation at the individual's expense.
  • Mandatory Jail Time: Up to twelve months (mandatory imprisonment is typically required).

Aggravating Factors

  • If aggravating factors are present (such as high blood alcohol concentration, driving with a minor in the vehicle, causing property damage or injury), penalties can be more severe.
  • Felony DUI: Repeated offenses or incidents resulting in serious injury or death can lead to felony charges with harsher consequences, including longer prison sentences and permanent license revocation.

Defenses for DUI in Florida

Mounting a strong defense is crucial for individuals facing DUI charges. While the specific defenses depend on the circumstances of each case, common strategies include:

defense for felony DUI
  • Challenging the Traffic Stop: Questioning the reasonable suspicion or probable cause for the initial traffic stop.
  • Questioning Field Sobriety Tests: Disputing the reliability of field sobriety tests, examining their administration or interpretation.
  • Disputing Breathalyzer Results: Challenging the accuracy of breathalyzer tests, questioning testing equipment or procedures.
  • Medical Conditions or Medications: Demonstrating that observed behavior was due to medical conditions or medications, not intoxication.
  • Rising Blood Alcohol Content (BAC): Arguing that the individual's BAC was below the legal limit while driving due to the time-lapse.
  • Improper Police Conduct: Challenging the case based on any violation of constitutional rights during the arrest process.

How Erase the Case Can Help

Erase the Case is your ally in expunging DUI charges. Regain control of your future by lessening the impact of past legal challenges. Connect with us today to set the course for a brighter, unblemished tomorrow!

FAQs about Felony DUI

Is a DUI a felony or misdemeanor in Florida?

In most cases, a DUI in Florida is considered a misdemeanor. However, it can become a felony under certain circumstances, such as repeat offenses or serious injury/death resulting from impaired driving.

How long does a DUI stay on your record in Florida?

A DUI conviction remains on your record for a specific period, affecting your driving record and potentially causing consequences for future offenses. If you consult with legal experts, they can provide insights into record expungement or mitigation options.

Is a second DUI a felony in Florida?

Yes, a second DUI offense in Florida is typically classified as a felony. The state takes a harsh stance on repeat DUI offenders, imposing more severe penalties to deter impaired driving.

Do first-time DUI offenders go to jail in Florida?

While jail time is possible for first-time DUI offenders, it is not mandatory. Penalties may include fines, probation, and license suspension. The specific outcome depends on the case's circumstances and the effectiveness of the defense strategy.

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David Weisselberger
Author | Founder
"David Weisselberger is the founder of Erase The Case. He completed his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Florida, & also his Juris Doctor from UM School of Law. Afterwards, He has been working as a former Miami-Dade County Assistant Public Defender. Also, as a solo lawyer and former associate at South Florida’s honored Saban & Solomon Law Firm. He has learned firsthand the effects people face from having a public criminal arrest record mark their lives. Therefore, David has always been working hard to help people get rid of haunting crimnal past and have a second chance in life"

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