Florida DUI Defense Attorneys Will Fight for Your Rights

In Florida, driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that can have far-reaching consequences. While many DUIs are categorized as misdemeanors, some can escalate to felony charges, which carry even graver consequences. If you are facing a felony DUI conviction in Florida, our experienced DUI defense attorneys at Flaherty & Merrifield can help you navigate this challenging situation.

What Is a Felony DUI? 

State law determines what makes a drunk driving offense a felony rather than a standard misdemeanor DUI. In Florida, a drunk driving offense may be a felony if you have or cause:

  • Multiple DUI offenses. One of the most common reasons for a DUI to be charged as a felony is when an individual has multiple prior DUI convictions on their record. Each state has its own threshold for the number of prior DUI convictions required to elevate the charge to a felony, but in Florida, it is the third offense in ten years that triggers this change.
  • Severe injuries or death. Causing serious injury or death while driving under the influence automatically leads to felony charges. 
  • A minor in the car while you are intoxicated. If a person under the age of 18 was in your vehicle while you were driving under the influence, the state may consider this child endangerment, and you could face felony charges.

Other reasons for a felony DUI charge include driving under the influence in a school zone, driving drunk with a revoked license, refusing to submit to testing, or causing an accident with significant property damage.

The Life-Altering Consequences of a Felony DUI

A felony DUI conviction has serious consequences, such as:

  • Lengthy prison sentences. One of the most significant consequences of a felony DUI conviction is the potential for a lengthy prison sentence. Unlike misdemeanor DUIs, which often result in shorter jail time or probation, felonies come with a mandatory 30-day jail sentence and up to five years in prison. If you are convicted of DUI manslaughter or vehicular homicide, you could face decades in prison.
  • Ignition interlock. The court will likely require you to install an ignition interlock on your vehicle at your own expense.
  • Hefty fines. Felony DUI convictions are often accompanied by substantial fines, which can place a heavy financial burden on you. These fines can reach thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, making it challenging to recover financially.
  • Loss of driving privileges. A felony DUI conviction can lead to the revocation or suspension of your driver's license for an extended period. Without the ability to drive legally, it can become challenging to maintain employment, access essential services, or take care of everyday responsibilities.
  • Collateral consequences. In addition to the direct legal penalties, a felony DUI conviction can have far-reaching collateral consequences. This may include difficulty finding employment, obtaining housing, or securing loans. The stigma of a felony conviction can follow you for years, impacting various aspects of your life.
  • Mandatory alcohol education and treatment. Individuals convicted of felony DUIs are often required to attend alcohol education and treatment programs as part of their sentence. These programs can be time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally challenging.

If the DUI charge is a fourth offense, there are more severe consequences, such as five years in prison and your driver’s license being revoked for life.

How a Defense Lawyer Can Help

Going through a felony DUI case can be emotionally draining, and a defense attorney can provide you with guidance, support, and reassurance during this challenging time. Some ways in which an attorney can build a strong defense include:

  • Case assessment. A defense lawyer will thoroughly review the facts of your case to identify potential weaknesses or issues that can be exploited in your defense. 
  • Negotiating plea bargains. In some cases, a defense attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to have the charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor or to secure a more lenient sentence. This can make a significant difference in the consequences you face.
  • Expert witnesses. A defense attorney can enlist the help of expert witnesses, such as toxicologists or accident reconstruction specialists, to provide testimony that can support your defense and challenge the prosecution's case.
  • Protecting your rights. Your Florida DUI defense lawyer will protect your constitutional rights throughout the legal process. 
Brandy Merrifield
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
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