It's never great to be facing DUI charges of any kind in Florida, but when you are being charged with a felony DUI, you need to hire the best defense lawyer you can find because you will be fighting for your freedom. At Flaherty & Merrifield, we take on the tough cases and do everything we can to secure the best possible outcome. When you are facing felony charges, don't trust your defense to anyone else!
When Are DUIs Charged as Felonies in Florida?
While most DUI cases are charged as misdemeanors, Florida law provides for the possibility of felony DUI charges under certain circumstances. If you have been arrested, it's important that you understand whether you are being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Contacting a lawyer right away is the smartest thing you can do in either situation.
Situations that are usually charged as felonies include the following.
Multiple DUI Convictions
One of the most common reasons for a DUI to become a felony in Florida is multiple DUI convictions within a specified time frame. If an individual has been convicted of two or more prior DUI offenses within ten years, a subsequent DUI arrest can be charged as a third-degree felony.
DUI manslaughter occurs when a person operates a vehicle under the influence and causes the death of another person. This is a second-degree felony in Florida and carries severe penalties, including lengthy imprisonment.
Serious Bodily Injury
If a DUI accident results in serious bodily injury to another person, it can lead to a third-degree felony charge. Serious bodily injury is generally defined as an injury that creates a substantial risk of death or results in significant physical impairment.
DUI With Property Damage
DUI accidents that involve property damage can also lead to felony charges. If the property damage is significant, the DUI charge can be elevated to a felony. Property damage usually involves damage to other vehicles, but could also apply if you damaged municipal or private property such as fencing, lampposts, a storefront, or a home.
DUI With a Minor in the Vehicle
Driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle can result in felony charges. This is often referred to as "child endangerment" and is taken very seriously by the legal system. Any occupant under the age of 18 could be considered a child and could elevate the charge to a felony.
DUI in a School Zone
Committing a DUI offense in a school zone or on school property can lead to enhanced penalties, including felony charges. School zones typically have stricter regulations regarding DUI offenses.
Driving With a Suspended or Revoked License
If an individual is arrested for DUI while their driver's license is suspended or revoked due to a prior DUI conviction, the subsequent DUI charge can be elevated to a felony.
Refusal to Submit to Testing
Refusing to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test when arrested for DUI can result in more severe penalties, including potential felony charges. We advise clients to always submit to chemical testing when it is requested. If your rights were violated in the process, we can fight to have the test declared inadmissible.
Felony DUI convictions in Florida can have serious and long-lasting consequences, including lengthy prison sentences, often ranging from several months to many years, and substantial fines and court costs. Your situation may seem hopeless, but it's important that you talk to our experienced defense team before you give up.
How We Defend Clients Charged With Felony DUI in Florida
Not every DUI defense lawyer is prepared to adequately defend a client charged with a felony. At Flaherty & Merrifield, most of our cases are serious felonies, and we have extensive experience defending clients in front of felony judges. We build custom defenses that fit the specific facts and circumstances of each case. Our analysis of your case starts with the following:
- Reviewing all video evidence, witness statements, police radio logs, police reports, and Intoxilyzer records
- Examining medical records to determine whether the injuries are serious enough to qualify as serious bodily injury and financial records to assess the legitimacy of property damage claims
- Developing mitigating evidence that allows us to present you in a positive light
- Filing appropriate motions in court, including Motions to Suppress and Motions to Dismiss
- Negotiating with the prosecutor for a reduced charge or a plea that avoids jail time and a felony conviction
- Preparing for trial from day one in case negotiations fall apart