If you were recently arrested for driving under the influence (of alcohol
or drugs) in Tampa or anywhere else in Hillsborough County, you may be
wondering, “When is a
DUI a felony in Florida?” It’s not uncommon for drivers to ask
this question, especially under the following circumstances:
- The driver had a high blood alcohol content (BAC).
- The driver has prior DUI convictions on their record.
- The driver caused an accident.
- Someone else was injured or killed in the accident.
- The driver was under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
If any of the above applies to you, could you be facing felony charges?
It depends. We’ll tell you right now that the majority, but not
all, DUIs in Florida are misdemeanors. Before we dive deeper into felony
DUIs, let’s take a look at what the law says.
Under Section 316.139 of the Florida Statutes, it’s illegal to operate
a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08% or above; however, it’s also
illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol (or drugs) to the point
where one’s faculties are impaired, regardless of BAC.
Generally, a violation under section 316.139 is a
misdemeanor for a first or second offense. But what if the driver is in an accident?
Under Section 316.193(3), accidents involving
property damage or personal injury while someone is under the influence are
first degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
When is DUI a Felony?
DUIs can be prosecuted as misdemeanors and felonies in Florida. Under Sections
316.193(2) and (3) of the Florida Statutes, drivers enter into
felony territory when they are repeat offenders and when they cause
accidents that result in serious injuries or death.
In Florida, a DUI is a felony when:
- The person is convicted of a third DUI within 10 years.
- The person is guilty of a fourth or subsequent DUI.
- The impaired driver causes serious bodily injury to another person.
- The impaired driver takes someone else’s life as a direct result
of impaired driving.
When someone is guilty of a third DUI within 10 years, or when it’s
their fourth or subsequent DUI, they are guilty of a
third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, or by a fine not to exceed $5,000, or both.
DUI Manslaughter Charges
According to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Every day, 28 people die in an alcohol-related crash –
that’s one person every 53 minutes.” With that statistic in
mind, it’s understandable why the state comes down hard on drunk
and drugged drivers who take other people’s lives.
In Florida, when an impaired driver takes someone else’s life in
a drunk or drugged driving accident, they are guilty of
DUI Manslaughter, a second degree felony under Section 316.193(3) of the Florida Statues,
punishable by up to 15 years in prison or by a fine not to exceed $10,000, or both.
A Note About Driving on a Suspended License
We wanted to take a moment to discuss driving on a suspended license after
a DUI. We bring this up because a lot of Florida drivers are tempted to
drive after a DUI suspension or revocation.
Please be aware that even if someone is found guilty of a misdemeanor DUI
– if they drive on a suspended or revoked license after a DUI with
an unlawful alcohol level (.08% or above), or after DUI Manslaughter,
they are guilty of a
third degree felony, punishable by a fine up to $5,000, or up to 5 years in jail, or both.
The takeaway here is: Don’t drive on a suspended or revoked license
after a DUI conviction! If you do, you can be charged with a felony after all.
Need a Tampa DUI attorney?
Contact Thomas & Paulk to schedule a free consultation with a former prosecutor who’s handled
over 3,500 cases!