If you’re facing driving under the influence (DUI) charges in Florida for the first time, you may be wondering, “Is DUI a misdemeanor or a felony?” DUI is what’s called a “wobbler offense” because it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case.
In Florida, the offense of DUI is covered under Section 316.193 of the Florida Statutes. Under Sec. 316.193, a driver can be charged with DUI if they drive or are in “actual physical control” of a vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or any chemical substance, which includes illicit street drugs, lawfully prescribed drugs, and over-the-counter medications.
A driver’s blood alcohol level does not have to be at 0.08% to be prosecuted with DUI – their BAL can be lower than the legal limit. All that matters is that the state can prove that the defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by the introduction of drugs or alcohol, or both.
When is DUI a Felony in Florida?
Generally, a first or second DUI without any “aggravating factors” is prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense. For a first or second DUI to be charged as a felony, usually the impaired driver would have to cause serious bodily injury or death to another person.
Penalties for a first misdemeanor DUI in Florida:
- DUI probation
- DUI School
- A fine not to exceed $1,000
- Up to six months in jail
- Up to one year of driver license suspension
If you are facing DUI charges for the first time in Florida, as long as no one was injured or killed, you should be charged with a misdemeanor. That said, let’s take a look at the four ways DUI can be charged as a felony in Florida:
1. Third DUI Within 10 Years
If a person has a third DUI within 10 years of a previous DUI conviction, they are guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to five years in prison, and by a fine not to exceed $5,000.
2. Fourth DUI Offense
Anyone who is convicted of a fourth DUI offense, regardless of how long it’s been since their previous conviction, is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to a $5,000 fine, and up to five years behind bars.
3. DUI Involving Serious Bodily Injury
If while committing the offense of DUI, the impaired driver causes serious bodily injury to another person, including their own passenger, the offender is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable by a fine not to exceed $5,000, and by up to five years in prison.
Additionally, the defendant could be ordered by the court to pay restitution to the victim to cover his or her medical expenses, rehabilitation, property damage or loss, and lost income.
Learn more about restitution in Florida here.
4. DUI Manslaughter
When an impaired driver causes the death of another human being or an unborn child, he or she commits the offense of DUI manslaughter, a felony of the second degree, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and by a fine not to exceed $10,000. Like DUI with serious bodily injury, the defendant may be ordered to pay restitution, but in the case of death, the offender may have to pay the victim’s funeral-related expenses.
Are you or someone you love facing DUI charges? If so, you should have a fairly good idea of whether the charge would be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony after reading this post. Even if you end up facing misdemeanor charges, you still want to avoid a conviction if at all possible.
Why is it so important to fight? Because a criminal conviction for DUI would have long-lasting consequences. It would affect housing, employment, professional licenses, college scholarships, and auto insurance premiums. To minimize the consequences of your DUI charge, contact us today!