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Is a DUI a Misdemeanor or a Felony Charge?

How often do you go out with your friends for a drink? How about to meet up with coworkers for happy hour? While it’s great to have downtime and relax with good people, it’s always good to be mindful of how alcohol intake can have a detrimental effect on your life if you get into a car accident after a couple of beers.

In Florida, you’d be considered driving under the influence if your blood alcohol level is 0.08 or higher. There’s no simple formula to calculate how many drinks it would take for a person to get to that level, since there are so many factors that can influence how an individual can hold their alcohol: gender, weight, fat and muscle ratios, how fast the metabolism is, rate of consumption of drinks, whether a person consumed food along with the drinks, or whether the person is on any type of medication.

What we can tell you is that if you get pulled over and you are considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol, on a good day, you’ll face higher insurance premiums, a suspended driver’s license, traffic school, court ordered counseling, and hefty fines. On a bad day, you could end up with a long list of legal problems and face imprisonment.

What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

To provide you with a better understanding of the type of legal ramifications of getting arrested for DUI, below is an overview of the differences between a misdemeanor and a felony.

What are misdemeanors?

Misdemeanors are considered by the law to be less serious offenses. Some examples of misdemeanors include: battery (hitting someone), shoplifting, driving with a suspended license, or petit theft (stealing something worth less than $300).

These can be of the first degree or second degree: A person convicted of a misdemeanor in the first degree could be punished with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

A person convicted of a misdemeanor in the second degree could be punished with a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.

What are felonies?

Felonies are more serious offenses. These can be a capital felony, or a felony in the first, second, or third degree. Examples of some of the most common felonies include murder, manslaughter, arson, rape, and robberies.

A person convicted of a capital felony will face a fine of up to $15,000 and a death sentence.

A person convicted of a first degree felony faces up to $10,000 in fines and up to 30 years in prison.

A person convicted of second degree felonies face a fine of up to $10,000 and 15 years in prison.

A person convicted of a third degree felony faces a fine of up to $5,000 and 5 years in prison.

While felonies are a lot more serious than misdemeanors, a person who commits a misdemeanor can be charged with a felony if he or she is a repeat offender, and herein lies the problem with driving under the influence.

Is a DUI considered to be a felony or a misdemeanor?

Florida Statutes § 316.193 establishes the following:

A driver convicted of a DUI for the first time will be fined between $500 and $1,000 and could face up to 6 months in jail.

A driver convicted of a DUI for the second time will be fined between $1,000 and $2,000 and face up to 9 months in jail. The individual will also have to pay for an ignition interlock device to be placed on all of their vehicles, whether owned or leased individually or jointly with another person. The person would also face restrictions on his or her driver’s license.

A driver convicted of a DUI for the third time within 10 years of their previous convictions will be charged with a felony in the third degree. If the third conviction happens after 10 years from the previous offenses, the individual will face a fine between $2,000 and $5,000 and up to a year in jail (making it a misdemeanor). The person will then have to pay for the installment of an ignition interlock on any vehicles they own for at least two years.

If a driver is convicted of a DUI for the fourth time, regardless of how much time has passed between convictions, the person commits a felony of the third degree.

If in addition to driving under the influence, a driver causes serious bodily injury to another person, that driver will be charged with a felony of the third degree.

If the accident results in the death of another person, the driver commits DUI manslaughter, which is a felony in the second degree.

If the accident results in the death of a person and the driver fails to give information or render aid, the person will be charged with a felony in the first degree.

What happens if you get convicted of a felony?

1. You lose rights: In addition to facing real prison time, once out, people who are convicted of felonies lose their rights to own any firearms, vote, sit on a jury, or run for office.

2. You’d go to prison: There’s a big misconception that jail and prison are the same thing. They aren’t. People who serve sentences of up to a year, go to jail. People who are sentenced to long-term imprisonment go to prison and live side by side with serious felons.

3. It’ll be extremely difficult to have a regular life after prison: Most employers won’t hire a convicted felon. Apartment complexes and private landlords also tend to have a policy against renting to individuals who have served time in prison for a felony. Also, if a convicted felon decides to go back to school, he or she won’t qualify for financial aid.

Contact PLM Attorneys If You’ve Been Charged With a DUI

A DUI comes with a long list of ugly consequences. Since each case is different and so many different factors affect a Court determination, the best thing you can do is talk to an attorney as soon as possible.

At Prolly, Laporte & Mulligan PA, we have experienced criminal defense attorneys who can best design a strategy to help you. We know how to handle DUI cases.

Contact us, and let’s discuss your case.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended to be for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.

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