A DUI is a serious offense in the state of Florida. A person who is charged with a DUI is not only endangering themselves but others as well. If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Florida, you may be wondering whether a DUI is considered a felony. A felony is the most serious crime and stays on your record permanently.
Being convicted of a felony charge is a lengthy process that involves arraignments, pre-trial conferences, a motion hearing, and a trial. Not only that, but a felony can have a lasting impact on your life. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, read on to learn more about how police can determine whether someone is under the influence and what type of DUI charges are considered a felony.
How Can Police Tell if a Driver is Under the Influence?
Police monitor various physical and behavioral symptoms to determine whether a person is driving under the influence. If a police officer has reasons to believe that a person is driving under the influence, they will typically verify it using a test. Once confirmed, the process for DUI conviction will be initiated.
There are several physical symptoms that drivers who are under the influence may present when stopped by the police. These symptoms include:
- Bloodshot or watery eyes
- Flushed face
- Slurred speech
- An odor of alcohol
Presenting one or more of these symptoms doesn’t always mean that an individual is driving under the influence. But, physical symptoms, along with behavioral symptoms, are often a strong indication that a driver may need further testing.
In addition to physical symptoms, there are typically behavioral symptoms that a driver will present if they’re under the influence. These symptoms may include:
- How the driver behaves and reacts in the initial encounter.
- Consistently slurring words
- Poor response time
- Nonsensical speech
If a police officer suspects that a driver is under the influence, they will test the driver to verify using either a field sobriety test or a PAS device. A field sobriety test includes a series of physical and mental examinations to help determine whether the driver is intoxicated. A PAS device is used to measure the amount of alcohol in a driver’s blood.
Is a DUI a Felony?
Getting a DUI in Florida is certainly a serious offense. But whether a DUI is charged as a felony will depend on a few factors.
First and Second Offense
A first DUI offense in Florida means that this is your first DUI conviction. A second DUI offense means that you have been convicted twice for driving while under the influence. A first and second offense DUI is considered a misdemeanor in the state of Florida.
A misdemeanor is known as a lesser criminal act and can involve jail time, fines, and temporary punishment. In Florida, you may be faced with certain consequences if convicted of a DUI charge. These consequences may involve administrative penalties or criminal penalties.
- License Suspension: If an individual is convicted of a DUI, their license may be suspended for 6 months if their BAC was .08% or more. For those refusing to submit a chemical test, their license will be suspended for one year.
- Hardship Licensing: Many people who get charged with a DUI receive a Hardship license, which enables them to go to work, school, church, and their medical appointments. But if your BAC was .08% or more, you may not be able to receive a hardship license unless you have spent at least 30 days on suspension.
- Jail: A DUI misdemeanor can lead to jail time. However, there is no minimum jail time required for most first-offense DUI. With that said, jail time will depend on certain factors, such as alcohol level and related damage.
- Fines: Those with a first or second offense misdemeanor DUI are subject to fines. These fines may range from $500 to $1000, depending on the misdemeanor, but can be more depending on your alcohol level.
- License Suspension: A first offense and second offense misdemeanor will result in license suspension for a specified amount of time.
There may be other criminal penalties, such as community service, probation, an ignition interlock device, and vehicle impoundment.
Third and Subsequent Offenses
Drivers in Florida will be charged with a felony if they have received a third DUI conviction and any subsequent convictions within a 10 year period or any DUI that results in the death of another person. Either of these cases is a serious offense and can be punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Have You Been Charged With a DUI in Florida? Hire a Trusted DUI Lawyer
A DUI can be a very complex process, depending on the details of your DUI and whether it has been filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. A driver in Florida will receive a DUI misdemeanor if it is their first or second offense and the DUI did not result in the death of another person. A third and any subsequent offense or a DUI that resulted in the death of another individual will be filed as a felony.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI, it’s important to arm yourself with the right information as you prepare for your case. A DUI doesn’t just result in fines and a temporary license suspension, it can result in serious jail time depending on your situation.
For this reason, it’s important to hire a trusted DUI lawyer who can help you navigate the process. Here at Meltzer & Bell, P.A, we are your DUI & Criminal Trial lawyers dedicated to ensuring our clients’ lives aren’t changed for the worst. We offer a knowledgeable representation in your case at every step of the process and exhaust every possible option for your defense.
We know that getting charged with a DUI can be discouraging, but we work to build the strongest case to help you either reduce your charges or get them dismissed altogether. Contact us today to learn how we can help you in your case.