Getting into any type of car accident is an unfortunate, scary, and stressful experience. To make it even worse, certain circumstances exacerbate the aftermath — such as significant property damage, serious injuries, and/or facing criminal charges due to having been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI). And, when it comes to DUI, the ramifications can affect all areas of your life. But, is driving under the influence a misdemeanor or a felony?
What is a DUI in Florida?
Florida law establishes that a person drives under the influence of either alcohol or harmful chemical substances when such consumption impairs a person’s faculties. Specifically addressing alcohol, a person is considered to be drunk if their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or more. It is difficult to specify how many drinks would cause such a result, since this could be affected by many factors — including a person’s weight, height, gender, the speed of their metabolism, and whether they’ve had a meal with their drinks.
What is a misdemeanor in Florida?
Misdemeanors are considered by the law to be less serious offenses. They can be of the first degree — which carries a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail. Misdemeanors can also be considered to be of the second degree — punished with a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.
What is a felony in Florida?
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, sexual assault, and robbery.
While felonies are significantly more serious than misdemeanors, a person who commits a misdemeanor can be charged with a felony if they are a repeat offender. Herein lies the problem with driving under the influence.
Is a DUI considered to be a felony or a misdemeanor?
Florida Statute 316.193 establishes that a driver convicted of a DUI for the first time will be fined between $500 and $1,000 and could face up to six months in jail — making it a misdemeanor. Meanwhile, a driver convicted of a DUI for the second time will be fined between $1,000 and $2,000 and face up to nine 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.
Things get worse — and the charge becomes a felony — if you continue to drive drunk. 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, it becomes a misdemeanor again — with the driver facing a fine between $2,000 and $5,000 and up to a year in jail. The driver will also 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. This results in a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
What are the penalties for a DUI with bodily injuries or death?
1. Serious Bodily Injury
If a drunk driver causes serious bodily injury to another person, that driver will be charged with a felony of the third degree. The penalties for such a crime are a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
2. Accident Results in Death
If the accident results in the death of another person, the driver commits DUI manslaughter, which is a felony in the second degree. The penalties for such a crime are fines of up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.
3. Death and Failure to Render Aid
If the accident results in the death of someone and the driver fails to give information or render aid, the driver will be charged with a felony in the first degree. The penalties for such a crime are fines of up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison.
How can an attorney help in a DUI case?
A DUI attorney can help mitigate the impact of a DUI conviction on your life. For example, if you were not feeling impaired and it had been a while since you drank alcohol prior to driving, an attorney could question the accuracy of the device used to measure your blood alcohol level. An attorney would also be able to interrogate the law enforcement officer who pulled you over, as well as any witnesses. If you refused a breathalyzer at the time of the arrest, an attorney would look at the accuracy of a subsequent urine or blood test.
On the other hand, if you were impaired to drive, an attorney can help you get your charges reduced — such as to a reckless driving charge. An attorney could also help you obtain a permit to get behind the wheel to go to and from work and/or school. If your charges get reduced to reckless driving, the fines could range between $25 and $1,000, and imprisonment could be between three to six months.
Every case is different, and nothing can be guaranteed. The only way to determine whether your charges could be diminished is to consult with an experienced DUI attorney.
Call Clark Law If You Have a Personal Injury Claim in Tampa Bay
If you have been involved in a DUI accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.