Getting a DUI is a serious situation. It can leave people with a lot of questions and concerns. What are the charges? Is a DUI a felony in Florida? What consequences will I face? How will this impact my future? 

Let’s offer some answers to these tough questions.

Is a DUI a Felony in Florida?

When arrested for a DUI, one of the first things people ask is — is a DUI a felony in Florida?

The answer to this question isn’t always a yes or no situation. Many factors determine if a DUI is a felony in Florida.

A first or second DUI is typically not classified as a felony in Florida. It is usually charged as a misdemeanor. But a first or second DUI may be elevated to a felony if:

  • The DUI resulted in the death of another person.
  • The DUI caused serious bodily harm to another person.
  • There was a minor in the vehicle at the time of the incident.
  • The driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was extremely high.

A DUI may also be classified as a felony if the driver has had at least two other DUIs within the last ten years.

While it’s likely that a first offense DUI will be charged as a misdemeanor in Florida, as with many things in the legal system, it depends. For this reason, it’s good to talk to a DUI attorney as soon as possible after you are charged. An experienced attorney can look at your specific charges and advise you on whether you will ultimately face misdemeanor or felony charges.

Related: What To Do About a DUI License Suspension in Florida

What’s the Difference Between DUI Misdemeanor and Felony?

The reason many people want to know if a DUI is a felony is because it has a direct impact on the severity of the punishment for the crime. A felony is a more serious crime and has more serious consequences.

A first or second DUI (that did not involve a minor or result in serious bodily harm or death) may be considered a misdemeanor DUI and result in:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Up to one year on probation
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Mandatory DUI classes
  • Up to five-year driver’s license suspension

A DUI beyond the first or second (that did not involve a minor or resulted in serious bodily harm or death) may be considered a felony and result in:

  • Up to five years in jail
  • Up to $5,000 in fines
  • Up to ten-year driver’s license suspension

Any DUI that caused serious bodily harm may be considered a third-degree felony and result in:

  • Up to five years in jail
  • Up to $5,000 in fines
  • Possible restitution to the victim
  • Up to three-year driver’s license suspension

Any DUI that caused the death of another person may be considered DUI manslaughter and a second-degree felony and result in:

  • Up to fifteen years in jail
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Possible restitution to the victim
  • Up to permanent driver’s license loss

Related: Misdemeanor vs Felony: What’s the Difference? 

Can You Reduce a DUI Charge from Felony to Misdemeanor?

In some cases, people charged with a DUI may seek to have their charges reduced (or even dismissed). Lessening the charges can leave defendants with a lighter sentence.

Reducing a DUI charge from a felony to a misdemeanor is possible in some cases. If you seek to reduce (or dismiss) DUI charges, it will depend on the specific details of your case and the positioning of your legal arguments and defense. A strong criminal defense attorney can help you determine the best way to approach your case to arrive at the best possible outcome.

An attempt to reduce a DUI from a felony to a misdemeanor will involve:

  • Plea Bargaining: In some cases, a defense attorney may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to reduce the charges through a plea bargain. This might involve pleading guilty to a lesser offense or agreeing to certain conditions in exchange for a reduced charge.
  • Developing Legal Defenses: An attorney may be able to find weaknesses in the case that could lessen or dismiss the charges. Common defenses to DUI charges include challenging the traffic stop, questioning the arrest process, challenging the sobriety test or BAC testing, and proving medication or a medical condition caused behavior interpreted as drunkenness.
  • Showing Driver’s Responsibility: Drivers with no criminal history and/or drivers who complete alcohol education programs could attempt to have their charges reduced. Cooperation with courts and law enforcement may also be a positive factor in reducing charges.   

Related: How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?

Talk to an Experienced DUI Attorney Right Away

A DUI, whether it’s a misdemeanor or felony, is a serious matter. It is a crime that can stay with you for the rest of your life. Do not go through the legal process on your own. Talk to an experienced Tampa DUI attorney right away to see how you can get the best possible outcome in your case. Request your free consultation or call us at 813-226-1023 today.

TJ Grimaldi

TJ Grimaldi

TJ Grimaldi joined McIntyre in 2011. McIntyre recruited TJ to create the divisions of personal injury and family law, as well as to expand the existing criminal defense practice at the firm. During TJ’s tenure at McIntyre, he has helped oversee and grow these practice areas. He continues to practice in these divisions while also expanding his own practice areas to include estate planning and immigration law. TJ is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Florida and the United States District Court for the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida.