In the state of Florida, a DUI can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. If you were arrested for DUI, several factors will determine whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges. These include your DUI history and whether you caused an accident that seriously injured or killed another person.
Even if you are facing misdemeanor DUI charges, a conviction can come with severe consequences including a fine that can reach FOUR THOUSDAND DOLLARS, community service, incarceration (i.e. JAIL TIME), probation, loss of your driver license for six months to five years, vehicle impoundment and required use of an ignition interlock for up to two year. However, depending on the facts of your case, there may be a defense that requires the court to dismiss your case or suppress evidence or leverages the State Attorney to drop or reduce the charges.
Michael D. Leader is a DUI lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who will investigate your arrest and explore all possible defense strategies that apply to your case. Call 954-523-2020 to schedule a free initial consultation at Leader & Leader P.A.
Read on to learn three circumstances when a DUI can be prosecuted as a felony in Florida:
- You Caused an Accident That Seriously Injured another Person
If you were impaired by alcohol or drugs and you caused an accident that seriously injured another person, your DUI charge could be prosecuted as a third-degree felony.
- You Caused an Accident That Killed another Person
DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide are second-degree felonies. If convicted, you may have to pay a fine of up to $10,000 and spend up to 15 years in prison with a four year minimum mandatory in the event of a death.
- You Have Previous DUI Convictions
The consequences of a DUI conviction become harsher with each subsequent conviction. If you are convicted of three DUIs within 10 years (even if the first was more than ten years old by the third arrest is within ten years of the second conviction), or a fourth DUI within any timeframe, you will face a third-degree felony charge. If any of your prior DUI pleas were not counseled by an attorney (i.e. you had no lawyer and took a plea) that prior may not be useable to enhance your case to a felony.
What Are Possible Defenses against DUI Charges?
Many people who are arrested for DUI assume that there is no point to fighting the charges; however, there are several potential defenses that may apply to your case. Four of the most common include:
- Police Conducted an Unlawful Stop
Barring few exceptions, police generally cannot pull you over unless they have a reasonable suspicion or probable cause that you committed a crime or that you are in the process of committing a crime, or probable cause that you committed a traffic violation. If an officer stopped your vehicle without a lawful right to do so, any evidence collected after the stop may be inadmissible in court. Furthermore, even if the stop, detention or contact was lawful, the detention for the DUI must be based on more than odor of alcohol alone and they must be able to articulate reasonable suspicion to support each element of the offense that they detained you for.
- Challenging the Results of Breathalyzer Tests
Breathalyzer tests are not always accurate. The results might be inadmissible in court if your lawyer can present evidence to prove:
- The test was improperly administered;
- The officer did not comply with applicable statutes or administrative guidelines;
- The breathalyzer was defective; or
- Extenuating factors could have affected the results.
Depending on the facts of your case, there may be other possible grounds to get the breathalyzer results thrown out.
- The Police Violated Your Rights
Your statements may not be admissible in court if the officer did not read your Miranda Rights before questioning you in certain circumstances.
- You Broke the Law out of Necessity
This defense is uncommon, but it might be effective depending on the circumstances of your arrest. For example, if a child was injured and nobody was available to take him or her to the hospital, and you had no means to call emergency services, and you were arrested for DUI on the way to the hospital, your case might be successfully defensible.
If you are facing DUI charges in Florida, turn to Leader & Leader P.A. As your criminal defense lawyer, Michael D. Leader will make himself available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer your questions. Call 954-523-2020 today to schedule a free initial consultation with a criminal attorney in Fort Lauderdale.