Driving under the influence (DUI) is a common criminal charge in Florida. Residents and tourists can decide to get behind the wheel after having too much to drink or after taking drugs or medications that impact their ability to drive.
The vast majority of DUI cases result in misdemeanor charges. However, there are circumstances under which someone accused of driving while under the influence could wind up facing felony charges instead of misdemeanor charges. Felony DUI offenses carry harsher penalties and result in a more serious criminal record.
Understanding the potential aggravating factors that can lead to a felony DUI charge can help you make better choices both about when you should drive and how you want to defend yourself against potential impaired-driving allegations.
Repeat offenders risk felony charges
While many people wind up arrested for a single DUI and never make the same mistake again, other people may get arrested repeatedly for driving after drinking. When determining how to charge or penalize someone, the Florida courts typically look back 10 years at that individual’s criminal record.
After a second DUI conviction, getting charged again will likely result in felony charges. After that 10-year window expires, the potential risk for a felony goes away. However, anyone convicted of three DUI offenses, regardless of how far apart they occur, will still face a felony charge for any fourth DUI arrest. Even if it has been 20 or 30 years since your last charge, a fourth DUI charge will likely be a felony charge.
Felony charges are common if someone gets hurt or dies
Obviously, causing a crash while impaired is significantly different than just getting caught driving while impaired. If you cause a serious injury to another person or kill them, you will almost assuredly face upgraded felony charges related to impaired driving. In fact, if you cause severe property damage, you can face felony charges even though no one got hurt.
Endangering children could upgrade your charges
Getting behind the wheel after drinking is a questionable choice. Driving minor children anywhere after consuming alcohol is dangerous not just to yourself, but also those children. Anyone arrested for a DUI with a child in the car could likely find themselves facing felony DUI charges.
There are other aggravating factors that can impact how a court charges and sentences impaired-driving cases. Anything from running from the police to engaging and other criminal activity while driving drunk could influence the kind of charges you face.
Discussing the specifics of the allegations against you with an experienced attorney is the best way to determine how severe the charges you face will be and what defense strategies will likely help the most.