Felony DUI Charges

Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming alcohol is not only extremely dangerous to yourself and others, but it is also against the law. A person who is caught operating a vehicle while they are impaired due to drugs or alcohol can be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

The state of Florida has harsh penalties even for a first DUI offense, to prevent citizens from drinking and driving. It is important to be familiar with the laws and penalties surrounding DUI, especially if you find yourself facing criminal prosecution. In the more severe cases, a person accused of drunk driving may face a felony DUI charge.

Given the grave consequences, it is in the best interest of anyone facing these charges to first consult with a DUI attorney in Florida. An experienced defense attorney can help you navigate the legal proceedings, build a strong defense for your case, and if necessary, fight for your freedom in the courtroom.

South Florida DUI Attorney

Are you facing criminal charges for driving under the influence in Florida? If so, get ahead of your case by contacting a defense attorney in South Florida who is knowledgeable in all types of DUI cases. The attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law can help you fight the charges and work towards getting your life back on track. Call us at (561) 600-0950 to have a risk-free consultation today.

Defining DUI

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is the criminal offense of operating a motor vehicle while a person’s normal driving faculties are impaired, either due to alcohol or controlled substances. When police arrest a person for a DUI offense, they are alleging the person was in actual or physical control of a motor vehicle while impaired.

“Actual physical control” means that even if the accused was not actively driving the car at the time of the arrest, they may have had the immediate ability to operate the motor vehicle. For example, a person who is asleep in their car but had the keys in the ignition could still be charged with a DUI offense for actual physical control.

How Can Police Tell if You are Under the Influence?

There are several ways law enforcement can determine if a driver is operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances.

For the police to arrest you for a suspected DUI, they need probable cause that you are driving under the influence. This is often obtained during a traffic stop for another offense which requires only a mere suspicion that the offense has been committed. Some traffic violations like driving without headlights, or weaving, often clue in the officer that a person may be drinking. A stop for something as simple as a broken headlight could change into a DUI investigation if the smell of alcohol is detected.

If the vehicle is in motion, the following lists examples of unlawful conduct which could result in police pulling you over for a suspected DUI:

  • Speeding
  • Driving too slowly
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Swerving out of lanes
  • Broken headlights or taillights
  • Following too close
  • Making an illegal turn
  • Hitting or nearly hitting

During the personal contact with a police officer, they may look for any of the following cues from the driver to indicate a suspected DUI offense:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Inconsistent responses
  • Alcohol in vehicle
  • Drug paraphernalia in vehicle
  • Scent of alcohol or marijuana
  • Stained clothing
  • Trouble finding or producing documents

In addition to physical cues, law enforcement in Florida has three standardized field sobriety tests:

  1. Walk and turn – Police officer has driver walk heel-to-toe in one direction for nine steps, followed by turning on one foot and walking back in the same manner.
  2. One-leg stand – Police officer has driver stand with one leg up and both arms sticking out while counting aloud to a specified number.
  3. Horizontal gaze nystagmus – Police officer has driver follow an object—sometimes a small light—with his or her eyes.

After getting arrested for a DUI offense, law enforcement will require the person to submit a breath alcohol test, blood alcohol test, or urine test to determine if they have alcohol or drugs in their system. Under Florida’s implied consent law, any person who refuses to take a BAC test at the request of law enforcement results in a mandatory one-year suspension of driver’s license.

Charges for DUI in Florida

Under Florida Statutes §316.193, a driver can be considered under the influence of alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances when their normal faculties meet or exceed the following thresholds:

  • Blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more; or
  • Breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more.

The penalties for a DUI offense will vary depending on the amount of alcohol content in the defendant’s system, their criminal history, and any aggravating factors.

  • First or second DUI offense - Considered a first-degree misdemeanor without any aggravating factors. If convicted, the penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor DUI includes up to $1,000 in fines, up to six months in jail, up to one year of a driver’s license suspension, and potentially DUI probation. However, a first or second DUI offense that has aggravating factors such as causing serious bodily injury or death will result in more severe penalties.

Types of Felony DUI

The instances in which a person would face a felony for a DUI offense is listed as follows:

  1. DUI resulting in serious injury: Even if it is the driver’s first DUI offense, if a victim is seriously injured because of the DUI, then it can be charged as a third-degree felony.
  2. Third DUI offense within 10 Years: If the defendant is convicted of a third DUI offense within 10 years of the first conviction, then it can be charged as a third-degree felony. The fines for a third DUI offense within 10 years will result in fines between $2,000 and $5,000, and with up to a 12-month prison sentence.
  3. Fourth DUI offense: Regardless of how much time has passed since the last conviction, if the defendant is convicted of a fourth DUI, then it can be charged as a third-degree felony. The fines imposed for a fourth DUI will be no less than $2,000.

Important: Any DUI case where the defendant had a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher may result in a mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID)—a small breathalyzer device which measures the driver’s breath-alcohol level before starting the vehicle. The installation price and upkeep will fall on the defendant’s responsibility in addition to the fines and sentencing under the DUI statute.

DUI Manslaughter

DUI manslaughter is another offense that is charged as a felony. Florida Statutes § 316.193 explains that an individual will be charged with DUI manslaughter if the offense resulted in the death of a victim or unborn child. A person charged with DUI manslaughter faces a second-degree felony in Florida.

However, DUI manslaughter can be enhanced to a first-degree felony if the defendant:

  • Left the scene of the accident without leaving their information; or
  • Left the scene of the accident without rendering aid to those in need.

If convicted, the penalties for a first-degree felony include up to $10,000 in fines and up to 30 years in prison.

Defenses to Felony DUI

Facing a DUI offense is both stressful and time consuming. While you may be left feeling hopeless after a DUI arrest, finding the right defense attorney can help you fight the charges against you. Potential defenses to a DUI felony case include:

  • Improper chemical testing;
  • Challenging police officer procedures and field sobriety tests;
  • Lack of evidence to prove the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • Illegal traffic stops by law enforcement; or
  • Failure to read Miranda rights.

Each DUI case will differ in its details and potential defenses, which is why it is imperative that you speak to an experienced defense attorney. The defense attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law can help you determine which defenses work best for your case.

Finding a Felony DUI Defense Attorney in South Florida

The state of Florida has some of the harshest penalties for DUI offenses. If convicted of a DUI felony, you may be forced to pay expensive fines and serve mandatory prison sentences. In addition, DUI offenses often require mandatory IID installations and suspension of the driver’s license. To fight the charges against you and avoid the steep penalties, contact an attorney with Ian Goldstein Law.

Our firm represents those in need of criminal defense in counties such as Palm Beach, Broward, and the surrounding South Florida areas. We will ensure that your rights are protected and that you have an aggressive defense attorney on your side, fighting for your freedom. Call our office today at (561) 600-0950 and receive a free consultation regarding your case.