A DUI charge can jeopardize your freedom, reputation, career, and more. In the most serious cases, a DUI can be charged as a felony. Being convicted and having a felony on your record could alter the course of your life.
When you find yourself in the crosshairs of a felony DUI charge, you need a committed defense attorney who understands the intricacies of the law, the gravity of your situation, and the most effective ways to protect your rights. The Tampa felony DUI lawyers of Metcalf Falls have years of experience fighting DUI charges in cases like yours.
When Does a DUI Become a Felony in Florida?
According to Florida Statute 316.193, you can be charged for driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) greater than .08%, any chemical substance under 877.111, or any controlled substance impairing your ability. However, drivers with a BAC below the legal limit can also be arrested if they show signs of impairment.
Many DUIs are charged as misdemeanors, especially for first and second offenses. However, a DUI can be charged as a felony for repeat offenses or if aggravating factors are present. You can be charged with a felony DUI if:
- You face a third DUI charge within 10 years of a previous conviction
- You face a fourth or subsequent DUI charge, regardless of timing
- The alleged offense involved injury or death of another person
Felony DUI Penalties in Florida
DUIs can bring severe consequences, especially if aggravating factors apply. For third or subsequent DUIs, offenders face a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000. The same goes for cases involving serious bodily injury.
DUI manslaughter is even more serious. When an impaired driver causes a death, they face a second-degree felony. This carries up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
A felony conviction will bar you from possessing firearms. It will also make you ineligible to vote until you have completed all terms of your sentence, including parole, probation, and fees.
A felony conviction also prohibits you from:
- Enlisting in the military
- Working for the federal government or the state of Florida
- Running for public office
- Qualifying for many public assistant programs
This laundry list of potential ramifications makes it clear why avoiding a conviction is in your best interest.
Administrative Penalties and Other Consequences
In addition to fines and possible jail time, another serious aspect of a felony DUI charge is the loss of your license. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website outlines every potential license suspension and revocation you could face if convicted. In some cases, a hardship reinstatement may be available. This would allow you to drive only for work or business purposes.
Here are the different ways a felony DUI could impact your driver’s license:
- DUI with serious bodily injury: Minimum 3 years of license revocation
- Third DUI conviction within 10 years: Minimum 10 years of license revocation (a hardship reinstatement may be available after two years)
- Fourth or subsequent DUI conviction: Mandatory permanent license revocation (a hardship reinstatement may be available after five years; the timing for license revocation starts after being released from jail or prison)
- DUI manslaughter: Mandatory permanent license revocation (a hardship reinstatement could be available after five years if there are no prior DUI convictions)
Even if you are eligible to get your license back, you’ll have to pay for reinstatement and any other applicable license fees before getting back on the road. A DUI conviction could also bring social consequences such as strained relationships with your loved ones, difficulty finding employment, housing, and more.
Defending Against Felony DUI Charges in Tampa
Facing a felony DUI in Tampa is serious, but just because you’re charged doesn’t mean your life is over. You can clear your name and get the charges against you reduced or dismissed with the help of an attorney. Your felony DUI defense lawyer could pursue defense strategies such as:
- Challenging field sobriety tests results: Field sobriety tests are notoriously subjective and must be administered according to certain protocols.
- Challenging chemical test results: Breath tests can also be unreliable. Your attorney will review the breath, blood, or urine test results to look for discrepancies or improper procedures.
- Civil rights violations: You have many rights and protections if you’re arrested and charged with a DUI. If those rights were violated at any time during your case, your attorney can argue to have the charge dismissed.
- Lack of reasonable suspicion: To be pulled over, a police officer must have a legal basis. Police will look for signs of impairment, such as driving erratically, swerving, or speeding. If you were pulled over without reasonable suspicion, your attorneys will challenge the legality of the stop and any resulting evidence.
How Can a Tampa Felony DUI Defense Lawyer Help?
With so much at stake, being charged with a felony DUI in Tampa is understandably overwhelming. Getting the charges reduced or dismissed. An experienced attorney can support you at each step of the way, such as:
- Making sure you thoroughly understand your charges
- Reviewing the facts of your case
- Explaining your legal options
- Strategizing the best defense strategy for your circumstances
- Aggressively advocating for your best interest in negotiations and at trial, if necessary
You may wonder if you can get a felony DUI reduced to a misdemeanor. This ultimately depends on the strength of the prosecutor’s case. If the prosecutor feels the evidence is insufficient to win, a misdemeanor plea reduction may be negotiated. However, any plea must be accepted by a judge.
Contact Metcalf Falls for Felony DUI Defense in Tampa
If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Tampa, your future hangs in the balance. Choosing the right attorney might mean the difference between your freedom and a conviction. The Tampa felony DUI defense lawyers of Metcalf Falls are dedicated to fighting for your rights and your future. Our experienced attorneys are ready to listen, strategize, and provide the legal support you need.