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Florida DUI: Misdemeanor or Felony?


When you’re pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence, it’s important to understand just how serious your situation is. You’re facing criminal charges, and that can affect your future. It’s also important to understand just how severe the impact of a DUI conviction can be.

Understanding the nature and severity of your DUI charge can help you know what to expect and why it’s so important to avoid a conviction. But how do you avoid a DUI conviction in Florida? Call an experienced Tampa DUI lawyer at Hersem Law as soon as possible.

Misdemeanor DUI vs. Felony DUI in Florida

Most crimes in Florida can easily be described as either a first- or second-degree misdemeanor or a first-, second-, or third-degree felony. Each category has a maximum sentence that applies to all charges assigned to that classification. For example, a typical second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to sixty days in jail, six months of probation, and a $500 fine. 

A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail, one year of probation, and a $1,000 fine. However, Florida Statute 316.193, which covers Florida DUI offenses, is much more complex and can be very confusing.

Tons of factors can affect whether your DUI will be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, as well as whether you’ll face a first- or second-degree misdemeanor charge. Or is it somewhere in between? In Florida, DUIs are unique in the fact that they don’t  fall into the normal definitions of first- or second-degree misdemeanor. 

That being said, a first-time-DUI will always be a misdemeanor offense unless there was an accident with serious injuries or death involved. If your BAC was below .15 or you refused to provide a breath sample, your charge will most likely be considered a “standard DUI,” which comes with a maximum penalty of six months in jail. 

If your BAC was above .15, your DUI in Florida will be considered “enhanced,” which increases the maximum sentence to nine months in jail. If there was an accident with property damage and/or you had a passenger under the age of 18 in the vehicle at the time of your offense, then your DUI will become a true first-degree misdemeanor, and the maximum penalty can be up to a year in jail.   

A second DUI within five years of the first conviction carries several enhanced penalties.  These include: a ten-day minimum mandatory jail sentence; increased fines; a five-year driver’s license suspension; and a lengthy ignition interlock device requirement after your license is back in your hands. The sentence for a second DUI outside of five years of a first conviction looks like a first-time DUI sentence, but there are some enhanced penalties with this charge, as well, such as no permit available for driving during the criminal license suspension and a mandatory ignition interlock device requirement. 

A third DUI within ten years of a second conviction can be charged as a felony.  This offense also requires a thirty-day minimum jail sentence. However, a third DUI outside of ten years of the second conviction remains a misdemeanor offense and can no longer be charged as a felony. 

Contact a Tampa DUI Lawyer for Help 

If you’re facing a possible DUI conviction in Florida, it’s important to understand your case. Is your Florida DUI a misdemeanor or a felony? The answer depends on the circumstances of your case, but no matter what the charge ends up being, it’s important to fight the charge by calling a lawyer at our firm.

At Hersem Law, we know that even a misdemeanor can have a huge impact on your life, which is why we’re focused on helping you through this, whether you’re facing a misdemeanor or a felony. 

If you’re facing a DUI conviction, get started on your case with a free strategy session. We understand how confusing your case could be, so we offer these short sessions to discuss your case before you commit to our firm. To begin, call 813-251-7291 or complete the online contact form below.