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Is my DUI charge a felony?

Florida drunk driving laws are among the toughest in the country. In light of the steady rise in drunk driving accidents and fatalities, safety advocates regularly press lawmakers for more stringent laws and harsher penalties. If you happen to be unfortunate enough to face a DUI arrest, you may feel concerned for your finances and your future.

Whereas drunk driving charges in some states rarely reach the felony level, in Florida, you can face a felony charge relatively easily. No criminal conviction is minor, and even a misdemeanor can affect your career, your education, your government benefits and other aspects of your life. However, a felony conviction on your record may create a lifetime of hardships.

Potential penalties for DUI convictions

A first-offense DUI conviction carries enough troubles. You may find yourself spending up to six months in jail, paying hundreds in fines and losing your driving privileges for as long as a year. You can also expect additional costs, such as impoundment fees, DUI school and ignition interlock if a judge orders it. Ideally, these penalties convince you never to get behind the wheel again after drinking alcohol. If not, you take even greater risks, including the potential for felony charges under the following circumstances:

  • An accident that results in serious injuries for someone else in your vehicle or in another vehicle
  • An accident that results in someone's death
  • Three drunk driving convictions within 10 years
  • Four or more convictions in your lifetime

If the court considers you a habitual offender, you risk a sentence of up to five years in prison. However, a conviction for a second-degree felony DUI accident may land you behind bars for up to 15 years. Vehicular homicide, which is a first-degree felony, carries a sentence of up to 30 years.

Fight for your rights

Police are often zealous to get drunk drivers off the streets. However, this should not happen at the expense of your rights. More often than you realize, the evidence police collect against a drunk driving suspect is flawed or gathered at the violation of someone's rights.

If you are facing drunk driving charges, particularly a repeat offense or felony charge, you should not leave your future to chance. A skilled attorney can review your case and guide you in taking the most appropriate steps to defend yourself against the charges.

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