The majority of DUIs are misdemeanor cases, meaning that the maximum jail time you could get is 6 months for a non-enhanced first time offense up to one year if it involved an accident, a high breath or blood test, or is a second offense, or some third-time offenses. However, a person may face felony DUI charges for other reasons.
Probably the most common reason is due to a person's prior record. In Florida, a conviction for a third DUI charge, when a person has two prior DUI convictions, one of which was within the last 10 years, qualifies a person to be charged with a Felony DUI. This can result in a 10-year driver's license suspension, a fine of up to $5,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to 5 years. This is in addition to typical DUI sanctions such as Multiple offender DUI school, mandatory treatment, and a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail.
Even more serious is a 4th time (or more) DUI offense. While the maximum prison time is still 5 years, the punishment is usually much more severe as the court will want to make an example of you. Additionally, the harshest sanction for most people in these situations is the PERMANENT driver's license suspension.
For all offenders with a prior record, many people wrongly assume that out-of-state prior DUIs do not count. In most cases, they do. However, there are exceptions to this that I have successfully argued due to a peculiar state's laws or merely because the state can not prove a prior DUI. Never volunteer to the court the existence of any prior DUI as it is not your burden to do so, and my office has been able to deflect inquiries in some cases.
SPECIAL NOTE: It is important to understand that even if the state attorney's office does not count a particular out-of-state prior DUI, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) often does count those priors. So do not think, "Well if plea guilty at arraignment and they are only charging me with a first offense, then I will only lose my license for 6 or 12 months." The DHSMV often has better records of prior DUIs so even if a judge declares your charge to be a First DUI, if you have other prior DUIs, it is very likely you will be sanctioned by the DHSMV as if you were sentenced to whatever number DUI the present one is. For example, if you have 3 DUIs in another state and you pick up a DUI in Florida, the DHSMV will permanently revoke your license, even if the state only charged with you a first, second, or third offense. Therefore, having a qualified attorney there to guide you through this treacherous area of the law is crucial.
Other reasons a person can be charged with a Felony DUI is if they were involved in an accident that either involved a Serious Bodily Injury or death, in other words, DUI Manslaughter. Whatever reason you have for being charged with a Felony DUI, having an experienced attorney that handles Drunk Driving cases is the most important step you can take in fighting the challenges that are involved in all phases of a Felony DUI case. Whether that means getting the prosecutor to agree to amend the charge to a misdemeanor, filing motions, or proving you not guilty in front of a jury, Craig Epifanio has the experience to take on the State prosecuting you.