It is illegal to have control over a motor vehicle when someone is under the influence of alcohol. The state makes it a crime to drive while chemically impaired or when one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over a set limit.
Many people expect from the courts when they face driving under the influence (DUI) accusations. However, at least some of those accused of drunk driving in Florida end up facing felony charges. If the state pursues felony charges against a motorist, the penalties that they face if they plead guilty or get convicted increase substantially. There are typically three scenarios in which Florida prosecutors may have the option of charging someone with a felony offense over alleged intoxication at the wheel.
In cases involving injury or death
Drunk driving is a major public safety because impaired motorists cause a disproportionate number of severe collisions. Prosecutors have the authority to pursue felony charges when someone accused of intoxication while driving either caused injury to other people or a crash that resulted in someone dying.
For a third offense within 10 years
Someone’s prior record often plays a major role in how the state views impaired driving cases. A first charge is subject to more lenient consideration than a second or third charge. The closer together the infractions have been, the more likely the state is to pursue felony charges against a driver. Someone facing a third DUI charge within 10 years of the first could be at risk of felony prosecution.
For a fourth offense
Someone who already has three DUI convictions on their record could very well face felony charges for any future impaired driving arrest. The amount of time that has passed since someone’s last DUI arrest does not matter when they face fourth or subsequent DUI charges in Florida. Prosecutors have the option of pursuing felony charges because of the repeated violations on someone’s record.
Felony DUI charges could lead to more serious penalties. They can also have a stronger impact on someone’s future options. While landlords and employers may overlook misdemeanor convictions, felonies can have more of a chilling effect on an individual’s future. Ultimately, understanding when Florida prosecutors can pursue more serious charges may benefit those recently arrested for an alleged DUI offense.