Defending Felony DUI Charges in West Palm Beach
Under Florida law, you may not drive any vehicle if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more. Most DUIs are misdemeanors, but felony DUIs carry harsher penalties and are treated much more seriously by the criminal justice system. If you have been charged with a felony DUI, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to put together a strategic defense. I am a Palm Beach Gardens felony DUI defense lawyer with more than 30 years of experience handling these types of charges.
Repeat Offenders in Florida
Many felony DUIs arise because somebody is convicted of a third DUI within 10 years of the previous DUI conviction or is convicted of a fourth DUI. Under Florida law, someone who is charged with a felony DUI based on a third or fourth offense is charged with a third-degree felony. If convicted, he or she can be sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
If someone is convicted of a third DUI within 10 years of the last conviction, his or her license will be revoked for a minimum of 10 years. He or she may be eligible to apply for a hardship license after two years in order to go to work or school. The applicant may also have to complete DUI classes, complete substance abuse treatment, and receive a good recommendation to be eligible.
A prosecutor can use DUIs from other states as the basis for charging felony DUI, but these are harder to prove. A prosecutor may not be able to use prior misdemeanors as a basis for charging a felony DUI if the prior convictions occurred when the defendant:
- Was not represented by an attorney;
- Was entitled to court-appointed counsel because he couldn’t afford an attorney;
- Did not waive his right to counsel; and
- Committed an offense punishable by more than six months of imprisonment or was actually subject to imprisonment.
It also can be challenging for a prosecutor to prove prior convictions in a fourth DUI case when the convictions are over 10 years old.
In addition to incarceration and a fine, a person convicted of a fourth DUI faces mandatory permanent revocation of his or her driver’s license. You may be able to obtain a hardship license under very specific circumstances if you have been convicted of a fourth DUI.
DUIs Causing Severe Injury or Death
You also can be charged with felony DUI if you cause serious bodily injuries or kill someone while driving drunk. For causing serious injuries, you can be fined up to $5,000 and face incarceration for five years, just as you would if you were convicted on the basis of repeat offenses.
However, if you kill somebody as a result of driving under the influence, you will be charged with manslaughter, a second-degree felony. The punishments are more severe under these circumstances. If convicted, you face up to $10,000 in fines and a prison term of 15 years. Drunk drivers who commit a hit-and-run offense are charged with a first-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of 30 years.
South Florida DUI Defense When You Need it Most
A felony DUI conviction can change your life. It will appear on your criminal record, and many employers will not hire someone who has been convicted of a felony. It may also impact your ability to rent a place to live or enter particular professions or go to school.
An experienced West Palm Beach felony DUI attorney can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. I spent five years as a state prosecutor before becoming a defense attorney. I use my insight into how prosecutors think to build a strong defense on your behalf. If I cannot get your case dismissed, I will try to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charge to reckless driving or another offense that does not carry the same harsh penalties as a felony DUI. I serve clients from two offices for your convenience. One is located in Palm Beach Gardens, near I-95 and PGA Boulevard, and the other is located in West Palm Beach. Schedule a free initial consultation by calling 561-533-1221, or contact me through my online form. My offices accept credit cards.