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Is a DUI a felony or misdemeanor in Florida?




Understanding DUI Charges in Florida

In Florida, DUI charges can be classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense. Understanding the differences between these classifications is crucial for anyone facing DUI charges in the state.

Definition of DUI in Florida

A DUI, or Driving Under the Influence, occurs when a person operates a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, or while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Florida law takes DUI offenses seriously, with varying penalties based on the severity of the offense.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is defined under Florida Statute 316.193. The statute states that a person is guilty of DUI if they are driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while:

  • Their BAC is 0.08% or higher: This is the legal limit for blood alcohol content in Florida. Any driver found with a BAC at or above this level can be charged with DUI.
  • Impaired by alcohol or drugs: Even if a driver’s BAC is below 0.08%, they can still be charged with DUI if their normal faculties are impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.

Florida law enforcement officers use several methods to determine if a driver is under the influence. These methods include field sobriety tests, breathalyzer tests, and blood tests. Each method has its own procedures and potential issues, but all are used to establish whether a driver is impaired.

What is a DUI in Florida? A DUI in Florida is when a person drives or is in control of a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, or while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

It’s important to understand that the consequences of a DUI conviction can be severe. Penalties can range from fines and community service to jail time and the loss of driving privileges. The severity of these penalties often depends on whether the DUI is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.

For more comprehensive information on DUI penalties and how they might affect you, check out our Florida DUI Penalties Guide. This guide provides in-depth details on the various penalties associated with DUI convictions in Florida.


When is a DUI a Misdemeanor in Florida?

Most first-time DUI offenses in Florida are classified as misdemeanors. However, certain factors can influence whether a DUI is considered a misdemeanor or a felony. Understanding these factors can help individuals navigate the legal process more effectively.

Is a DUI a felony or misdemeanor in Florida? Jail cell bars symbolizing criminal law

First-Time Offenders and Misdemeanor DUI

For first-time offenders, a DUI is typically classified as a misdemeanor, provided there are no aggravating circumstances. Penalties for a misdemeanor DUI may include fines, probation, community service, and mandatory DUI education programs.

When is a DUI a misdemeanor in Florida? A DUI is usually a misdemeanor if it is the individual’s first offense and there are no aggravating factors such as injuries or fatalities.

Penalties for Misdemeanor DUI

The penalties for a misdemeanor DUI in Florida can vary, but they generally include:

  • Fines: First-time offenders can expect to pay fines ranging from $500 to $1,000.
  • Probation: Probation periods can last up to one year, during which the offender must comply with specific conditions set by the court.
  • Community Service: Offenders may be required to complete up to 50 hours of community service.
  • DUI School: Attendance at a DUI education program is mandatory, which aims to educate offenders about the dangers and consequences of driving under the influence.
  • License Suspension: A first-time DUI conviction can result in a license suspension for up to six months.

It’s important to note that these penalties can increase if there are aggravating factors present, such as having a minor in the vehicle or a BAC significantly above the legal limit. For more detailed information on the penalties associated with a first-time DUI, check out our First DUI in Florida Penalties Guide.

Aggravating Factors That Can Elevate a Misdemeanor DUI

While most first-time DUI offenses are misdemeanors, certain aggravating factors can elevate the charge to a felony. These factors include:

  • High BAC Levels: If the offender’s BAC is 0.15% or higher, the penalties may be more severe.
  • Accidents: If the DUI results in an accident causing property damage or minor injuries, the charge may still remain a misdemeanor, but the penalties will be harsher.
  • Minors in the Vehicle: Having a minor passenger at the time of the offense can lead to enhanced penalties and potentially elevate the charge to a felony.

Understanding these aggravating factors is crucial for anyone facing DUI charges. They can significantly impact the severity of the penalties and the classification of the offense. For more information on how these factors can affect your case, visit our Florida DUI Penalties Guide.

Facing a DUI charge can be overwhelming, especially for first-time offenders. The legal process can be complex, and the consequences can be severe. It’s essential to seek the assistance of an experienced DUI attorney who can help navigate the legal system and work towards the best possible outcome for your case.

An experienced attorney can:

  • Evaluate Your Case: An attorney can review the details of your case to determine the best defense strategy.
  • Challenge Evidence: They can challenge the validity of the evidence against you, such as the accuracy of breathalyzer tests or the legality of the traffic stop.
  • Negotiate Penalties: An attorney can negotiate with the prosecution to potentially reduce the charges or penalties.
  • Provide Representation: They will represent you in court, ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

For more information on how an experienced DUI attorney can assist you, take a look at our guide on beating your DUI case.

Understanding when a DUI is classified as a misdemeanor in Florida is crucial for anyone facing such charges. By knowing the factors that influence this classification and the potential penalties, individuals can better navigate the legal process and work towards a favorable outcome.


When Does a DUI Become a Felony in Florida?

A DUI can be elevated to a felony charge under certain conditions. Knowing these conditions is essential for anyone facing DUI charges, as felony convictions carry more severe penalties and long-term consequences.

Aggravating Factors Leading to Felony DUI

Several factors can elevate a DUI to a felony, including multiple DUI offenses, causing serious bodily injury or death, and having a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense. Felony DUI charges can result in significant fines, extended jail time, and a permanent criminal record.

What are the aggravating factors leading to a felony DUI? Aggravating factors such as multiple DUI offenses, causing serious bodily injury or death, and having a minor in the vehicle can elevate a DUI to a felony charge in Florida.

Multiple DUI Offenses

One of the primary reasons a DUI can be elevated to a felony is if the individual has multiple prior DUI convictions. In Florida, a third DUI within 10 years or a fourth DUI at any time is classified as a felony. The penalties for these offenses are severe and can include substantial fines, long-term imprisonment, and a permanent criminal record.

  • Third DUI within 10 years: Classified as a third-degree felony with penalties including up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. For more details, see our Third DUI in Florida Within 10 Years Guide.
  • Fourth DUI: Classified as a third-degree felony, regardless of the time frame between offenses. Penalties can include up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Visit our Fourth DUI in Florida Penalties Guide for more information.

Causing Serious Bodily Injury or Death

Another factor that can elevate a DUI to a felony is if the offense results in serious bodily injury or death. These cases are treated with utmost severity in Florida, and the penalties reflect the gravity of the offense.

  • DUI with serious bodily injury: Classified as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. For more information, see our DUI Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury page.
  • DUI manslaughter: Classified as a second-degree felony, carrying penalties of up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Enhanced penalties may apply in cases of DUI manslaughter. Visit our Enhanced Penalties for DUI Manslaughter page for more details.

Minor in the Vehicle

Having a minor in the vehicle at the time of the DUI offense is another aggravating factor that can elevate the charge to a felony. This is taken very seriously in Florida, as it shows a disregard for the safety of a child.

Why does having a minor in the vehicle elevate a DUI to a felony? Having a minor in the vehicle during a DUI offense demonstrates a higher level of recklessness and endangerment, leading to more severe charges and penalties.

In such cases, the penalties are significantly harsher, reflecting the increased risk and potential harm to the minor. For more information on the penalties for DUI with a minor in the vehicle, refer to our DUI with BAC Over .15 page.

Long-Term Consequences of Felony DUI

Felony DUI convictions carry long-term consequences that can impact various aspects of an individual’s life. These consequences include:

  • Criminal record: A felony conviction results in a permanent criminal record, which can affect employment opportunities, housing, and more.
  • License revocation: Felony DUI convictions often lead to extended or permanent revocation of driving privileges.
  • Insurance rates: Individuals with a felony DUI conviction can expect significantly higher auto insurance rates. For more information, see our DUI Effects on Auto Insurance page.
  • Professional consequences: Certain professions may be jeopardized by a felony DUI conviction. For example, medical professionals, commercial drivers, and educators may face additional scrutiny or sanctions. Visit our DUI Arrest and Medical Licenses page for more details.

Understanding the factors that can elevate a DUI to a felony is crucial for anyone charged with a DUI in Florida. The stakes are high, and the consequences can be life-altering. For comprehensive guidance on navigating DUI charges, explore our Florida DUI Defense Lawyers page.




The legal consequences of a DUI conviction in Florida vary significantly between misdemeanor and felony charges. Understanding these differences can help individuals prepare for the potential outcomes of their case.

Penalties for Misdemeanor and Felony DUI

Misdemeanor DUI penalties may include fines, probation, community service, and DUI education programs. In contrast, felony DUI penalties are more severe, often involving substantial fines, lengthy prison sentences, and long-term impacts on employment and personal life.

Is a DUI a felony or misdemeanor in Florida? Image of jail cell bars symbolizing criminal law

Misdemeanor DUI Penalties

For first-time offenders and those without aggravating circumstances, a DUI is typically classified as a misdemeanor. The penalties for a misdemeanor DUI in Florida can include:

  • Fines: Typically ranging from $500 to $1,000 for a first offense.
  • Probation: Up to one year, often including mandatory attendance at DUI school.
  • Community Service: A minimum of 50 hours.
  • License Suspension: Six months to one year.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: May be required for up to six months.

These penalties can increase significantly if there are aggravating factors, such as a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or having a minor in the vehicle. For more information, see our First DUI in Florida Penalties Guide.

Felony DUI Penalties

Felony DUI charges are reserved for more severe offenses, including multiple DUI convictions, causing serious bodily injury or death, and having a minor in the vehicle. The penalties for a felony DUI in Florida are much harsher and can include:

  • Fines: Up to $5,000 for a third-degree felony.
  • Prison Time: Up to five years for a third-degree felony, and up to 15 years for a second-degree felony.
  • License Revocation: Long-term or permanent revocation of driving privileges.
  • Probation: Extended probation periods, often including mandatory DUI school and treatment programs.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Mandatory installation for a longer period.

For example, a third DUI within 10 years is classified as a third-degree felony and can result in up to five years in prison. For more details, refer to our Third DUI in Florida Within 10 Years Guide.

Long-Term Consequences

Beyond the immediate penalties, both misdemeanor and felony DUI convictions carry long-term consequences that can affect various aspects of an individual’s life. These consequences include:

  • Employment: A DUI conviction can make it difficult to find or maintain employment, especially in professions requiring a clean driving record or background check.
  • Insurance Rates: Auto insurance premiums can increase significantly following a DUI conviction. For more information, see our DUI Effects on Auto Insurance page.
  • Professional Licenses: Certain professions, such as medical professionals and commercial drivers, may face additional scrutiny or sanctions. Visit our DUI Arrest and Medical Licenses page for more details.
  • Travel Restrictions: A DUI conviction can complicate international travel plans. Some countries have strict entry requirements for individuals with criminal records, including DUI convictions. This can limit your ability to travel for work, leisure, or family visits. For more information, see our DUI Complications with International Travel page.

What are the penalties for a felony DUI in Florida? Felony DUI penalties in Florida can include fines up to $5,000, up to five years in prison for a third-degree felony, and long-term or permanent revocation of driving privileges.

Impact on Personal Life

A DUI conviction can also have a profound impact on an individual’s personal life. The stigma associated with a DUI can strain relationships with family and friends, and the financial burden of fines, legal fees, and increased insurance premiums can be overwhelming. Additionally, the loss of driving privileges can make it challenging to fulfill daily responsibilities, such as commuting to work, running errands, and attending social events.

For those with multiple DUI convictions or felony charges, the impact can be even more severe. A felony DUI conviction can result in a permanent criminal record, which can affect housing opportunities, professional licenses, and even the ability to vote. For more information on the long-term consequences of a DUI conviction, explore our How a DUI Affects Your Life in Florida page.

Given the severe consequences of a DUI conviction, it is crucial to seek experienced legal representation. A skilled DUI attorney can help navigate the complexities of the legal system, challenge the evidence against you, and work towards reducing or dismissing the charges. For example, challenging the legality of the traffic stop, questioning the accuracy of chemical tests, and scrutinizing the officer’s observations and procedures can all be effective defense strategies. For more information on DUI defenses, visit our How to Beat Your DUI Case page.

If you or a loved one is facing DUI charges in Florida, it is essential to understand the potential legal consequences and seek the guidance of an experienced DUI attorney. At Leppard Law, our team of dedicated DUI lawyers is here to help you navigate this challenging time and work towards the best possible outcome for your case. For more information on DUI penalties and legal defense strategies, explore our comprehensive Florida DUI Penalties Guide.




Infographic depicting the words Is a DUI a felony or misdemeanor in Florida?


Is a first-time DUI a felony in Florida?

No, a first-time DUI is typically classified as a misdemeanor in Florida. However, if there are aggravating factors such as causing serious bodily injury or having a minor in the vehicle, the charge can be elevated to a felony.

What are the penalties for a misdemeanor DUI in Florida?

The penalties for a misdemeanor DUI in Florida include:

  • Fines
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Mandatory DUI education programs

In some cases, the court may also impose jail time, especially if there are aggravating circumstances.

Can a DUI be expunged from your record in Florida?

No, DUI convictions cannot be expunged or sealed from your record in Florida. This means that a DUI conviction will remain on your criminal record permanently, affecting various aspects of your life, including employment and insurance rates.

What factors can elevate a DUI to a felony in Florida?

Several factors can elevate a DUI to a felony in Florida, including:

  • Multiple DUI offenses
  • Causing serious bodily injury or death
  • Having a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense

Felony DUI charges carry more severe penalties and long-term consequences.







Is a DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor in Florida?

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Top-Rated DUI Lawyers Serving Florida

Looking for the best DUI lawyers in Florida? Our distinguished team of attorneys is committed to offering you the best possible defense against your DUI charges.

  • John Vallillo: As a stalwart in the Florida legal scene, John Vallillo has earned his stripes through a consistent record of case dismissals and proactive defense. His background as both a prosecutor and defense attorney enriches his strategic defense planning with invaluable insights.
  • Joe Easton: Renowned for crafting winning defenses, Joe Easton’s approach to legal advocacy in Florida combines thorough preparation with aggressive representation. His notable recognitions and ratings stand testament to his exceptional service and client-focused approach.
  • Joel Leppard: Joel Leppard infuses every DUI case with a level of personal commitment and innovative thinking that sets him apart. His leadership has not only grown Leppard Law into a top-rated criminal defense law firm but also ensured that clients receive empathetic, effective legal care.

Hear From Our Satisfied Clients

At the forefront of our DUI practice is a deep-seated commitment to client satisfaction. Each case is handled with utmost care, as echoed in the appreciative feedback from those we represent. This is just a portion of our hundreds of 5-star reviews on Facebook, Google, Thumbtack, Yelp, and more. You can read more 5-star reviews here.















Is a DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor in Florida?

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At Leppard Law, our experienced DUI lawyers and criminal defense attorneys always strive to provide extraordinary customer service to our select clients. We promise to provide each client’s case the time, attention, and skillful representation it deserves, exhausting every possible angle to strive to achieve the best possible outcome.

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Legally Reviewed by Joe Easton

Experienced Florida DUI Attorney

Legally reviewed by Joe Easton and the content team, this article reflects the firm’s 60 years of combined criminal defense expertise. Joe Easton, with his extensive experience and strategic prowess in DUI and criminal defense, offers more than just legal representation; he brings a commitment to turning legal challenges into triumphs. His approach, combining tenacity in the courtroom with personalized client care, ensures your DUI case is not just defended but championed with dedication and expertise.

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