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Is a third DUI a felony or misdeameanor in Florida?




Is a Third DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor in Florida?

When facing a third DUI charge in Florida, understanding whether it is classified as a felony or misdemeanor is crucial. The classification depends on the timing of prior convictions and specific circumstances surrounding the case.

A third DUI in Florida can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If any of the prior DUI convictions occurred within the past ten years, the third DUI is typically charged as a felony. This is often referred to as a “wobbler” offense, meaning it can wobble between a felony and a misdemeanor based on prosecutorial discretion and the specifics of the case.

For example, if your third DUI offense occurs within ten years of any previous DUI conviction, it is more likely to be prosecuted as a felony. Conversely, if the third DUI occurs more than ten years after the prior convictions, it may be charged as a misdemeanor.

Is a third DUI a felony or misdemeanor in Florida? A third DUI can be charged as a felony if any prior conviction occurred within the past ten years.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) Bulletin #001/2005, the ten-year revocation is triggered when the third DUI offense date is within ten years from any previous conviction date. This means that even if the court does not impose a felony charge, the DHSMV may still consider it a third DUI for the purpose of license revocation.

It is important to note that not all DUI arrests will result in a conviction. Avoiding a conviction can save you thousands of dollars in both direct and indirect consequences. You have only ten days after your arrest to demand a formal review hearing to challenge the administrative suspension of your driver’s license. This formal review hearing is a critical part of your case.

For more information on the consequences of a third DUI, see our Comprehensive Guide to Third DUI Penalties in Florida.

If you enter a plea to a charge of DUI in Florida and you have two prior DUI convictions on your driving record, then your case could be prosecuted as either a felony DUI or a misdemeanor DUI. In some states, this type of offense that can wobble between a felony or a misdemeanor is called a “wobbler.”

After the arrest, the State Attorney’s Office will review the police reports and your prior record to determine whether the case should be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. In most cases, the prosecutor will make this filing decision within the first 21 days after the arrest. Therefore, it is particularly important to hire an attorney as quickly as possible after the arrest.

If you were not represented by an attorney for one of the prior DUI offenses, then the prosecutor may have a difficult time using that prior plea for purposes of charging you with the felony DUI offense. The prosecutor might also be reluctant to file the third DUI as a felony if any of the prior convictions are particularly old or occurred out of state because obtaining the certified records are more difficult.


Third DUI Penalties in Florida

The penalties for a third DUI in Florida are severe and vary significantly depending on whether the offense is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor.

Felony DUI Penalties

If charged as a felony, the penalties for a third DUI in Florida include:

  • Incarceration: Up to 5 years in state prison.
  • Fines: Up to $5,000.
  • Driver’s License Revocation: A mandatory 10-year revocation.
  • Vehicle Impoundment: 90 days.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Mandatory installation for at least 24 months.

These penalties reflect the state’s stringent approach to repeat DUI offenders, emphasizing both punishment and prevention of future offenses.

Misdemeanor DUI Penalties

If the third DUI is classified as a misdemeanor, the penalties are still quite serious but less severe than those for a felony. Misdemeanor penalties for a third DUI in Florida typically include:

  • Incarceration: Up to 12 months in county jail.
  • Fines: Between $2,000 and $5,000.
  • Driver’s License Revocation: A minimum of 5 years.
  • Vehicle Impoundment: 90 days.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Mandatory installation for at least 24 months.

Despite being a misdemeanor, the penalties are designed to deter future offenses and ensure public safety.

Additional Penalties and Consequences

In addition to the primary penalties, there are several other consequences that can arise from a third DUI conviction in Florida, whether it’s a felony or a misdemeanor:

  • Probation: Mandatory probation period, which includes regular check-ins with a probation officer.
  • DUI School: Completion of DUI school, which includes both classroom instruction and a substance abuse evaluation.
  • Community Service: A requirement to complete a certain number of community service hours.
  • Increased Insurance Rates: Significant increases in auto insurance premiums due to the high-risk status of the driver.
  • Employment Challenges: Difficulty obtaining or maintaining employment, especially in jobs requiring a clean driving record.

What are the penalties for a third DUI in Florida? The penalties for a third DUI in Florida can range from up to 12 months in county jail for a misdemeanor to up to 5 years in state prison for a felony, along with fines, license revocation, and mandatory ignition interlock devices.

Factors Influencing Penalties

Several factors can influence the severity of the penalties imposed for a third DUI in Florida:

  • Timing of Previous Convictions: If the third DUI occurs within 10 years of any prior DUI conviction, it is more likely to be charged as a felony.
  • Blood Alcohol Content (BAC): A higher BAC at the time of arrest can lead to enhanced penalties.
  • Presence of Minor in the Vehicle: Having a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense can result in more severe penalties.
  • Accidents or Injuries: If the DUI resulted in an accident or injury, the penalties could be significantly harsher.

Beyond the immediate legal penalties, a third DUI conviction in Florida has long-term financial and personal implications:

  • Legal Fees: The cost of legal representation can be substantial, especially if the case goes to trial.
  • Loss of Income: Time spent in jail or prison can lead to a loss of income and employment opportunities.
  • Insurance Costs: Auto insurance rates can skyrocket, and some insurance companies may refuse to cover high-risk drivers.
  • Personal Relationships: A DUI conviction can strain personal relationships and lead to social stigma.

Understanding the full scope of penalties for a third DUI in Florida is crucial for anyone facing these charges. For more detailed information on DUI penalties, visit our Comprehensive Guide to DUI Penalties in Florida.

Additionally, if your third DUI occurred outside of ten years from prior convictions, the penalties may differ. For specifics, see our guide on Penalties for Third DUI Beyond 10 Years in Florida.

Each DUI case is unique, and the penalties can vary based on numerous factors. Consulting with an experienced DUI attorney can help navigate the complexities of DUI law and potentially mitigate the consequences. For more insights into DUI defenses, check out our page on How to Beat Your DUI Case.

Examples of Third DUI Scenarios in Florida

Understanding how a third DUI is prosecuted can be better grasped through hypothetical examples:

Example 1: Felony DUI

John was convicted of his second DUI eight years ago. Recently, he was arrested for a third DUI. Given that his latest offense occurred within ten years of his prior conviction, John is likely to face felony charges. This means he could be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison and face a 10-year driver’s license revocation.

Example 2: Misdemeanor DUI

Jane was convicted of her second DUI eleven years ago. She was recently arrested for a third DUI. Since her latest offense occurred more than ten years after her prior conviction, she may be charged with a misdemeanor. This could result in up to 12 months in jail and a 2-year ignition interlock device requirement.

What are the penalties for a third DUI within ten years in Florida? The penalties include up to 5 years in state prison, fines up to $5,000, and a mandatory 10-year driver’s license revocation.

In both scenarios, the specific circumstances of each case, such as the timing of previous convictions, play a significant role in determining whether the third DUI is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. For more detailed information on the penalties for a third DUI within 10 years, you can refer to our comprehensive guide.

It’s essential to note that the classification of a third DUI as a felony or misdemeanor can have profound implications on your life. The legal system in Florida takes DUI offenses very seriously, particularly for repeat offenders. Therefore, understanding the nuances of how your case might be prosecuted is crucial.

Additional Considerations

When facing a third DUI, various factors can influence the outcome of your case:

  • Prior Convictions: The timing and number of prior DUI convictions will significantly impact whether your third DUI is prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor.
  • Legal Representation: Having experienced legal representation can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your case. An attorney can help you navigate the complexities of DUI laws and develop a robust defense strategy.
  • Formal Review Hearing: You only have ten days after your arrest to demand a formal review hearing to challenge the administrative suspension of your driver’s license. This hearing is critical in protecting your driving privileges.

For individuals facing a third DUI, it is crucial to act quickly and seek legal counsel. The penalties and long-term consequences of a third DUI conviction can be severe, affecting various aspects of your life, including your employment, finances, and personal relationships. If you are looking for more information on how to beat your DUI case, our detailed guide can provide valuable insights.

Moreover, understanding the financial implications of a DUI conviction is essential. The costs associated with a DUI can be overwhelming, from fines to legal fees and mandatory programs. To get a better idea of the potential expenses, you can explore our article on the cost of a DUI in Florida.

In conclusion, the classification of a third DUI in Florida as a felony or misdemeanor hinges on several factors, including the timing of prior convictions and the specifics of the case. Hypothetical scenarios like John’s and Jane’s provide a clearer picture of how these factors play out in real-life situations. If you find yourself facing a third DUI charge, it is imperative to seek legal assistance promptly to protect your rights and future.


Defenses Against a Third DUI Charge in Florida

Facing a third DUI charge in Florida can be daunting, but several defenses may be available to challenge the charges:

Possible Defenses

  • Unlawful Stop: Arguing that the traffic stop was conducted without probable cause.
  • Faulty Breathalyzer: Challenging the accuracy and calibration of the breathalyzer used during the arrest.
  • Improper Field Sobriety Tests: Questioning the administration and interpretation of field sobriety tests.
  • Violation of Rights: Asserting that your constitutional rights were violated during the arrest process.

Consulting with an experienced DUI attorney is essential to explore these defenses and develop a robust legal strategy tailored to your case.

Unlawful Stop

One of the most effective defenses against a third DUI charge is challenging the legality of the traffic stop. If the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to make the stop, any evidence obtained during the stop may be inadmissible in court. This could significantly weaken the prosecution’s case and potentially lead to a dismissal of the charges.

What constitutes an unlawful stop in a DUI case? An unlawful stop occurs when a police officer stops a vehicle without reasonable suspicion or probable cause of a traffic violation or criminal activity.

For more information on challenging the legality of the traffic stop, you can read our article on unlawful DUI traffic stops.

Faulty Breathalyzer

Breathalyzer tests are a common method used by law enforcement to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC). However, these devices are not infallible. Factors such as improper calibration, maintenance issues, and operator error can lead to inaccurate results. Challenging the accuracy and reliability of the breathalyzer test can be a viable defense strategy.

How can a faulty breathalyzer affect your DUI case? A faulty breathalyzer can produce inaccurate BAC readings, which can be challenged in court to question the validity of the DUI charges.

To understand more about how breathalyzer accuracy can be challenged, visit our page on breathalyzer calibration and maintenance.

Improper Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are used by officers to assess a driver’s level of impairment. However, these tests are subjective and can be influenced by various factors such as the driver’s physical condition, weather conditions, and the officer’s interpretation. Questioning the administration and interpretation of FSTs can be an effective defense.

What are the common issues with field sobriety tests? Field sobriety tests can be improperly administered or misinterpreted, leading to inaccurate assessments of impairment.

For more details on how to challenge field sobriety tests, check out our comprehensive guide on field sobriety exercises.

Violation of Rights

Your constitutional rights must be upheld during any DUI arrest. If your rights were violated, such as being denied the right to an attorney or not being read your Miranda rights, this can be used as a defense to challenge the DUI charges.

What constitutes a violation of rights in a DUI case? A violation of rights occurs when law enforcement fails to uphold your constitutional protections during the DUI arrest process.

Understanding your rights and how they apply to DUI cases is crucial. For more information, you can read our article on how to beat your DUI case.

Formal Review Hearing

After a third DUI arrest, you only have ten days to demand a formal review hearing to challenge the administrative suspension of your driver’s license. This hearing is a critical part of your defense strategy. It provides an opportunity to contest the suspension and potentially retain your driving privileges while your case is being resolved.

Why is the formal review hearing important? The formal review hearing allows you to challenge the administrative suspension of your driver’s license and can be a key component of your defense strategy.

For a third DUI, there is never a good reason not to request a formal review hearing. If you have any prior DUI conviction or even a prior administrative suspension triggered by a DUI arrest, then you are not qualified for immediate reinstatement. Act quickly to hire an attorney to demand your formal review hearing and help you obtain a 42-day permit so you can continue driving for hardship reasons while your criminal defense attorney fights the case.

For more information on the importance of the formal review hearing, visit our page on DUI licensing issues.

Additional Strategies

In addition to the defenses mentioned above, there are other strategies that an experienced DUI attorney can employ to defend against a third DUI charge. These may include:

  • Scrutinizing Police Reports: Analyzing the details of the police reports for any inconsistencies or errors.
  • Witness Testimonies: Gathering testimonies from witnesses who can provide a different perspective on the events leading to the arrest.
  • Medical Conditions: Presenting evidence of medical conditions that could have affected the results of field sobriety tests or breathalyzer readings.

Each DUI case is unique, and the specific circumstances surrounding your arrest will determine the most effective defense strategy. It is crucial to work with an attorney who has experience in handling third DUI cases and can tailor the defense to your specific situation.

For more detailed information on the penalties associated with a third DUI, you can refer to our comprehensive guide on third DUI penalties in Florida.

Understanding the defenses available for a third DUI charge can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. By challenging the evidence and procedures used during your arrest, you can potentially reduce the severity of the penalties or even have the charges dismissed. If you are facing a third DUI charge, it is essential to seek legal assistance promptly to protect your rights and future.


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What are the penalties for a third DUI in Florida?

The penalties for a third DUI in Florida include significant fines, incarceration, and a lengthy driver’s license revocation. Specifically, if charged as a felony, you could face up to 5 years in state prison, fines up to $5,000, a 10-year driver’s license revocation, 90 days of vehicle impoundment, and a mandatory ignition interlock device for at least 24 months. If charged as a misdemeanor, penalties may include up to 12 months in jail, fines up to $2,000, and a 2-year ignition interlock device requirement.

How can I challenge a third DUI charge in Florida?

Challenging a third DUI charge in Florida involves several potential defenses. These may include arguing that the traffic stop was conducted without probable cause, questioning the accuracy and calibration of the breathalyzer, disputing the administration and interpretation of field sobriety tests, and asserting that your constitutional rights were violated during the arrest process. Consulting with an experienced DUI attorney is crucial to explore these defenses and develop a robust legal strategy tailored to your case.

Is a third DUI in Florida always considered a felony?

A third DUI in Florida is not always considered a felony. The classification depends on the timing of prior convictions. If any of the prior DUI convictions occurred within the past ten years, the third DUI is typically charged as a felony. However, if the third DUI occurs more than ten years after the prior convictions, it may be charged as a misdemeanor. This type of offense is often referred to as a ‘wobbler’ because it can wobble between a felony and a misdemeanor based on prosecutorial discretion and the specifics of the case.

What should I do immediately after being arrested for a third DUI in Florida?

After being arrested for a third DUI in Florida, it is crucial to act quickly. You only have ten days to demand a formal review hearing to challenge the administrative suspension of your driver’s license. Hiring an attorney promptly is essential to ensure this deadline is met and to help you obtain a 42-day permit so you can continue driving for hardship reasons while your criminal defense attorney fights the case. Additionally, gathering any evidence, such as witness testimonies or medical records, that could support your defense is important.







Is a Third DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor in Florida?

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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.
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Is a Third DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor in Florida?

Contact Leppard Law for Your DUI Defense

Facing a third DUI charge in Florida can be overwhelming and stressful. At Leppard Law, we understand the gravity of your situation and are here to provide the support and legal expertise you need. Our team of top-rated DUI attorneys is committed to treating you like family, ensuring your best interests are always our priority.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. Experience our exceptional service for yourself. If you or a loved one have been charged with a DUI, contact us today to schedule a free consultation at 407-476-4111.

Our dedication to client satisfaction has earned us numerous accolades, including:

Award Granting Organization Year
SuperLawyers “Rising Star” SuperLawyers 2019 – 2020
Awesome Attorneys Orlando Orlando Family Magazine 2019-2023
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At Leppard Law, we combine our legal expertise with a personal touch, ensuring you’re not just a case number but a valued client. Our commitment to excellence has been recognized in the legal community, making us a trusted choice for DUI defense in Florida.

Don’t let a DUI charge define your future. Call us now at 407-476-4111 and let our experienced attorneys fight for the best possible outcome for your case. Your journey to justice starts with one call.


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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.

Learn More About Joe Easton