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Felony DUI and misdemeanor DUI—what are the differences?

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2023 | DUI Defense

“Felony” and “misdemeanor” are two terms commonly used in the criminal justice system. Yet, it is understandable for individuals outside the legal or justice sector to find the differences between these terms slightly unclear. In this article, we will discuss the differences between felonies and misdemeanors in relation to a DUI charge.

What sets a felony and a misdemeanor apart?

While both are crimes, these two types of offenses have significant differences. As we have addressed in recent blog posts, felonies and misdemeanors differ depending on the severity of an offense and the punishment. For example, a first-time DUI offense is a misdemeanor under Florida law. However, repeat offenses could lead to felony DUI charges – and increased penalties.

Felony DUI: The basics

Put simply, felonies are much more serious than misdemeanor offenses. In terms of a DUI, repeated offenses within ten years could lead to a felony conviction and penalties such as:

  • Up to five years in prison
  • Steep fines
  • License revocation for up to ten years

Felony charges could also arise if driving under the influence leads to a fatal accident or vehicular manslaughter. While a felony DUI may not lead to a sentence of life in prison, individuals dealing with charges could still face up to 30 years in prison for vehicular homicide.

What about misdemeanors?

Misdemeanor offenses – and DUI charges in general – are still serious. It is still important to defend yourself and your rights against misdemeanor charges.

However, they often do not involve the severe penalties that a felony might. For example, a first-time DUI offense in Florida is a misdemeanor and could lead to:

  • Paying fines up to $1,000
  • Serving six months in prison
  • License revocation for up to 180 days

The penalties for a DUI can still have a significant effect on an individual’s life. Whether it is a felony or misdemeanor, you must take steps to defend yourself as soon as possible.