A charge of driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida may be a misdemeanor or felony offense. Typically, a defendant’s first DUI charge is a misdemeanor criminal charge; however, when the driver who was allegedly under the influence of alcohol strikes another person and causes a serious bodily injury, the offense becomes a severe third-degree felony. A felony DUI charge can have drastic effects on a defendant’s life, even if there is never a conviction. Working with a DUI defense lawyer is critical to mitigating these effects.
Felony DUI Charges in Florida
Felony DUI charges are the most severe DUI charges possible. There are three instances in which a DUI may be a felony charge:
- A defendant’s third or subsequent DUI within ten (10) years
- A DUI that involved injury to another person
- A DUI that resulted in death
A felony conviction may lead to a lengthy prison sentence and/or term of probation, steep fines, and other penalties. Above all, being branded as a felon in Florida may limit your civil rights and opportunities. If you are facing a felony DUI charge such as DUI with serious bodily injury, your case may benefit significantly from having a skilled defense attorney involved as early as possible.
Elements of DUI with Serious Bodily Injury
The Florida Statutes explain DUI with serious bodily injury in section 316.193(3). The prosecutor in a DUI with serious bodily injury case must prove three facts beyond a reasonable doubt. These are:
- The defendant drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle;
- While driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle was driving under the influence of alcohol to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired or his BAC was at 0.08 or above (per se DUI); and
- As a result of operating the vehicle, the defendant caused or contributed to a serious bodily injury.
If a prosecutor cannot establish all of the above elements beyond a reasonable doubt, there can be no conviction.
Describing a “Serious Bodily Injury”
A “serious bodily injury” is defined in section 316.1933(1)(b) of the Florida Statutes as an injury to any person, including the driver, which consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of:
- Serious personal disfigurement
- Protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ
Possible Penalties for DUI with Serious Bodily Injury
As a third-degree felony charge, DUI with serious bodily injury carries a maximum penalty of five (5) years in a Florida state prison and/or probation, and a fine of up to $5,000. It’s important to know that, if you are convicted, the court will impose a sentence pursuant to a sentencing score sheet.
The Florida Criminal Punishment Code considers DUI with serious bodily injury a level 7 offense meaning that, depending on the facts of your case, your charges could receive enough sentencing points upon a conviction that will lead to a mandatory minimum prison sentence. A person with no prior record could face a mandatory sentence of four years and three months in a Florida state prison.
Those facing charges for DUI with serious bodily injury may also be the target of a civil lawsuit for damages victims suffered. Your defense lawyer should be able to help you resolve these issues alongside your criminal case.
DUI with Serious Bodily Injury Defense in West Palm Beach
A charge of driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury is one of the most harshly-persecuted DUI offenses in Florida. Individuals facing such charges are strongly recommended to hire an experienced and strong-willed lawyer who has a successful track record defending those accused of severe DUI offenses.
Attorney Brian P. Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel has over 30 years of experience practicing criminal and DUI defense in Palm Beach County and surrounding areas. He takes a client-first approach that ensures his clients know the status of their case at all times. Collaborate with Mr. Gabriel on your criminal defense with a free consultation. Call 561-622-5575 or complete our contact form.