Florida 鈥檚 DUI laws are particularly tough, and there are a number of variables that could contribute to the severity of your sentence. This is why DUI attorney in Sarasota Jeff Haynes recommends that you contact an experienced lawyer immediately if you are charged with DUI. What many people don 鈥檛 understand is that a DUI charge isn 鈥檛 like a speeding ticket 鈥?you don 鈥檛 just plead guilty, pay a fine and walk away. A DUI can change your life forever, and the penalties for conviction vary widely from state to state. Here 鈥檚 what you can expect to face if you are convicted of DUI in Florida. Criminal Charges: In Florida, all DUI cases are criminal cases. This means that any DUI conviction could result in jail time. Many people think a DUI, especially if it 鈥 檚 a first offense, is essentially the same as a traffic ticket. But a DUI charge is a criminal charge, no matter whether it 鈥檚 your first offense or your fifth. For this reason, a DUI charge in Florida is certainly not something to be taken lightly. In some cases, DUI charges, which are normally misdemeanors, may be elevated to felony charges. There are several situations in which this may occur: A fourth conviction, an accident in which someone was killed, or an accident in which someone was very seriously injured. Third-Degree Felony: If you are convicted of a third DUI within 10 years of your last DUI conviction, then your charge could be elevated to a third-degree felony. If you are convicted of a fourth DUI in Florida, regardless of the time between convictions, your charge can also be charged as a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison. You can also be charged with a third-degree felony if, while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you are responsible for an accident that results in serious injury to another person. This type of charge is called 鈥淒 UI serious bodily injury.鈥?Florida law defines 鈥渟 erious bodily injury 鈥?as an injury which consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. Second-Degree Felony: A DUI charge involving an accident in which someone was killed (called 鈥淒 UI manslaughter 鈥? may be elevated to a second-degree felony, which is even more serious than a DUI involving serious bodily injury. A second-degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. First-Degree Felony: If you leave the scene or you fail to render assistance after the accident, it becomes a first-degree felony, for which you could be sentenced to as many as 30 years in prison. Minimum Sentence: A recent Florida statute makes prison time mandatory for anyone who is convicted of DUI manslaughter. As of 2009, a DUI manslaughter conviction in Florida will result in a minimum sentence of four years in prison. And Florida is one of the few states in the U.S. to impose a mandatory jail sentence for a DUI conviction. Florida 鈥檚 DUI penalties are so steep; therefore, it 鈥檚 critical for anyone charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to contact an attorney right away. In any Florida DUI case, you could conceivably find yourself facing jail time. If you don 鈥檛 hire an attorney, you 鈥檙 e giving up any chance you may have of avoiding conviction. Given the seriousness of the potential ramifications, it just doesn 鈥檛 make sense to go it alone. This article is for informational purposes only. You should not rely on this article as a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances, and you should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. Publication of this article and your receipt of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship. Jeffrey Haynes is a writer for , a business directory and online advertising company. Find alawyer or more lawyers articles at Yodle Consumer Guide.
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