When Is DUI a Felony in Florida?

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that can have severe consequences. In Florida, the penalties for DUI vary depending on the circumstances. Understanding when a DUI becomes a felony is crucial to protect yourself or a loved one from the potential legal implications.

Let's explore the factors that determine when a DUI offense is elevated to a felony in Florida and provide valuable insight to help you navigate this complex issue.

The Three Strikes Rule for DUI

Absent of special circumstances that would qualify any DUI as a felony, this crime is typically charged as a misdemeanor. That said, Florida abides by a three-strikes policy that makes a third DUI charge within 10 years of a second conviction for DUI. Even if the DUI would otherwise be charged as a misdemeanor, Florida law requires that a third arrest for this crime be charged as a felony.

As a third-degree felony, being convicted of a third DUI within 10 years of a second DUI can result in a prison sentence of up to five years, and those convicted will incur a license revocation for at least 10 years. After one becomes eligible to regain their license, mandatory breathalyzer or ignition interlock devices may be installed on their vehicle.

DUI Involving Serious Bodily Injury

DUI involving serious bodily injury is also a third-degree felony. If you are accused of a DUI following an accident involving someone else’s serious injury, you can face up to five years in prison.

“Serious bodily injury” is legally interpreted as a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death; substantial risk of serious disfigurement; and/or creates a substantial risk of the loss or functional impairment of any body part, including organs.

In addition to criminal consequences, those responsible for serious bodily injury may be held liable for the victim’s injuries in a personal injury lawsuit. Although not a criminal matter, this can deepen the financial consequences of a DUI.

DUI Manslaughter

When a death occurs as a result of a DUI-related accident, the person accused of DUI may be charged with DUI manslaughter.

The elements of DUI manslaughter are as follows:

  • The defendant operated or had control over a vehicle.
  • The defendant’s operation or control of the vehicle resulted in the death of another person.
  • The defendant was impaired by alcohol or drugs or had a BAC at or above the legal limit of 0.08%.

As a homicide crime, this is an incredibly serious matter. A conviction for this offense can result in a sentence of up to 15 years in prison along with a $10,000 fine.


Understanding when a DUI becomes a felony in Florida is essential for anyone facing this legal issue. The consequences of a felony DUI conviction can be life-altering, resulting in severe penalties and long-term repercussions.

If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge, it is crucial to seek the guidance of experienced legal professionals like Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A. Our team is well-versed in Florida's DUI laws and can provide the necessary support and expertise to protect your rights and future. 

Contact us today for legal assistance.