When is a DUI in Florida a Misdemeanor and when is a DUI in Florida a Felony?

What is a Florida DUI?

To prove the crime of DUI in Tampa, the prosecutor must prove two things beyond a reasonable doubt:

First, the defendant drove, or was in actual physical control, of a motor vehicle.

Second, one of the following two things was true. The defendant, while driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, was under the influence of alcohol or another substance to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired, or, the defendant had a blood alcohol level or breath alcohol level of .08 or more.

Based on the prior criminal history of the defendant or the facts of the case, a Florida DUI can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

When is a Tampa Florida DUI a Misdemeanor?

In most cases, a first or second Tampa DUI will be charged as a misdemeanor.  A Florida misdemeanor is a criminal charge whose maximum penalty is less than one year in jail.  Florida misdemeanor cases are handled in the county court.  A first or second DUI can be charged as a felony if during the course of the DUI, a person other than the driver is killed or suffers serious bodily injury.

First Florida DUI

A person convicted of a Florida DUI for the first time faces a maximum of 6 months in jail. However, if the person’s blood alcohol level was .15 or higher, or there was a minor in the vehicle, the maximum jail sentence is 9 months.  Typically, however, people that are convicted of a first time DUI in Tampa, Florida are not sentenced to jail.  Rather, they are sentenced to serve between 6 and 12 months of probation.

Second Florida DUI

A person convicted of a second Florida DUI (which took place within five years of a prior DUI) faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 days in jail and a maximum of nine months in jail.  However, if the person’s blood alcohol level was .15 or higher, or there was a minor in the vehicle, the maximum jail sentence is 12 months in jail. It’s important to know that in lieu of the minimum mandatory 10-day jail sentence, Florida law permits a judge to sentence a person to spend 10 days at a residential alcohol abuse treatment program or a residential drug abuse treatment program. There are two benefits to this law. First, the person can get help for a drug or alcohol problem; second, the person can avoid having to serve 10 days in jail.  Though residential alcohol or drug treatment can be tough, it’s better than jail.

A person convicted of a second Florida DUI (which took place outside five years of a prior DUI conviction) faces a maximum of 9 months in jail.  However if the person’s blood alcohol level was .15 or higher or there was a minor in the vehicle, the maximum jail sentence is 12 months.

Third Florida DUI (Outside 10 years of a Prior DUI)

A person convicted of a third Florida DUI 10 years after a prior DUI faces a maximum of 12 months in jail.

When is a Florida DUI a Felony?

A felony is a criminal charge that can be punished by a year or more in prison.  A Florida third-degree felony is punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison; a Florida second-degree felony is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison; a Florida first-degree felony can be punished by a maximum of 30 years in prison.

The Florida Statutes set out the penalties for DUI convictions.  Depending on the prior criminal history of the defendant and the facts of the case, a Florida DUI can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

While misdemeanor Florida DUI cases are handled in the Florida county court, felony DUI cases are handled in the Florida circuit court.  There are 4 situations in which a Tampa, Florida DUI can be charged as a felony.  First, if a guilty plea or guilty verdict would make a defendant’s current DUI his or her third DUI conviction, and one of the prior DUI convictions took place within 10 years of the defendant’s current DUI arrest.  Second, if a plea or guilty verdict would make a defendant’s current DUI his or her fourth DUI in his or her lifetime.  Third, if the DUI with which the defendant is charged caused a person other than the driver serious bodily injury.  Fourth, if the DUI with which the defendant is charged caused the death of a person.

Florida Third DUI (within 10 years of a prior DUI conviction)

If a person is convicted of a third DUI within 10 years of a prior DUI, Florida law requires that the judge adjudicate the person guilty of a third-degree felony.  Additionally, a person convicted of a third DUI (which took place within 10 years of a prior DUI conviction) faces a minimum of 30 days in jail.

It’s important to know that in lieu of the 30-day jail sentence, Florida law permits a judge to sentence the person to 30 days at a residential alcohol abuse treatment program or a residential drug abuse treatment program.  There are two benefits to this law.  First, the person can get help for a drug or alcohol problem; second, the person can avoid having to spend time 30 days jail.  Though residential alcohol or drug treatment can be tough, it’s better than jail.

Fourth Florida DUI

If a person is convicted of a fourth DUI, Florida law requires that the judge adjudicate the person guilty of a third-degree felony.

Florida DUI – Serious Bodily Injury

According to Florida law, a DUI that causes serious bodily injury is defined as an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

If a person is convicted of a DUI that caused a person (except the driver) a serious bodily injury, Florida law requires that the judge adjudicate the person guilty of a third-degree felony.  Also, even if the driver has no prior criminal record unless the judge finds there is a valid reason for a sentencing departure, the judge is required to impose a prison sentence of around 51 months.

Florida DUI Manslaughter

Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorney David C. Hardy is board certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an expert in criminal trial law.

When a DUI driver causes the death of another person, the offense of DUI manslaughter is committed.  Florida DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison.  According to Florida sentencing law, unless the judge finds a valid reason to depart, the judge must sentence the person to just over ten years of prison.  Even if the judge wants to, she cannot sentence the defendant to less than 4 years in prison.

If the driver commits DUI manslaughter, and he or she knew or should have known a crash had occurred and then does not try to help the injured person, then the DUI offense becomes a first-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison.

Are you looking for the best DUI lawyer in Tampa Florida?  Contact Attorney David C. Hardy

Tampa Attorney David C. Hardy is a former DUI prosecutor that now represents persons accused of DUI.  He is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law. As a prosecutor and defense attorney, he has extensive experience handling DUI cases. Contact him today for help with your DUI case.

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Do You Have A Hillsborough County Florida Arrest Warrant?

A Hillsborough County, Florida arrest warrant is an order directing law enforcement to take a person into custody.  If you or a loved one has an arrest warrant in Hillsborough County, Florida, the situation probably seems very frightening.

However, an experienced Tampa arrest warrants attorney can help you manage this situation.  There are a variety of ways to resolve a Tampa arrest warrant, and some of these ways are far more comfortable and convenient for an accused than others.  That’s why it’s important to hire a Tampa criminal defense attorney that is experienced in resolving Hillsborough County Florida warrants.

Are All Hillsborough County Arrests Made Pursuant to an Arrest Warrant?

No.  A Hillsborough County, Florida arrest can take place in a number of ways, and many Hillsborough County arrests are made without an arrest warrant.

The Florida Statutes set out the rules regarding arrest warrants and bond hearings.  

For example, if a Tampa Police Officer witnesses a person committing a misdemeanor or a felony, the officer may arrest the person and bring them to the Hillsborough County Jail.  For instance, if during a traffic stop a Tampa Police Officer smells cannabis coming from the car, searches the driver, and then finds 30 grams of cannabis in the driver’s shirt pocket, the officer may arrest the driver and charge him with felony possession of cannabis (20 grams or more).  The Tampa Police Officer’s authority to arrest the driver comes not from an arrest warrant signed by a judge, but rather from a Florida law that states that when a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a person has committed a felony in the presence of the law enforcement officer, the officer can make an arrest.

What Are Some Types of Arrest Warrants in Hillsborough County Florida?

A Probable Cause Arrest Warrant:

According to Florida law, if a judge, after reviewing a written document written by a police officer called a complaint, is satisfied that there is probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime, then the judge can issue an arrest warrant for that person.  For example, let’s say that two friends get into an argument, and then that argument turns into a fistfight.  Frequently, the loser of the fight will go to the Tampa Police and claim that he or she was attacked and is the victim of a battery in Tampa.  Law enforcement may then ask a judge to issue a Hillsborough County arrest warrant for the person that won the fight.  A Hillsborough County Judge will review all the evidence, and then make a decision as to whether or not there is probable cause to believe that a battery was committed and that the person accused is the one that committed the battery.  Probable cause is not a high standard of proof, and unfortunately, many innocent persons are arrested for crimes that they did not commit.

A Bench or Capias Arrest Warrant:

Another type of Hillsborough County arrest warrant is called a bench warrant, also known as a capias warrant.  Capias is the Latin word for arrest.  If a person fails to appear for court in Hillsborough County, a judge may order a capias warrant.  For example, let’s say that a person gets arrested and charged with DUI in Tampa.  If the person that was arrested for DUI and later bonded out of jail does not show up at his or her court date, the judge will issue a bench warrant (also called a capias warrant).  Then, law enforcement will go out and try to find and arrest the person and bring them to jail.

A Direct File Arrest Warrant:

Another type of Hillsborough County arrest warrant is called a direct file arrest warrant. In a direct file, a state prosecutor alleges that a person has committed a crime. Frequently, the

Tampa arrest warrants are often a result of the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office direct filing a case with the clerk’s office.

accused person has never been arrested for this alleged crime.

This type of warrant is called a direct file because the prosecutor files the charge directly with the clerk – without going through the Tampa Police or Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department.  When the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office charges a person via the direct file process, the clerk’s office will issue an arrest warrant for the accused.

For example, let’s say that without permission, a person writes a check from their roommate’s checkbook in order to buy a new bike.   When the roommate finds out, he gets angry and goes to the police to file a report.  The police then send that report to the State Attorney’s Office, who decides to file formal charges.  When the State Attorney’s Office decides to direct file a criminal charge, the clerk’s office will issue an arrest warrant for the person’s arrest.  Then, law enforcement will go out and try to find and arrest the person and bring them to jail.

Violation of Probation Arrest Warrant (VOP Arrest Warrant):

When a person pleads guilty to a Hillsborough County misdemeanor or a felony charge, a judge may put the person on probation.  While on probation, the person may have to perform community service hours, pay a fine, attend educational classes, or participate in a drug treatment program.

However, sometimes people violate the terms of their probation, which results in a probation officer asking a judge to issue a violation of probation arrest warrant.  Unfortunately, when a Hillsborough County judge issues an arrest warrant for a violation of probation, the person does not have a right to a bond.  Therefore, the person could be stuck in jail until a violation of probation hearing can take place.

What is a Hillsborough County “No Bond” Warrant?

When a Hillsborough County judge issues an arrest warrant, the judge can either set a bond or order that the person be held at the jail without a bond.  If the Hillsborough County warrant includes a bond amount, then the accused can bond out of jail. However, if the Hillsborough County warrant is a “no bond” warrant, then the person must stay in jail until they are brought before the judge that issued the arrest warrant.  Unfortunately, that can sometimes take several weeks.

What To Do If You Have A Hillsborough County Arrest Warrant?

If you have a Hillsborough County arrest warrant, you’re best option is to hire an experienced Tampa arrest warrant attorney.  There are a number of ways that a Tampa arrest warrant lawyer can help you to resolve an arrest warrant.

First, a Tampa arrest warrant lawyer can guide you through the Hillsborough County self-arrest process.  Persons with Hillsborough County arrest warrants can in most cases avoid having to go to jail by hiring a bondsman and then turning themselves in to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.  The process does not require having to be handcuffed or having to change into a jail uniform.  Some people describe this process as like going to the Florida DHSMV to get a new driver’s license.

Second, a Tampa arrest warrant lawyer can appear in court on your behalf and ask the judge to withdraw the warrant and release you on your own recognizance.

Third, if the Hillsborough County arrest warrant is based on a capias for having missed a court date, a Tampa arrest warrant lawyer can file a motion to the judge explaining the reason for the missed court date, and asking the judge to withdraw the warrant.

How Do I Know If There Are Any Hillsborough County Warrants Out For My Arrest?

Search the Hillsborough County Florida Sheriff’s Office website to inquire if you have a warrant for your arrest in Hillsborough County.

Search the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s website to see if you have a warrant in Hillsborough County as well as other Florida counties.

Are you looking for the best Hillsborough County Florida Arrest Warrant Lawyer?  Contact Attorney David C. Hardy

Criminal Defense Attorney

Nationally and Florida Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorney David C. Hardy is a former Tampa prosecutor that has extensive experience handling criminal cases.

Tampa attorney David C. Hardy is a former state prosecutor that now represents persons accused of crimes.  He is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law. He has extensive experience helping his client’s resolve Hillsborough County arrest warrants.  Attorney David C. Hardy has the knowledge, skills, and experience to guide you through the Tampa arrest warrant process and obtain the best possible results.  Call the Hardy Law Firm, P.A. and today and get help now.

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Tiger Woods and Florida Reckless Driving

The Tiger Woods DUI Case

Around 4:00 a.m. on May 29, 2019, an officer from the Jupiter, Florida Police Department found pro golfer Tiger Woods asleep in his car.

According to police, Tiger’s Mercedes was parked partially in the street, and partially in a bike lane.  The car was running with its break lights on and its right blinker flashing.  The tires on the driver’s side of Tiger’s vehicle were flat and the rims were scratched, indicating that the vehicle had been in a recent accident.  Police also saw damage to the vehicle’s bumpers.

The police officer noted that Tiger’s speech was slurred, his reactions were slow, and that he did not know where he was.  Tiger performed field sobriety exercises, including the walk and turn, one leg stand, and finger to nose. According to the police officer, Tiger appeared to be impaired.  Police arrested Tiger and charged him with DUI.

Tiger provided a breath sample, and the results showed that he had no alcohol in his system. However, a toxicology report from a DUI urine test indicated that Tiger had pain medications, Ambien, Xanax, and cannabis in his system.  Tiger made a statement on Twitter that his impairment that night was due to an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.

The Advantages Of Getting A Tampa DUI Case Reduced To Reckless Driving

The best possible outcome in a Tampa DUI case is for the case to be dismissed or for the person to be found not guilty at trial.  However, in between a dismissal of a DUI case and a conviction for DUI, there is another possible result – a reduction to reckless driving.

There are several advantages for a Tampa DUI defendant when the prosecutor reduces a DUI to reckless driving.

First, when a person pleads guilty to a Tampa DUI, Florida law requires the judge to suspend the person’s driver’s license.  The length of the suspension varies from 6 months to a lifetime suspension, depending on how many prior DUI convictions the person has. However, if a person pleads guilty to reckless driving, the law does not require the judge to suspend the person’s driver’s license.

Second, when a person pleads guilty to a Tampa DUI, Florida law requires the judge to impound the person’s motor vehicle.  The length of impound varies from 10 days to 90 days. However, if a person pleads guilty to reckless driving, the law does not require the judge to impound the person’s vehicle.

Third, the State of Florida requires that a before a person convicted of a Tampa DUI can get their driver’s license back, they must file a form with the Florida DHSMV called the FR-44.  The FR-44 certifies to the State of Florida that a person convicted of DUI has auto insurance in the amounts of at least $100,000 in bodily injury insurance per person, $300,000 in bodily injury insurance per accident, and $50,000 in property damage.  In most cases the FR44 is required for three years from the time of conviction.  To get an FR-44 form, a person convicted of DUI must request one from their insurance company.  This puts the insurance company on notice that the person had a DUI, which can cause their insurance premiums to rise. However, the FR44 requirement does not apply to a person whose case has been reduced to reckless driving.

Fourth, when a when a person pleads guilty to a Tampa DUI, Florida law requires the judge to adjudicate the person guilty of the offense, which means that the person is formally convicted of the DUI.  However, if a person pleads guilty to reckless driving, the judge is not required to adjudicate the person guilty.  Instead, the judge can withhold adjudication of guilt, which means that the person is not convicted of the offense.  If adjudication withheld, a defendant may be able to seal and eventually expunge the records associated with his or her arrest and prosecution.

When Will A Prosecutor Reduce A Tampa DUI to Reckless Driving?

There are several reasons why a prosecutor might reduce a Tampa DUI to reckless driving.

Just because you were arrested for DUI does not mean that you will be convicted of DUI.

First, sometimes there is a question as to whether or not a police officer’s stop of a vehicle was lawful.  If there was unconstitutional police conduct during a Tampa DUI investigation, a DUI attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence.  The filing of a motion to suppress can be enough to sway the prosecutor to reduce a DUI to reckless driving.  That’s because if a judge grants a motion to suppress, he or she may then end up dismissing the entire case.  Prosecutors want to avoid a dismissal, as they would prefer to get a reduced punishment for a DUI offender rather than none at all.

Second, there may simply not be enough evidence that a person is guilty of a Tampa DUI.  Sometimes whether or not a person was impaired while driving is a very close call, and Tampa DUI prosecutors may be unsure as to whether or not they can convince a jury of a defendant’s guilt. In cases like these, prosecutors are more likely to reduce a DUI to reckless driving.

Third, sometimes prosecutors want to give first time offenders a break.  Some Florida state attorney’s offices have DUI programs in place that allow first time offenders to plead guilty to the lesser charge of reckless driving if they agree to complete a specific a program aimed at reducing impaired driving. The State Attorney’s Office in Hillsborough County, Florida has such a program, which they call “RIDR” (Reducing Impaired Driver Recidivism).

So What Happened to Tiger’s DUI Case?

Tiger Woods was able to take advantage of a program offered by the State Attorney’s Office for first time DUI offenders.  According to court records, in October of 2017, the State Attorney’s Office reduced Tiger’s DUI case to reckless driving and he pleaded guilty to that charge.

Tiger was put on probation for one year.  The requirements of his probation included that he complete DUI school and substance abuse treatment, perform 50 hours of community service, and attend a DUI victim impact panel.   Because the DUI case was reduced to reckless driving, Tiger was able to avoid the suspension of his driver’s license and having to comply with Florida’s FR-44 requirement.  Also, the judge withheld adjudication of guilt, so it’s likely that Tiger will be eligible to have his arrest and court records sealed if he choses to do so.

Are you looking for the best DUI lawyer in Tampa Florida?  Contact Attorney David C. Hardy

Tampa Attorney David C. Hardy is a former DUI prosecutor that now represents persons accused of DUI.  He is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law. As a prosecutor and defense attorney, he has extensive experience handling DUI cases.

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