Felony DUI Based on Prior Convictions
Most of the time, when someone is charged with a DUI, it is charged as a misdemeanor offense. But in some situations, a DUI can be filed as a felony. If this has happened to you, it is very important that you take steps right now to protect yourself.
If you or someone you care about is facing the crisis of a felony arrest, give yourself the best possible chance of a favorable outcome. I am a DUI and Felony defense attorney with over 12 years of experience practicing right here in Okaloosa County. My firm has the reputation, the expertise, and the do-whatever-it-takes attitude to get results in cases that no one thought possible.
We have another page on this website that talks about DUI with Serious Bodily Injury. However, this page will focus on Felony DUI based on prior convictions.
Information About Prior Convictions in DUI Cases
How many priors can make a DUI a felony?
If your current DUI charge is your third offense, and it happened within 10 years of the conviction of your most recent offense, the state can charge you with Felony DUI—3rd Within 10. This is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a mandatory felony conviction on your record that can never be expunged. A 3rd within 10 conviction also carries a 10 year driver’s license suspension with no hardship license for at least two years.
If your current DUI charge is your 4th offense, it doesn’t matter when the other prior offenses happened. You face a Felony DUI—4th Offense. This is also a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a mandatory felony conviction on your record. For a 4th DUI, you face a lifetime revocation of your driver’s license.
What if my priors were in another state?
This could make a difference because, in order to use the priors against you, the state attorney must be able to produce certified convictions from the location where the other offenses took place. And rest assured we will not help them with this. We will not tell anyone you have priors. We will not tell them where they took place. And we certainly won’t just take their word for it.
I didn’t have an attorney for those other DUIs. Does that matter?
Possibly yes. If you have previously pled guilty to a DUI without counsel, and the record doesn’t show that you waived your right to counsel, it is possible that we can challenge the state’s ability to use those priors against you to enhance this charge to a felony. If we are successful in this challenge, the DUI will likely be reduced to a misdemeanor.
Many local criminal defense lawyers are not even aware of this issue and fail their clients by not even addressing the validity of prior convictions. This is a very common example of legal malpractice that we routinely see from some of our so-called DUI “experts.”
The case law is clear on this issue. In order for the State to use any prior convictions to enhance a DUI to a felony, the convictions must have been with counsel, or the record must demonstrate that the defendant validly waived counsel.
In order for the Defense to raise this issue, we must assert the following under oath:
- The offense was punishable by more than six months in jail or the defendant was actually imprisoned.
- The defendant was indigent and thus entitled to court-appointed counsel
- Counsel was not appointed
- The right to counsel was not waived
- If the Defendant sets forth these facts under oath, the burden shifts back to the State to show either that counsel was provided to the defendant, or that the defendant validly waived counsel.
If you qualify, we will file a motion in court demanding that the judge disqualifies any priors that don’t meet the criteria listed above. This could result in a prior conviction being excluded, which would require the charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor. This makes a huge difference in sentencing exposure and your future.
Having an Attorney With Felony Experience Is Important
Felony DUI charges in Fort Walton Beach and Destin is serious and complex. It is important to think about hiring a defense team with expertise in DUI cases as well as felony cases in general. Some of our so-called DUI experts in the Destin area run for the hills when the case is in felony court and will sell you out the first chance they get.
Finding the Right DUI Attorney
I hope the information on these DUI pages is helpful to you. The Law Offices of Robert A. Dees is ready to take your call and answer any questions that you have. We are ready to step in and defend you. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call us at 850-439-0999.
While no case has a guaranteed outcome, we have a reputation of successfully defending misdemeanor and felony DUI cases in Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Destin and throughout the tri-county area. If you are ready to put a professional team to work for you, contact The Law Offices of Robert A. Dees at 850-439-0999 for a free consultation.