The Denson Firm

Fighting a Third DUI Conviction in Florida

A third DUI conviction in Florida is no trivial matter. If you’ve been charged with a third DUI offense, the prosecutor has determined that you have two previous convictions for DUI.

The penalties for a third or subsequent DUI offense in Florida are often stiff, and an overzealous prosecutor may be eager to throw the book at what they perceive as a repeat DUI offender.

Any DUI charge should be taken seriously, and this is especially true for a third DUI charge. You might be sentenced to jail or hit with significant fines, and your license could also be restricted for up to ten years. The law even permits the state to impound your vehicle for up to 90 days, potentially impairing your ability to get to work and care for your family.

Just because you've been charged with DUI doesn't mean you're guilty. The State of Florida must still prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

You may have one or more defenses to combat these charges. An experienced DUI attorney is often needed to identify these defenses and effectively raise them.

Florida Penalties for a Third DUI

You may be wondering, “Is a third DUI a felony?” The short answer is that it depends.

Felonies are more serious offenses than misdemeanors and can carry more severe collateral consequences. Your driving privileges and reputation can be impacted more severely than if you were convicted of a misdemeanor.

If you receive a third DUI conviction in Florida, it’s because you’ve previously been convicted of a DUI on two separate occasions. The date of these previous convictions will determine whether your third offense DUI is a felony or misdemeanor.

If both previous convictions occurred more than ten years ago, your third DUI conviction would be ruled a first-degree misdemeanor. But if at least one of your convictions occurred within the past ten years, your third DUI conviction in Florida would be a third-degree felony.

Another question you may have is, "For the third conviction of DUI, what is the penalty?" A third conviction of DUI is punishable by various criminal and administrative penalties.

Criminal Penalties

If you're guilty of a third DUI offense and your conviction is classified as a misdemeanor, you could face up to 12 months in jail.

If it's ruled a felony due to another prior conviction within the last ten years, you could face up to five years in a state correctional facility. You may also face a minimum sentence of 30 days imprisonment for a felony offense.

You could also be fined between $1,000 and $2,500 in a third DUI misdemeanor case. The potential fines increase to between $2,500 and $5,000 in felony cases.

Administrative Penalties

Your driver's license may be suspended for ten years if you're convicted of a third DUI felony. You can apply for your license reinstated after two years, provided you complete a DUI school program, remain sober for 12 months, and refrain from operating any vehicle.

You’d need to enter and remain in a DUI supervision program for the remainder of the revocation period to maintain your hardship reinstatement. Once your driving privileges are reinstated, you’ll be required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for two years.

Some administrative penalties might take effect before your criminal DUI charge has been proven. To avoid these penalties, you must take prompt action within the first couple of weeks by requesting a hearing with the state.

Other Consequences of a Third DUI Conviction

If your third DUI offense is a felony, your vehicle will be impounded and immobilized for 90 days as a condition of any probation you receive. This 90-day period would not begin until you’ve been released from jail or prison. However, this condition can be waived when it’s determined that the impoundment or immobilization would create an undue hardship for your business or family.

Can You Avoid Jail Time After Third DUI?

This is a question that many drivers find themselves asking before or following a third DUI incident.

It's especially pressing if you've been detained for a third DUI conviction within ten years of a previous conviction. If your third DUI is charged as a misdemeanor, you may be able to avoid serving any jail time, and Florida law doesn't require any minimum jail sentence for a third DUI misdemeanor conviction.

It's a different story with a third DUI felony. In this case, the law mandates a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail, and at least 48 hours of that sentence must be served consecutively.

What Are the Common Defenses for a Third DUI?

Can you beat a third DUI in Florida? The answer is yes, but it may not be easy.

You and your DUI legal defense team would need to review all aspects of your case carefully. This includes the traffic stop, the roadside investigation, your arrest, and any subsequent testing completed at the scene or police headquarters.

Attacking the Officer’s DUI Investigation

First, law enforcement officers need a valid reason to stop your vehicle.

Officers frequently stop vehicles that violate traffic laws or perform unsafe maneuvers on the road. If an officer doesn’t have grounds to stop you, though, an attorney could get your DUI charge dismissed outright.

For example, an officer who observes you turning without your turn signal is legally permitted to stop you. However, they cannot pull you over just because they see you leave the vicinity of a bar or a liquor store, nor can they stop you just because they have a hunch that you might be under the influence.

Second, an officer needs probable cause to arrest you for a DUI, requiring objective evidence that gives them a reason to believe you might be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, and failed field sobriety tests can give an officer probable cause to arrest you.

If an officer arrests you for DUI without probable cause, any information or evidence obtained after the DUI arrest may be suppressed. This can deprive the prosecutor of evidence crucial for prosecuting your case and could lead to a dismissal of the case.

Attacking the State’s Evidence in a DUI Case

Third, defects or irregularities in any of the tests administered to you can lead to the test results being suppressed.

Evidence may show that the officer failed to follow proper protocols when administering the field sobriety tests, or it may come to light that the breath testing machine wasn’t properly calibrated or verified when you took your breath test.

These irregularities render the results of those tests unreliable and, therefore, inadmissible in court. This prevents the prosecutor from using them in their case against you. While this doesn't mean your DUI case is dismissed automatically, it can make it much more difficult for the prosecutor to secure a successful conviction.

Other Potential Defenses

Finally, issues relating to your prior DUI convictions may prevent them from being used to elevate your current charges to a third DUI. If there's inadequate documentation of your previous convictions, the prosecutor may have no choice but to reduce your offense to a second or even a first-time DUI.

If you didn't have the benefit of legal counsel in your prior DUI cases, this, too, might present an issue for the prosecutor. You might have pleaded guilty or been found guilty of DUI in the past, even though your right to an attorney was not sufficiently explained to you.

In this situation, the prosecutor may not be able to rely on the prior conviction in your present case. While this may not be enough to defeat your current DUI charge on its own, it could reduce your charge's severity.

A DUI Defense Strategy Should Look at All Aspects of Your Case

In light of these facts, a thorough third DUI defense must examine all aspects of the prosecution’s case against you.

The officer's experience and training history should be reviewed for deficiencies, especially if they failed to meet continuing education requirements or maintain proficiency. Embellished or inaccurate observations on the part of the arresting officer will pose significant challenges for a prosecutor.

Even scientific evidence, like breath or blood test results, should be scrutinized. Even the most technologically advanced instruments are of little use if they're not used in the prescribed manner. In the same way, a device may not produce a reliable result when used by an individual who lacks the proper training.

Hiring a Third DUI Attorney in Florida

It’s a good idea to hire a Florida DUI attorney as soon as possible following your arrest.

Intoxicated driving cases can be deceivingly complicated, and many proceed rather quickly through the criminal justice system. This means you may not have much time to take the appropriate investigative steps and mount a successful defense.

A skilled DUI defense attorney can carefully review the arresting officer's report and any video footage of your stop and arrest to ensure that it doesn't contain any fabrications or exaggerations. They'll also obtain the credentials of the officer or the person who conducted your blood or breath test to verify that they were adequately trained and followed appropriate protocols.

Scientific Evidence

If breath or blood testing was carried out in your case, your attorney could obtain documents to show whether your sample was obtained, stored, and tested correctly. These records can also indicate whether the machines used to test your model have been maintained and calibrated according to applicable standards.

Not just any attorney is qualified to handle your third DUI case, though.

To get the most benefit from your representation, you should look for an attorney with years of experience successfully representing DUI clients in Florida. They should make it a point to keep abreast of changes in the laws and be familiar with the testing protocols and training that law enforcement officers receive.

Contact Your Pinellas County DUI Defense Attorney Right Away

Attorney Bruce Denson of The Denson Firm has represented drivers charged with DUI in Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay area since 1998.

His previous experience as a prosecutor provides him with unique insight into how the prosecutor handling your third DUI charge will proceed with your case. He also knows how to evaluate the prosecution's evidence to determine the best defense available to you.

If you’re facing a third DUI charge in Pinellas County, contact The Denson Firm for professional and experienced assistance.

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