There are two ways in which a DUI charge can be elevated to a felony offense in West Palm Beach. They both deal with the frequency of an individual’s convictions. The time between convictions and the number of charges a person has will determine the severity of their DUI charge.
To help defend against any potential penalties that may result from the charge, it is imperative to consult with a West Palm Beach DUI attorney as soon as possible. A knowledgeable felony DUI lawyer in West Palm Beach can build a defense to help lessen any potential consequences.
Elevation to a Felony
The first way an individual can receive a felony DUI charge is if they receive three offenses, with the last offense occurring within 10 years of a prior offense. That third offense is then eligible to be elevated to a felony offense. Officers would use an individual’s conviction records to determine this. The person’s driver’s license would then suffer penalties. Further, any out-of-state convictions would have to be proven in court.
The other way a DUI can be elevated to a felony offense in Florida if it is a person’s fourth lifetime offense, regardless of how spread apart their three previous crimes were. A fourth DUI offense in West Palm Beach is considered a felony punishable by up to five years, as long as no one was injured or hurt in any type of accident. A DUI causing serious bodily injury or death is a felony offense regardless if there are any prior offenses or not. No matter the charge, an individual can defend against the court with the assistance of a West Palm Beach felony DUI attorney.
Hearing of the Case
The big differences between a felony DUI and a misdemeanor DUI is that in a felony DUI, besides proving a DUI, the person’s prior record must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Otherwise, a DUI is a DUI and the difference between a misdemeanor DUI and a felony DUI, without any injury or death, would be the person’s prior record.
A felony is heard in a different courtroom and is held in the circuit court, which is a higher authority than a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are held in a county court. The circuit court is where the more serious crimes are dealt with.
A fourth felony DUI will be treated more seriously than a misdemeanor, but as far as the process goes, the same rules of evidence apply. The elements of the crime that must be proven are the same. In preparing a defense for a felony charge, a knowledgeable West Palm Beach felony DUI lawyer is looking to see whether or not there are any prior offenses. If there were, an attorney will determine where they occurred and whether or not they can be proven.
Proving a Prior Offense
Prior offenses that occurred in Florida are easier for the government to prove than out-of-state convictions. This is because different states have different methods of keeping records. It is more difficult for the state of Florida to find out-of-state convictions and then produce proof of those convictions.
A felony DUI attorney in West Palm Beach will want to ascertain from their client if they have any prior DUIs, if so, and how many. A lawyer will determine whether or not it will be easier or harder for the government to find them. The answers that the client gives an attorney is confidential.
A seasoned felony DUI lawyer in West Palm Beach will disclose to their clients that they can only protect them from what they know about, but not from what they do not know about. With the right knowledge, a lawyer can help to ensure protection on behalf of their client.