In Jacksonville and throughout Florida, a DUI can be bumped from a misdemeanor crime to a felony crime if the offender has three prior misdemeanor DUI convictions. If the state prosecutors can prove that the person committed the fourth DUI after three prior misdemeanor DUI’s, that fourth DUI can be classified as felony DUI conviction, which carries greater penalties than a misdemeanor DUI conviction.
However, as a recent Florida criminal case illustrates, there is a speedy trial issue that can affect how and when the felony DUI can be prosecuted. When a person is charged with a misdemeanor crime, the state has 90 days to bring the case to trial. Failure to try the case within that time period means the misdemeanor charge must be dismissed. For felony crimes, the speedy trial period is 175 days.
How does this work in Florida when a DUI starts out as a misdemeanor and then the prosecutor bumps the charge up to a felony? Which speedy trial period applies? It depends on how the transition of the DUI charge from misdemeanor to felony is done. If the state dismisses, or nolle prosses, the misdemeanor DUI charge, the felony court has sole jurisdiction of the DUI charge and the 175 day speedy trial period applies. The same is true if the state files a motion to consolidate the misdemeanor DUI charge into the felony DUI charge. However, if the state merely transfers the case to the Circuit Court (the felony court) then the County Court (the misdemeanor court) keeps jurisdiction of the misdemeanor DUI charge, and the 90 day speedy trial period is still in effect for that charge. As a result, if the DUI case is not tried within 90 days, the misdemeanor DUI charge must be dismissed. Then, the felony DUI charge must also be dismissed because the felony DUI charge depends on a conviction of the current misdemeanor DUI charge, which is impossible since it has been dismissed in misdemeanor court.
If you have been arrested for DUI in the Jacksonville, Florida area and the state is considering upgrading the charge to a felony DUI, it is important that you and your attorney understand the time implications and make sure the state does everything right. If they do not, the state may lose their ability to pursue the DUI charges. If you have a question about a DUI arrest and any of the criminal procedures surrounding that arrest and the subsequent charges, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.