Is DUI A Felony Charge?
Most states classify a driving under the influence (DUI) charge (or driving while intoxicated – DWI) as a misdemeanor, especially if its a first time offense. However, and that’s a big however, there are several different scenarios that can increase the level of the charge to a felony. Being convicted of a misdemeanor DUI charge has considerably less penalties than if convicted for a felony DUI charge, which also carries more serious and longer lasting consequences. Since each state carries its own laws and conditions for what is considered a felony for driving while drunk, you should be check the laws and procedures in your state to be aware of what they are. As we mentioned before regarding there being several scenarios that can increase your misdemeanor charge to a felony – here are the top five situations that can dramatically impact a DUI case:
Prior DUI Convictions
Drivers that are charged with a DUI that have prior convictions, or multiple convictions for the offense within a specific period of time (typically within a certain number of years), will see their charges raised to felony DUI. The number of prior convictions and the time period from the prior offenses will typically be different from state to state, with some being much more stringent then others. A good example is with New York – if a person has only one prior conviction for a DUI or DWI crime within the past 10 years, their charges will be raised to felony DUI.
Getting a DUI While Driving on a Restricted, Suspended or Revoked License
If a driver is convicted of a DUI /DWI while their driver’s license has either been restricted, suspended or revoked, many states will typically make that a felony charge. A felony DUI charge can be punishable with serving time in prison, depending upon the state.
Causing Bodily Harm To Another Person
Some states raise a DUI/DWI charge to a felony if the driver causes bodily harm to another. In some cases, again depending upon the state that its in – prosecutors may have the ability to decide if they should try the DUI/ DWI case as a felony or misdemeanor if there is bodily injury involved. However, if another driver runs into an intoxicated driver that is stopped at a stop sign or red light and sustains bodily injury, then the intoxicated driver did not cause any bodily harm and the charges would remain a misdemeanor. Of course there are other circumstances to consider here, so lets move on…
High Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
The blood alcohol concentration, known as “BAC” is the percentage of alcohol that is in your blood. Every state currently has a .08 percent DUI rule in effect, which basically means that if a driver is caught and has a BAC level of .08 or more, that person can be considered under the influence of alcohol and charged accordingly.
Where this really comes into play is when the BAC exceeds certain levels that are elevated as set by state laws. If a driver is caught with a high BAC reading, typically at .16 percent – its more than likely that their charges will be increased to a felony. While not every state has this benchmark amount in effect with their laws, most states will increase the punishment and financial penalties for higher BAC levels.
Children in the Vehicle
For the safety of children and minors, several states have passed laws protecting them that make driving while under the influence or intoxicated with children in the vehicle a felony. To put this very simply – its bad enough to drive a vehicle when intoxicated, when there are children involved – there’s very little tolerance and a felony charge will usually be handed down.
How DUI Lawyers Alliance Can Help
If you, a friend or family member has been arrested for DUI or DWI and has felony charges against them – its in your best interests to have an experienced DUI defense attorney review your case and represent you. A felony DUI can have lasting consequences on your life (and career), which may include spending time in prison, significant financial penalties and many other issues. To connect with a DUI lawyer to have them review your case and discuss your possible legal options, click on one of the listings, or just use our contact form.