DUIs are common. When you drink and drive, you don't know if you're going to get caught. Many people have gotten caught over the years. In most states, a DUI is a misdemeanor and can be punishable by time in jail or fines, or both. However, it is possible for there to be consequences that are more severe than what you would expect with a DUI.
So, how to know when a DUI becomes a felony? A DUI or driving under the influence is considered a misdemeanor if it is your first offense and if you didn’t cause any severe injuries, death, or property damage. In every other case, it can easily become a felony. If you find yourself in such a misfortunate event, it’s strongly advised to hire an experienced DUI attorney. Otherwise, you may face serious consequences.
A felony, simply put, is a crime with severe penalties or one whose punishment can include imprisonment for more than one year. So, continue reading and find more information about it, you never know when you’ll need it.
Difference between misdemeanor and felony
There are many differences between a misdemeanor and a felony, but the most important is that misdemeanors are generally less serious than felonies. Misdemeanors are generally less severe than felonies and many of them can be handled in civil court rather than criminal court.
While the terms are often used interchangeably, there are key differences in what defines a misdemeanor versus a felony.
When a DUI becomes a felony?
A DUI can become a felony in many different ways. Here are the 8 most common ways when a DUI becomes a felony:
DUI accident resulting in serious bodily injury
If you are convicted of a DUI and cause an accident that results in serious bodily injury to another person, you could face felony charges. This is true even if you were not driving at the time of the accident, but were legally intoxicated when you were arrested for your DUI offense.
A felony charge could mean longer jail time than what would normally be given for a misdemeanor conviction, as well as additional fines and fees that need to be paid out to cover costs associated with prosecuting and trying your case.
DUI accident resulting in death
If you are arrested for a DUI and the circumstances are such that you caused an accident resulting in death, then your charge will be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony. This is because of the severity of the crime and the damage it can cause to others.
If you are convicted of this charge, then you could face up to 10 years in prison, as well as fines and community service. That’s why it’s crucial to contact a DUI attorney.
Driving with a suspended license
If you were arrested for driving with a suspended license, this is considered a crime. The penalty for this charge is usually between 1 and 5 years in prison depending on the severity of your case. As an example, if you have been convicted of several DUIs within the last 10 years, this would be considered a felony.
Your license can be revoked for up to one year if you have a first-time offense, or two years if it's your second time within five years. If your license has been revoked for more than three years, then you'll need to apply for a new driver's license and take all of the tests again (which can include a drug test).
Prior DUI felony conviction
If you have had a prior DUI felony conviction, then any subsequent DUI charge will be a felony, and can be charged with a felony and faces up to four years in prison.
For example, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor DUI and sentenced to probation, you could receive another misdemeanor DUI without it being reclassified as a felony. However, if you were convicted of misdemeanor DUIs and then received a felony for your third offense, then any subsequent DUIs will be charged as felonies.
A 4th DUI charge within 10 years
If you are convicted of a 4th DUI charge within 10 years, your charges can be raised to a felony. A felony will stay on your record forever and can make it difficult to find employment, get loans and housing, or even purchase firearms.
When a DUI becomes a felony is when the driver has a child in the car, or if they have a prior conviction. If you are convicted of driving under the influence and there was a child in the car at the time, then you will be charged with child endangerment. This charge is considered a felony and can result in up to 3 years in prison and/or up-to $15,000 in fines.
DUI while operating a school bus
This is an extremely sensitive topic. The legal definition of "operating" includes being in control of the vehicle or having physical control over it. This means that even if you weren't actually driving when you were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), there may still be grounds for charging you with a felony and you may face 5 years in prison, or even more.
Separate criminal charges
In general, if you have no prior convictions, your first offense will likely be considered a misdemeanor. If you have been convicted of a DUI before, this one will likely be considered a felony.
The most important thing to know is that even if you are arrested for a felony DUI, it doesn't mean that you will be convicted of one. Apply the suggestions in this article and you will have a better outcome as long as there are no aggravating circumstances.