A DUI is a misdemeanor crime, but if it’s coupled with aggravating factors such as causing an accident that injures someone or driving with a child in the car, it can be elevated to a felony charge. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore all the different ways a DUI can become a felony and what you can expect if you’re convicted of one.
Table of Contents
Is A DUI A Felony Offense?
When it comes to DUI offenses, most first offenses are considered misdemeanors. This means that the punishments for a conviction usually involve fines, community service, and jail time in some cases. However, there are certain circumstances when a DUI can become a felony. For example, if you have prior convictions for drunk driving (especially if they were all misdemeanors), then you can be charged with a felony for a subsequent DUI offense. Additionally, if you cause serious injury or death to another person while driving under the influence, you will likely be charged with a felony. And in some states, if you are transporting a child under the age of 16 or have a particularly high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) when tested, you can also be charged with a felony. For most states, this may mean a BAC/BrAC level of ≥0.15.
If you are facing DUI charges, it is important to understand the severity of the offense and the potential penalties you may face. An experienced DUI attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and protect your rights.
Misdemeanor DUI VS. Felony DUI: Key Differences
A misdemeanor DUI is a less serious crime than a felony DUI. Misdemeanor DUIs typically result in fines, community service, and/or jail time. Felony DUIs, on the other hand, involve more serious penalties, such as longer prison sentences, higher fines, and mandatory alcohol education or rehabilitation programs.
Here are some key differences between misdemeanor and felony DUIs:
— Prior Convictions
When you get a DUI, it can be a misdemeanor or felony. The difference is how serious the crime is. A misdemeanor DUI might mean that you have to do some community service or go to jail for a little while. But if you get a felony DUI, you might have to go to prison for a long time and pay more money. Another difference is if you’ve gotten DUIs before. If you have prior convictions for DUI (especially if they were all misdemeanors), then you can be charged with a felony for a subsequent DUI offense.
— Bodily Harm
Misdemeanor DUIs are less serious than felony DUIs when it comes to bodily harm. For misdemeanors, bodily harm is when the DUI driver causes an injury to another person, but the injury is not serious. A felony DUI charge is when the DUI driver’s actions cause serious bodily harm or death to another person. In either situation, the consequences can include restitution for the victim, thousands of dollars in fines, and several years of imprisonment.
— Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
In most states, a BAC level of 0.08% will result in a misdemeanor DUI. A felony DUI occurs when your blood alcohol level is higher than that or when you have certain aggravating factors, such as causing an accident that causes serious injuries to another driver.
— Driving On A Suspended License
When you’re convicted of a DUI, one of the potential penalties is losing your driver’s license. If you’re caught driving while your license is suspended, that can lead to additional criminal charges, which can quickly turn your misdemeanor DUI into a felony DUI.
The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony DUI when it comes to driving on a suspended license is the severity of the punishment. A misdemeanor conviction carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. A felony conviction, on the other hand, can carry a sentence of up to 5 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.
If you’re convicted of a felony DUI for operating a motor vehicle on a suspended license, you’ll likely face additional penalties such as community service and probation. You may also be ordered to install an ignition interlock device on your car.
— Damage To Property
When it comes to damage to property, there is a big distinction between misdemeanor DUI and felony DUI. A misdemeanor DUI charge will only apply if the damage is relatively minor, such as a broken window or a dented car. If the damage is more severe, then the charge will be elevated to felony DUI. For example, if you injure someone with your car while driving under the influence or cause significant damage to someone’s property, you will be charged with felony DUI.
— Child Endangerment
A DUI can become a felony charge when it involves child endangerment. This means that the driver was very careless when driving with children in the car. The punishment for this type of felony DUI will be more severe than for a regular DUI. The driver will likely face jail time, forfeiture of their driving privileges, and high fines.
One difference between misdemeanors and felonies is the severity of the criminal penalties. For a misdemeanor DUI, you might have to pay some fines, do some community service, or go to jail for a little while. But for a felony DUI, you might have to go to prison for a longer time, pay higher fines, and attend mandatory alcohol treatment or rehabilitation programs. Another difference is if you’ve been convicted of a DUI or related offenses before. Prosecutors often issue harsher punishments for repeat offenders, as they want to send a message that driving under the influence is not tolerated.
Blood Alcohol Content By State
It’s no secret that drinking and driving are a dangerous combination. However, many people don’t realize how drunk they have to be before they can be charged with a DUI. In all states, it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. But what does that mean in terms of actual numbers? And how do the laws vary from state to state?
In the chart below, we explain the different BAC levels by state. “Per Se” BAC is the level at which you are automatically considered intoxicated, regardless of how well you seem to be functioning. “Zero Tolerance” BAC is the level at which underage drivers are considered intoxicated. Enhanced Penalty BAC is the level at which penalties for a DUI are increased, typically because of a high BAC or other aggravating factors. It’s important to note that all states have the “implied consent” law. This means that your consent to a BAC test can be given by your actions or inactions and does not need to be expressly granted.
Differences Between DUI And DWI
DUI (driving under the influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) are criminal charges related to impaired driving. However, there are some key distinctions between the two:
– DUI applies when a driver is driving under the influence of alcohol, while DWI applies when a driver is intoxicated or impaired. The impairment could be caused by alcohol, drugs, sleepiness, or other factors.
– DUI is a misdemeanor charge, while DWI can be a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the circumstances.
– DUI carries lighter penalties than DWI
In states like Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan, these driving offenses are tried as OWI (Operating While Intoxicated), whereas Massachusetts and Maine try these offenses as OUI (Operating Under The Influence).
Potential consequences of a DUI or DWI conviction include a short jail sentence, fines, driver’s license revocation, and the installation of an ignition interlock device.
Penalties For A DUI Conviction
A DUI conviction can carry a number of severe penalties, including jail time, fines, and the loss of driving privileges. In some DUI cases, a DUI can even be elevated to a felony charge. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore all the different possible penalties for a DUI conviction.
— Jail Time
One of the most common penalties for a DUI conviction is jail time. The amount of time you’ll spend in jail will vary depending on the severity of your offense and your state’s laws. For example, in California, first-time offenders typically serve between 48 hours and six months in jail, while repeat offenders can serve up to 1 year. However, there are some states where you could face up to 10 years in prison for a felony DUI conviction.
Along with jail time, you may also have to pay hefty fines for your DUI conviction. The amount of money you’ll owe will depend on the severity of your offense and your state’s laws. Fines for a misdemeanor DUI typically range from $500-$1,000, while fines for a felony DUI can be as high as $5,000 or more.
— Driver’s License Suspension/Revocation
In addition to jail time and fines, a DUI conviction can also lead to the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. The length of time your license will be suspended will depend on the severity of your offense and your state’s laws. For example, in California, first-time offenders typically have their licenses suspended for 4-6 months, while repeat offenders can have their licenses suspended for up to 2 years.
— Installation Of An Ignition Interlock Device
In some states, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle if you’re convicted of a DUI. An IID is a breathalyzer-type device that prevents your car from starting if it detects alcohol on your breath. The length of time you’ll have to keep the IID installed will depend on the severity of your offense and your state’s laws.
— GPS Ankle Monitor
In some states, you may be required to wear a GPS ankle monitor (SCRAM bracelet) if you’re convicted of a DUI. A GPS ankle monitor is a device that tracks your location and sends alerts if you venture into areas where you’re not supposed to be. The length of time you’ll have to wear the ankle monitor will depend on the severity of your offense and your state’s laws.
The Bottom Line
A DUI can turn into a felony under certain circumstances, such as when the driver causes an accident that injures someone or when there is a child in the car. In addition to jail time, fines, and the loss of driving privileges, you may also be required to install an ignition interlock device or wear a GPS ankle monitor. If you’re convicted of a DUI, make sure you understand the potential consequences and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your options.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a DUI stay on your record?
A DUI stays on your record for a number of years, depending on the severity of your offense and your state’s laws. For example, in California, a misdemeanor DUI stays on your record for ten years, while a felony DUI stays on your record for life. However, some states allow you to petition to have the conviction removed from your record after a certain amount of time has passed. Speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn more about how long a DUI will stay on your record in your state.
What does it cost to hire a DUI attorney?
Many DUI attorneys and law firms offer free consultations, so it’s important to speak with more than one defense lawyer to get an idea of what the average cost is. In general, most DUI attorneys charge around $200-$1,000 for their services, but the cost can vary depending on the severity of your case and how much work the attorney will have to do. It’s important to remember that you should never hire an attorney who charges more than you can afford. Speak with several attorneys and choose one who is within your budget and offers you the best chance of success.
In addition to legal fees, you should also expect to pay court fees, penalties, increased insurance premiums, and DMV fees.
Can I still vote if I’m convicted of a felony DUI?
You may be able to vote if you’re convicted of a felony DUI, but this varies from state to state. In some states, felons are not allowed to vote, while in others, they are allowed to vote after completing their sentence. It’s important to speak with an attorney in your state to learn more about your voting rights.
How much do car insurance rates go up after a DUI?
Car insurance rates typically go up after a DUI. The amount your rates will increase depends on a number of factors, including your age, the severity of your DUI, and your state’s laws. In most cases, rates will increase by at least 100%, and some states have laws that mandate car insurance companies raise rates by much more than that. It’s important to shop around for car insurance after a DUI to find the best rate possible.
How long does a DUI stay on your insurance record?
A DUI will stay on your insurance record for up to 3-5 years. Many insurance companies will increase your rates when they see a DUI on your record, and some may even drop you from their coverage.
Do I need SR-22 insurance after a DUI conviction?
SR-22 insurance is a type of high-risk car insurance that is required in some states after a DUI conviction. It is designed to ensure that you are able to maintain car insurance coverage and meets the minimum requirements of your state’s laws. Speak with a DUI lawyer in your state to learn more about whether or not you will need SR-22 insurance after a DUI conviction.