Misdemeanor or Felony DUI
Not all criminal convictions are treated the same. A misdemeanor conviction is generally considered a minor crime, with prison time ranging from a maximum of one year to no prison time at all. A felony can result in years behind bars. Once a person is branded a felon, he/she may find it harder to get a job, be prevented from owning a firearm, and have other serious restrictions on his/her rights and privileges. Most DUI offenses are treated as misdemeanors. However, any DUI conviction will likely result in fines, fees, and long-term penalties.
First time charges for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is the most common DUI arrest. For most people, a DUI will be enough to keep them from drinking and driving again, considering the penalties can include jail time for up to 6 months, fines up to $1,000, a 6-month suspended license, DUI school, and possibly an interlock ignition device placed on your vehicle.
In some cases, a first DUI can be reduced down through a plea deal to a reckless driving charge, known as a “wet reckless.” This may involve probation, fines, and some type of DUI education, but it may help a driver avoid losing their driver’s license.
After a DUI conviction, some drivers will end up on the wrong side of a DUI arrest again. If the second DUI arrest comes more than 10 years after a prior DUI arrest, the second DUI arrest will effectively be treated similarly to the first DUI arrest. However, if the second DUI arrest occurs within the ‘look back’ period of 10 years, then the second DUI arrest may result in heavier penalties.
A second or third DUI is still generally considered a misdemeanor offense and will carry mandatory jail time of up to a year. Fines are increased, an ignition interlock device may be mandatory, and the driver’s license suspension period will be extended.
Fourth DUI is a Felony DUI
If a driver is arrested for a fourth DUI within ten years of the three other DUI arrests, the fourth DUI arrest will be treated as a felony. Even if a prior DUI arrest happened out of state, it may still count to add up to 3 prior DUIs or wet reckless convictions. The penalties associated with a felony repeat offender DUI can include up to four years in prison, thousands in fines and fees, revoking the driver’s license for four years, mandatory ignition interlock devices, extended DUI school, and the designation as a habitual offender.
Felony DUI Causing Death or Serious Bodily Injury
Having a DUI that involves a serious accident can also lead to felony charges. If a driver is over the legal limit and their driving involves some vehicle or criminal violation which causes bodily injury or death to another person, he/she may be charged with a felony DUI causing injury. It could also be charged as a misdemeanor, but it depends on a number of factors, including substance abuse or criminal history and the seriousness of the injury.
A driver may be charged with a DUI causing injury even if the person harmed is their own passenger or a pedestrian. Penalties for a felony DUI causing injury can include substance abuse education, minimum jail time, thousands in fines, and a suspended license.
Felony DUI Lawyer
With so much at stake in a felony DUI case, you need to make sure you have someone on your side to fight for you. Your felony may be reduced to a misdemeanor, or you could win your case and avoid a criminal record. Even a misdemeanor DUI conviction can have a major impact on your life. To minimize the effects of a DUI arrest, you should act fast and contact your DUI lawyer in less than 10 days after your arrest in order to keep your driver’s license and defend the criminal charges against you.