If the police apprehend you for a DUI, the penalties and repercussions you face differ significantly based on the offense category. In many states, DUI, especially for a first-time charge, is a misdemeanor. Nonetheless, some circumstances cause DUI charges to heighten to a felony. This blog explores the variance between a misdemeanor and felony DUI and the factors that distinguish the two.
What Makes a Misdemeanor and Felony DUI Different?
The main factors differentiating misdemeanor from felony DUIs are the circumstances around your apprehension and the associated penalties.
If you have a low blood alcohol content and were in an accident with no casualties, you will likely face a misdemeanor charge. Also, most states consider the first three counts of DUI as misdemeanors. On the flip side, if you caused an accident with injured parties or are on your fourth count of DUI, you will most likely face felony charges.
Misdemeanors usually attract a lower amount in fines and a shorter jail term, usually less than a year. Other penalties include:
- Compulsory community service
- Compensation for personal injuries or property damage
- Probation of three to five years
- A fine of $1000 or less
- DUI court program or mandatory alcohol classes
Conversely, felonies attract larger fines of thousands to tens of thousands of dollars or jail periods of more than a year. Also, if you face a license suspension, the waiting period for a felony DUI is longer than a misdemeanor. Finally, misdemeanors attract other restrictions and penalties like:
- Difficulties with employment opportunities
- Denial of a gun license
- Revocation of professional license and voting rights
- Loss of access to public housing services
- Mandatory alcohol treatment
What Are Factors That Escalate Misdemeanors DUIs to Felonies?
Convictions of DUI charges appear on your background checks and driving records. Sometimes, you will have to pay higher insurance or lose your insurance. Often, DUI felonies attract stricter penalties. If you, unfortunately, face one or more of the situations below, your DUI misdemeanor can escalate to a felony.
You Have Caused Physical Harm
Sometimes, the police can apprehend you for DUI if you were part of an accident where someone died or got injuries. However, you only get a felony charge if you are the at-fault party in the accident. You can still face misdemeanor charges if the other party caused the accident.
Your Car Has an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
You cannot start your car if you have an IID unless you have fresh breath, free of alcohol. Nonetheless, some people use someone else’s breath to start the vehicle. If the officer arrests you for a DUI and your car has an IID, the charge can intensify to a felony.
You Have Multiple Offences
Other than a DUI, the police may apprehend you for other crimes. If you commit more than one offense, your DUI charge elevates to a felony.
Your Vehicle Had Minor Passengers
If you have a minor in your vehicle and you are drunk, you face two charges: child endangerment and DUI. The DUI in such a scenario becomes a felony because a child’s life is at stake, especially if the child is under 15.
Your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is More Than the Minimum Level
The maximum alcohol content you should have to drive without DUI charges is 0.08%. The percentage varies based on the state, but exceeding the state-required level often escalates DUI to a felony. Besides, a higher BAC increases the likelihood that you will cause an accident. As a general directive, the higher the BAC content, the more severe the penalties.
Although misdemeanor DUIs often have lower consequences, they are usually stressful. In addition, you put much at stake if you walk into a hearing or trial without legal representation. So, contact us at Daniels, Long & Pinsel, LLC. Our lawyers are ready and highly qualified to represent you in court whenever you face DUI charges.