How to Know When is a DUI Charge a Felony or Misdemeanor?

Is a DUI a Felony?
A felony DUI conviction can likely require jail-time of more than one year, even for a 1st offense.

There are a number of factors about getting charged with a DUI or DWI offense that can upgrade a standard DUI misdemeanor charge to a far more serious felony DUI offense. Depending on the details of the arrest such as the what the blood alcohol content (BAC) was on the breath or blood test, and whether there was an accident with injury or property damage involved, this will help determine when a DUI is a felony or not.

Other details that will be just as crucial in whether the offense stay a misdemeanor or is upgraded to a felony driving under the influence offense, will be the number of times a driver has been arrested or convicted of DUI, whether a person was driving on a suspended or revoked license, or did not have car insurance. Regardless of whether the charges are for a misdemeanor or felony, both DUI/DWI related offense convictions will share many of the same high costs and penalties such as having a car impounded, and pay all the cost of the towing and storage fees. Under what the new laws are in most states, most drivers of either type of offense will now also have to get an Ignition Interlock device installed to be able to legally drive again, along with being required to pay a monetary fee and additional cost to get a driver’s license back after the suspension period is over. In DUI and DWI arrests when a driver’s blood alcohol content level is far over the legal limit of 0.08 BAC, it is not uncommon for even a 1st time offense to be upgraded a felony charge. The severe cost of any conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol, Marijuana, illegal drugs or even prescribed medicine can result in additional fines and/or jail time and longer driver’s license suspensions time periods of up to 5 years. This is because in every state it is illegal for anyone to commit an offense of operating a vehicle, boat, bicycle, machinery, aircraft or train equipment:

  • After having consumed an amount of alcohol that causes the driver’s blood alcohol content level to be over the legal BAC limit of .08 or
  • While a person’s ability to drive or control the vehicle is affected by Marijuana, illegal drugs, or some prescription medications.

How to Find Out If a DUI or DWI Offense is a Felony

The circumstances of what happened and the details of the DUI arrest, is how to determine if the offense is a felony, or a less serious misdemeanor. However it is important to realize that both still will carry very expensive and serious penalties upon a conviction of either type of charge. A felony DUI conviction for example, can likely require jail-time of more than one year, even for a 1st offense. When a driver has any type of felony conviction on their criminal record, it will have devastating consequences which will linger much longer that than any initial jail, Ignition Interlock, or license suspension penalties. This is because a conviction of a DUI or DWI charge that is a felony offense, will affect a driver’s future as far as getting a job, travel to other countries, the right to own a firearm, obtain certain types of licenses for employment duties, and can even be denied rent for housing with a felony being found on a standard background check. As mentioned previously, based upon the arrest and case details, the prosecution will decide to prosecute a driving under the influence charge case in one of two ways:

  • A standard misdemeanor charge.
  • Or an upgraded felony offense.

The standard misdemeanor DUI offense is a charge that carries a penalty of a fine of up to $1,700 on average for a first-time offense, and 10 to 90 days jail-time to serve. This will also include other additional costs and requirements such as having to install an Ignition Interlock device, and still having a driver’s license suspended for a period of time. A DUI or DWI felony offense, the costs & penalties are far more severe. The prosecution has a lot of discretion on how to charge a person with DUI based upon the police report and other evidence that was collected. What this means is that whoever the prosecuting attorney is, will be a major factor for how they decide to proceed with a case against a driver. Based upon how strong they feel the case is, the prosecution lawyer might choose to pursue the charges for a more common misdemeanor conviction, or go for the far more serious offense of a felony DUI conviction.

What Evidence is Used to Decide Charging a Driver With a DUI?

There is a variety of factors and different evidence for what is used by the arresting police officer, and later by the prosecutor attorney to decide how a person will be charged with DUI for either a misdemeanor or possibly a felony. Regardless of which type of offense a driver gets arrested and charged for, what all driving under the influence arrests have in common is first determined by the actions or perceived condition of a driver during the traffic stop which will include these 9 common factors:

  1. Slurred speech.
  2. Blood shot eyes.
  3. Glassy or glossy red eyes.
  4. Trouble being able to walk in a straight line.
  5. Difficulty balancing.
  6. Eyes with dilated pupils.
  7. A face with a red or flushed color.
  8. Performed poorly on the roadside field sobriety tests.
  9. Failed the Breathalyzer or blood test.

How Can I Know What are the Consequences & Penalties to Expect of a Misdemeanor or Felony DUI Offense Conviction?

When a driver has been arrested with for DUI or DWI by either failing the breath test, sleeping in a parked car, or even reusing to take the tests entirely, that person will be facing the following 5 common penalties that both a felony & misdemeanor offense share upon a conviction or guilty plea of the charges:

1. When a driver is convicted of a 1st DUI offense: a minimum fine of $1,700 on average; a minimum 5 months suspended driver’s license time period; in most states now a person will also have to get and install a car Breathalyzer Ignition Interlock device after they get a license back.

2. For a second offense DUI or DWI: a minimum jail sentence of 10 days to 1 year is the average range for jail time; a minimum driver’s license suspension period of at least 2 years; and an Ignition Interlock will be required for a period of time of at least 1 year.

3. After a 3rd DUI – it will usually be a felony offense: a minimum jail sentence of 6 months to 2 years is likely; a driving license will be suspended for at least 3 years; and in some cases an Ignition Interlock device will be required for several years to life in order to still legally drive.

4. Driving under the influence with an extremely high BAC: The prosecution attorney may very well consider the DUI or DWI case a felony with far more severe consequences for a driver that tested for a blood alcohol level far above the legal .08 BAC limit. This is another reason why every DUI arrest needs to be professionally reviewed free and online with us as soon as possible, so valuable time is not lost and a proper defense can be made to fight the charges successfully in court.

5. With what the new misdemeanor and felony laws for DUI are now in every state, nearly every driver who enters a guilty plea or gets convicted for a driving under the influence offense – must put an Ignition Interlock device in their car their license is given back and the suspension time period ends. How this car Breathalyzer machine works, is before a driver can start the vehicle, they must blow into the Interlock device and pass the preset alcohol BAC limit of the machine. When any amount of alcohol is detected on a driver’s breath, the car will not start and the failure will be recorded. It is also important to mention, that many of the newer Interlock device now also come with a mounted camera installed on them, to help verify the driver’s identity and that someone else is not blowing into the car Breathalyzer Ignition Interlock machine.

How to Defend Against a Felony DUI Charge?

No matter if it for a misdemeanor or far more serious felony offense for a DUI charge, we can help fight the results of the collected breath or blood test results, as well as other facts such as the reason why a driver was stopped or pulled over in the first place. There are always a number of valid ways how to defend against the charges and win for a case dismissal, which will always come down to events of what exactly happened during each person’s unique arrest circumstances.

How we do this is, after a driver submits their arrest details online to us, we carefully review and analyze all the information for defenses such as any possible violation of a driver’s rights which could potentially result in getting even felony DUI charges getting dismissed in court. Some of the most important facts about the details will include:

  • Was there another valid reason for why an officer thought a person was driving erratically or swerving?
  • If the prosecution have any witnesses against a driver, how reliable are they?
  • Is there enough reasonable evidence to prove a driver was over the legal alcohol limit at the exact time they were driving or pulled over?
  • Was a driver’s rights violated at any point by police either at the traffic stop itself, or the DUI tests afterwards?