Driving under the influence (DUI), offenses are categorized as either a felony or misdemeanor charges. Across the United States, it is illegal for drivers to have blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher when driving a motor vehicle. This applies no matter if the vehicle is car, motorcycle or boat. Consequences for misdemeanor convictions are less harsh than punishments for felonies. Misdemeanors are punishable by a fine or incarceration for less than a year in county jail. However, specific offenses and individual jurisdictions are significant factors. In difference, felony convictions usually lead to stricter punishments. Some types of felony offenses may stipulate much heftier fines as opposed to misdemeanors and may carry a sentence of a year or more in prison. Here are some common circumstances that could result in a felony DUI charge.
Some states will raise a DUI charge to a felony if a driver causes bodily harm to another. Even a first time conviction can cause a person to be charged with vehicular assault. If someone happens to perish as a result of the drunken driver incident, the driver at fault will usually be charged with vehicular manslaughter or in some cases vehicular homicide which carries a very stiff sentence if the culprit is convicted.
Elevated Blood Alcohol Concentration
If a driver has a BAC of .08 or above, the state can assume that person is intoxicated in violation of the statute. In addition, states will normally raise a drunken driving charge to a felony if chemical tests reveal that the driver’s BAC exceeds a certain level set by law, usually around .16 percent. This law is not imposed in every state but at the least, states generally impose a harsher punishment for a high BAC.
A person may be charged with a felony DUI if they have had prior convictions within a specified period of time. This differs by states but DUI is commonly raised to a felony on the fourth conviction. In some states, even a second or third arrest for this infraction may be charged as a felony. For example, some states such as New York will charge individuals with felony DUI if he or she has only one prior conviction for any driving under the influence crime within the past 10 year.
Children in the Vehicle
Most states have passed laws that make driving under the influence in a vehicle with children as passengers a felony. This applies whether a person has had any prior DUI convictions or not. The age requirements are for children 15 years or younger but in some states it may vary.
DUI while Driving with a License Infraction
Most states make a driving under the influence offense a felony if it happens while a driver had a restricted, suspended or revoked license. First time offenders are usually given a large fine. However, in the state of Illinois, this type of crime is a Class 4 felony punishable by one to three years in prison.
Being convicted of a felony impacts a person’s life in so many negative ways. Convicted felons have problems with finding suitable employment. They lose their right to vote, owning a gun and serving in the military. Having a designated driver or finding some other form of transportation after drinking can save individuals money, freedom and possibly their life.