Although driving under the influence of alcohol is always a crime, some people are charged with felony DUI while others are charged only with a misdemeanor. While all DUI charges can result in severe consequences for the person accused, felony DUI carries especially strict penalties.
When a driver’s blood alcohol content is above .08, they are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Some jurisdictions consider the person’s blood alcohol content during indictment and sentencing. For instance, a driver whose blood alcohol content was .15 or higher at the time of their arrest would likely receive a harsher sentence than a driver whose BAC was .08 when they were arrested.
What is Felony DUI?
DUI charges are upgraded to felony charges to reflect the severity of the crime. People charged with felony DUI typically cause more dangerous and life-threatening situations than people who are charged with misdemeanor DUI.
Most cases of DUI result in misdemeanor charges. Felony DUI is usually reserved for people who are habitual offenders or for people who cause an accident or the death of another person.
Habitual DUI Offenders
37 states have laws making DUI charges more severe when a person has been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in the past. A person can generally be charged with a felony DUI if he or she has had three prior DUI convictions. Some states escalate DUI charges to felony charges with just two prior convictions.
30 states have laws that take into consideration the number of DUI convictions a person has had within a certain time period when determining felony DUI charges. If you live in one of these states and have had a DUI conviction within the past four years, for instance, you may be charged with felony DUI. Most of these states consider previous DUI convictions for five to 10 years, although some use previous convictions for up to 12 years.
Drivers charged with DUI may face felony charges in Idaho and Kentucky based upon their blood alcohol content.
People who have had a previous felony DUI conviction are usually charged with a felony on subsequent DUI arrests without consideration for how long ago the previous convictions were.
DUI with Injury
DUI laws in each state allow authorities to charge DUI first offenders with a misdemeanor, but even drivers who have never been convicted or charged with a DUI may be charged with a felony under certain circumstances. Drivers whose intoxication leads to an accident that damages property or harms or kills another person often face felony DUI charges.
Drivers who injure another person in a car accident while they are driving drunk may be charged with assault with a deadly weapon in some states, which is a felony, in addition to the DUI charge. People who cause the death of another person in an accident may be charged with a first or second class felony.
Felony DUI Penalties
Penalties for DUI charges are usually steep and include fines and jail time, but felony DUI charges are even more severe. People convicted of felony DUI face the following consequences:
- long prison sentences
- revocation of driver’s license
- mandatory drug and alcohol counseling and safe driving classes
- community service
- loss of certain rights including the right to vote and own firearms