What is a DUI
A DUI is normally a misdemeanor charge handed to anyone driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol. In most cases, a DUI will be classified as a misdemeanor, but there are many instances where the charge can be elevated to a felony.
The are several key differences between a DUI felony versus a misdemeanor. We’ll go over some factors that could change the severity of your charge, and how it impacts your fines and sentencing.
Felony Vs. Misdemeanor
Most DUI charges will be misdemeanors. The maximum charge for a misdemeanor is around $1,000 with up to a year in jail, but this may change by state. However, most DUI charges won’t be this extreme unless there are other contributing factors. For example, the more charges you receive, the higher the fines and jail sentences.
Most states also have a “washout” or “look-back” period for DUI offenses. In other words, the court may not look at a previous DUI charge that’s five to 15 years old. Otherwise, if you have a more recent conviction, a court will consider it when looking into sentencing.
In most cases, if you have two or more active DUI convictions, it could easily move up to a felony charge. If you already have two DUI charges, chances are your third will likely be a felony charge.
A DUI felony charge will have several mandatory requirements, including:
- Heavier fines and jail time
- Losing driving privileges (either permanently or temporarily)
- Losing the right to own a weapon
- Revoking custody and visitation privileges
We’ll go over some factors that will impact whether your misdemeanor is a wobbler charge, and can quickly turn into a felony.
Factors That Could Increase A DUI Charge
Aside from multiple offenses, there are other ways that you can increase your DUI charge. Even if there were no accidents and no one was hurt, driving under the influence is dangerous enough to be considered intent. We’ll go over some of the factors that may elevate your charge.
In most states, a third DUI charge can easily turn into a felony. Having multiple DUI convictions only makes matters worse for yourself as a driver. The court may also ask that you install a breath ignition device or will completely revoke your driving privileges.
Also Read: How To Get a Misdemeanor Expunged
Bodily Harm and Property Damage
If you damage property or cause harm to someone else, a DUI can turn into a felony.
When an intoxicated driver causes death to another person, it’s not only considered a felony, it can be considered manslaughter. Vehicular manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and second-degree murder all fall under this category depending on what state you’re in.
Driving with a suspended license, regardless of whether or not you’re intoxicated, is already considered a misdemeanor charge. When you add driving under the influence to that, you could potentially face a felony charge.
Similarly, breaking other laws while driving under the influence only adds to your charges and convictions.
Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
The federal legal blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.8%. The higher your BAC, the higher your charge will likely be. In some states, going past a certain threshold can turn a misdemeanor into a felony.
Children and Minors
Endangering or causing harm to children and minors can elevate your charge. In general, this rule applies to all minors under the age of 18, even if they’re you’re own. Meaning, if someone under 18 is either harmed or in the vehicle while you’re under the influence, the charge can become a felony.
As mentioned previously, a DUI felony can have several implications, such as revoking custody and visitation privileges. If your children were involved with your DUI charge, it’s likely that you could also lose custody.
Refusal to Take a Breathalizer
In some states, refusing to take a roadside breathalyzer can increase penalties. Some states are so severe that you could also have your license revoked immediately or face immediate jail time.
You should always take a breathalyzer, even if you know you’ve been drinking. However, do not give any other statements or take any other tests without consulting a lawyer first. When interacting with the police, stay calm and wait to meet with your lawyer.
DUI Fines and Sentences
Most states require convicted drivers to attend alcohol evaluation and counseling. This helps determine if you have a more serious drinking problem and are abusing drugs and alcohol. You may also have to implement other things, such as a breath ignition device.
DUI Felony Vs. Misdemeanor
Misdemeanors are usually never more than $1,000 in fines and will only have you serve up to a year in a local jail. This may vary depending on which state you’re in, so be sure to check out our full guide on sentencing here.
Also Read: Levels of Misdemeanors By State
A felony DUI charge will have different sentences depending on the other variables of your arrest and where you live. In the next section, we go over some drunk driving laws and punishments in each state.
The Strictest States
Here are some of the minimum mandates enforced on drivers after receiving a DUI. As you can see, some states are stricter than others. Some states, such as Arizona, have even higher sentences and convictions like mandatory jail time.
If you’re facing jail time, another serious charge, or a felony, call a lawyer today. MyCaseHelper can connect you with a qualified DUI lawyer in your area whenever you call. Having a lawyer on your side may help lessen charges.
Also Read: Misdemeanor Vs. Felony Charges and Sentences
|State||Penalty for High BAC||Suspended License||Ignition Device Mandates|
|Alabama||0.15||90 days||Mandatory for high BAC cases and highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|Colorado||0.15||3 months||Mandatory for high BAC cases and repeat offenders. Highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|Connecticut||90 days||Highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|Delaware||0.15||3 months||Highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|DC||0.20 to 0.30||2 to 90 days||Mandatory|
|Georgia||0.15||1 year||Mandatory for repeat convictions.|
|Indiana||0.15||180 days||Mandatory for repeat offenders.|
|Iowa||0.15||180 days||Highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|Kanas||0.15||30 days||Highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|Kentucky||0.15||30 to 120 days||Mandatory|
|Louisiana||0.15 to 0.20||Mandatory for high BAC and highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|Maine||0.15||90 days||Highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|Massachusettes||0.2||90 days||Mandatory for repeat offenders.|
|Michigan||0.17||30 to 180 days||Mandatory for high BAC and repeat convictions.|
|Minnesota||0.16||90 days||Highly recommended for high BAC and repeat convictions.|
|Missouri||0.15||90 days||Mandatory for repeat convictions.|
|Montana||0.16||6 months||Mandatory for repeat convictions.|
|New Hampshire||0.16||6 months||Mandatory|
|New Jersey||0.1||3 months||Mandatory|
|New Mexico||0.16||6 months to a year||Mandatory|
|New York||0.18||case by case||Mandatory|
|North Carolina||0.15||30 days||Mandatory for high BAC and repeat convictions.|
|North Dakota||0.18||91 days||Discretionary|
|Oklahoma||0.15||180 days||Mandatory for high BAC and repeat convictions. Highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|Pennsylvania||0.10 to 0.16||Mandatory for high BAC and repeat convictions.|
|Rhode Island||0.10 to 0.15||30 to 180 days||Mandatory|
|South Carolina||0.10 to 0.16||up to 1 month||Mandatory for high BAC and repeat convictions.|
|South Dakota||0.17||30 days||Discretionary|
|Tennessee||0.2||1 year||Mandatory for repeat convictions and highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|Texas||0.15||90 to 180 days||Mandatory for repeat convictions.|
|Utah||0.16||120 days||Mandatory for repeat convictions and highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|Vermont||90 days||Highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|Virginia||0.15 to 0.20||7 days||Mandatory for repeat convictions and highly recommended for first-time offenders.|
|West Virginia||0.15||6 months||Mandatory for high BAC and repeat convictions.|
|Wisconsin||0.17 to 0.25||6 to 9 months||Mandatory for high BAC and repeat convictions.|
|Wyoming||0.15||90 days||Mandatory for high BAC and repeat convictions.|