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Is drunk driving a felony if you don’t injure or harm another individual? What are the factors that make DUI a felony?
Drunk driving is a serious offense that can lead to severe consequences, including prison time and fines. If you’re facing DUI charges, it’s essential to understand the differences between misdemeanor and felony offenses to get the best outcome in court.
According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), around 30% of vehicle accident fatalities yearly occur due to drunk driving. Drunk driving can be fatal, but regardless of its outcome, the drunk driver may face serious consequences depending on the circumstances of the accident and the state laws.
This article will cover the following points:
- Is drunk driving a felony
- OWI vs DUI
- How Can you fight drunk driving charges?
Is Drunk Driving A Felony?
Is drunk driving a felony? The answer to this depends. Drunk driving is a wobbler offense, which could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Whether your DUI is classified as a felony depends on your offense’s circumstances.
If you’re facing charges for DUI, it’s essential to understand what makes a drunk driving charge a felony and how to get the best outcome in court.
The distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor is crucial because it determines the penalties you face if convicted of driving under the influence.
A felony is a crime punishable by more than one year in prison, while misdemeanors are less severe offenses requiring fines, community service, or probation instead of jail time.
If you’re charged with manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (which are both felonies), then your punishment may include up to 10 years or more behind bars!
A typical first infraction is usually a misdemeanor. However, even if it is the person’s first offense, a DUI criminal who kills or gravely injures another person faces felony penalties. (For a DUI-related death, a driver might face vehicular homicide charges)
Prior DUI offenses can potentially raise a DUI to a felony. First and second DUI charges are misdemeanors in several states, while a third offense is a felony.
In some states, a DUI becomes a felony if the driver has an exceptionally high blood alcohol content (BAC) or driving while intoxicated with children in the car.
Now that you know the answer to “is drunk driving a felony” let’s move on to the factors that make it a felony.
Factors That Make DUI A Felony
A DUI can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony in all states, with felony DUIs being far more severe of the two. The distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony DUI is a matter of state law.
However, the involvement of certain aggravating circumstances (mentioned below) can enhance a DUI to a felony in most cases.
Usually, DUI is a misdemeanor in many states. But considering the following factors, it can result in DUI becoming a felony.
If a persistent or repeat offender has had prior DUI charges under a certain period, they may face felony DUI charges. Most states consider first-second DUIs as misdemeanors, and many consider third (or fourth) and subsequent DUIs as felonies.
DUIs Resulting In Injuries Or Deaths
In certain areas, a DUI could be punished as a felony if the driver has been involved in an accident involving harming or killing someone. State rules may allow for felony prosecution only when the injuries to others are severe.
DUIs In Cars With Children
You might face felony charges if found driving while intoxicated with children in the car. Even if the state does not consider this form of DUI a crime, having kids in the vehicle may be a consideration that leads to harsher punishment.
DUI With A Suspended License
An individual who drives while their license is suspended can be charged with felony DUI irrespective of additional aggravating elements.
You cannot legally drive on the road when your license is suspended. If caught driving under the influence while your license is suspended, it can lead to a felony DUI.
Blood Alcohol Content
If the blood alcohol percentage was exceptionally high, you might face felony DUI charges in a few jurisdictions.
For example, in certain areas, driving with a BAC of .20% or above is a crime (the limit for a DUI is .08%). Some states are significantly stricter, imposing felony punishments for DUIs with a BAC of.16% or higher.
Let’s go over OWI vs DUI and the differences between the two.
OWI Vs DUI And Your Legal Options
Both OWI & DUI are abbreviations for drunk driving. A DUI accusation implies that the accused was driving while intoxicated, while an OWI stands for operating while intoxicated. While the definitions differ slightly, most states utilize one or another, but not both, to define their drunk driving statutes.
For example, an operating while intoxicated charge in Iowa is more serious than merely driving while intoxicated. Driving under the influence is unlawful in Iowa, but it is also a crime to sit drunk behind the wheel with the engine on, irrespective of motion.
How Can I Fight DUI Charges?
If you’re facing DUI charges, knowing how to fight them is essential. You can defend yourself against a DUI arrest and conviction in many ways.
You can fight your DUI charges by filing a motion to suppress evidence (also known as a suppression hearing). A motion to suppress evidence is an attempt to throw out evidence that was obtained illegally or improperly due to actions taken by law enforcement officers on their part.
You also have other options available if these fail, and these include
- Appealing any guilty verdicts handed down against yourself by filing an appeal with higher courts
- Filing writs of habeas corpus asking judges if there should be changes made based on new information presented during trial proceedings, such as evidence showing someone else committed a crime instead
Drunk driving is known by different names in various states, including “driving under influence” (DUI) or “operating while intoxicated” (OWI). Drunk driving is prohibited in every state, regardless of the offense.
The good news is that you have legal options. The best way to know “is drunk driving a felony?” is to seek free legal advice from an experienced DUI attorney.