In most states, a DUI is considered and treated as a misdemeanour offense instead of a felony offense, but depending on the particular case, it can easily turn into a felony. This is the case when the drunk driver causes injury or death to another person. As someone charged with drunk driving, you must know that a misdemeanour is a lower level crime than a felony, and misdemeanours have less harsh consequences than felony DUI.
Requirements for a DUI felony
A number of factors decide whether the DUI will be considered a misdemeanour or felony. The major deciding factor is whether the accident involved injury or death of any other citizen, if it was a first time DUI offense or a repeat offense etc. Most states consider a third or fourth time DUI offense a felony, and it has heavy fines and other consequences. The punishments and convictions may vary from state to state. A third DUI within 10 years is considered felony DUI. Similarly, if a person has been convicted of felony DUI, and is again convicted of another DUI within 10 years, this repeat DUI will also be considered a felony, whether or not it involved bodily injury or death to any person. Such people are termed as “habitual offenders” and are punished to the full extent by law.
Consequences of felony crimes
Any felony is strictly punished by the court and can include one year of prison time or more, along with other consequences. The term of imprisonment depends directly on the severity of the crime, which the court determines as a low, mid or high term felony and can require anywhere from 16 months of imprisonment to 4 years or more. In most states, the punishment for felony DUI includes a term of incarceration in the county jail which can last anywhere between 90 days to a year. The guilty can also be ordered imprisonment in the state prison by the court instead of incarceration. The drivers license is also suspended for a period of one year up to 4 years along with heavy fines which can vary between $390 to $1000 in some states, but the amount varies from state to state. In the state of Oregon for example, a misdemeanour offense can result in a fine between $1,500 up to $10,000 along with license suspension of up to 3 years and up to 5 years of imprisonment. Felony DUI offenders in the state of Oregon lose their drivers license permanently. All felony DUIs are also required to attend an alcohol education program.
As a responsible citizen of the state, you must avoid drinking and driving at all costs. Even though a misdemeanour DUI does not have as harsh consequences as felony DUI, it still leaves a permanent mark on your criminal record and will come to haunt you for the rest of your life. Your efforts should be to avoid a DUI charge at all costs, and you can only do this by understanding the risks involved in driving while drunk or intoxicated. If you are unfortunate enough to be charged with drunk driving, you must get help from an experienced DUI lawyer, who will be able to defend you in court to reduce the charges against you.
Richard Jacobs is a chief editor since early 2007, and he currently works for MyDUIattorney. A website that helps you to find the right DUI lawyer, you can search for a New Jersey DWI Attorney or for Los AngelesDUIAttorney online, anytime!