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A DUI (driving under the influence) is when a person is found to be operating a vehicle while intoxicated by substances like drugs or alcohol. It’s one of the most common crimes in modern America, with over 1.5 million DUIs recorded each year. But is a DUI a felony or misdemeanor? Find out in the guide below.

So, is a DUI a felony or a misdemeanor? Well, that depends on several factors, including the location where the crime occurred and the criminal history of the person involved. When it comes to the DUI felony or misdemeanor debate, the vast majority of states class first-time DUIs as misdemeanors, but elevate the crime to a felony for repeat offenders.

When is a DUI a Misdemeanor?

In the eyes of the law, a misdemeanor is classed as a “minor offense”. This means that it isn’t punished as harshly as a felony, and is generally seen as far less serious or severe than other crimes.

When it comes to whether a DUI is a misdemeanor or felony, most DUIs will be classed as misdemeanors if it’s the person’s first offense. This is true in all states except New York, New Jersey, and Washington.

Potential Penalties and Consequences of a Misdemeanor DUI Conviction

It’s worth noting that even if a DUI counts as a misdemeanor, it can still lead to some serious punishments, including the risk of jail time. Other possible punishments may include large fines, the temporary suspension of a driver’s license, and a term at DUI school.

dui misdemeanor or felony

When is a Felony DUI?

In the US, a felony is the term used for crimes that are considered to be more serious than minor offenses or misdemeanors. These crimes are often capable of causing more damage or harm to the public and are treated more seriously overall, with harsher punishments for the accused.

Factors That Can Elevate a Dui Charge to a Felony

When it comes to DUI felony or misdemeanor, there are several factors that may cause a DUI to be treated as a felony DUI, rather than a simple misdemeanor, including:

  • Prior DUI Convictions – If a person already has DUI charges on their criminal record, including misdemeanor charges, any subsequent DUI offense is likely to be classed as a felony DUI charge.
  • Injury or Death – If a person is driving under the influence and causes an accident that leads to injury or loss of life, it’s also likely that they will face a felony charge, instead of a simple misdemeanor DUI.
  • Suspended License – Those who are found to be driving under the influence of drugs or drunk driving while having their license suspended or revoked will also typically have to deal with felony charges.
  • Child Endangerment – If you drive under the influence with a child or children in the car, this may fall into the category of child endangerment, which is more serious than simply driving alone.

Penalties and Consequences of a Felony DUI Conviction

It’s important to understand the differences between misdemeanor and felony consequences and punishments. Felony punishments tend to be more severe, involving longer time behind bars, larger fines, and much longer periods with a suspended or revoked license. Those who are charged may also need to spend lengthy amounts of time in mandatory rehabilitation programs to learn more about the risks of driving drunk or high.

is a dui a felony or misdemeanor

Common Defenses Against DUI Charges

Now we know the answer to “Is a DUI a felony?” and how states separate DUI misdemeanor or felony charges, but what can be done in defense of a person facing one of these charges? Well, a criminal defense attorney may be able to provide certain arguments in favor of the defendant.

  • They could challenge the legality of the traffic stop or checkpoint which led to the arrest in the first place.
  • They may also argue against the reliability of drug or alcohol testing methods and results, as these tests are sometimes unreliable.
  • They can also mount an argument against any in-field sobriety tests or judgments that were made about the driver’s state.
  • There’s also a possibility of questioning the handling of evidence related to the suspected DUI, which could lead to a case being thrown out.

Role of Legal Representation in Building a Defense Case

A Los Angeles DUI Lawyer or other attorney is crucial in terms of building a valid and believable case in the defendant’s favor. Without proper legal representation, many defendants risk facing the worst possible penalties, but with the aid of a lawyer, it’s possible to vastly reduce or even avoid a sentence. Plus, lawyers can assist with other matters or answer questions you have about your DUI, like how long does a DUI stay on your record.

As we can see, DUIs need to be taken seriously, as they can result in serious punishments and lifelong consequences. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, legal help is available. Contact a trusted DUI lawyer for a free consultation.

Shaheen Manshoory