In most states a first time DUI offender will be charged with a misdemeanor offense and not a felony offense. As the saying goes “there are exceptions to the rule” and DUI is no different, in fact there can be a lot of exceptions depending on the case.
In some states a misdemeanor offense can be raised to a felony DUI offense if a person other than the intoxicated driver sustained injuries during the accident. This of course does not apply in every state. Even in states that allow this charge, it is not always used.
In most states a misdemeanor DUI offense can be raised to a felony DUI offense if another person was killed during the accident. You should always check your state’s drunk driving laws to find out what applies.
Another reason that a misdemeanor can be raised to a felony DUI offense would be in the case of a person with multiple drunk driving offenses on their record. A person who has received multiple drunk driving offenses is referred to as a “habitual offender”.
For a person to be classified as a “habitual offender” in most states, that person will have been convicted of at least three drunk driving offenses over a specified period of time. When a person has been labeled as a habitual offender, the state has basically deemed that that person will never learn their lesson and will be punished to the full extent of the law.
A person who is convicted of a misdemeanor DUI will usually have to spend a certain number of days or months in the county jail, where as a person convicted of a felony DUI offense will have to spend a certain number of years in state prison.
In the state of Oregon for example, a person convicted of a first DUI offense is considered a misdemeanor offense and results in fines of $1,000 up to $10,000 dollars, jail time of 48 hours up to 1 year in jail, driver’s license suspension for 1 to 3 years depending on the circumstances.
A second DUI offense in Oregon is also considered a misdemeanor offense and will result in fine of $1,500 up to $10,000 dollars, jail time of 5 days to 1 year, driver’s license suspension of 1 to 3 years just like a first offense and your vehicle will be impounded.
A third DUI offense in Oregon is a class C felony if the offense occurred within 10 years of the second offense. In Oregon a felony DUI conviction will result in a permanent driver’s license revocation, meaning you will never driver again. Being a felony offense instead of jail time, the defendant will spend up to five years in state prison.
The state of Oregon was used as an example and the drunk driving laws in your state will vary from the above example. So if you have been arrested for DUI it is important that you learn your states drunk driving laws as they pertain to your particular situation.
So to answer the question: Is a DUI a felony? It depends entirely on the circumstances surrounding the DUI arrest. If you find yourself in a situation where you have just been arrested for drunk driving, it is important that you learn as much as you can about your states specific drunk driving laws.
It is also extremely important to hire a qualified DUI defense lawyer who knows your states drunk driving laws inside and out and has a proven track record of defending clients in their drunk driving cases.