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Is a DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor?

dui-felony-misdemeanor-jailGetting a DUI can make life difficult. The penalties for a DUI can include costly fines, a suspended license, and possibly even years in jail (don’t drink and drive in Texas especially). The severity of the punishments for a DUI will depend on a number of factors as well as the state laws. So if you’re asking yourself is a DUI a felony or misdemeanor, you will have to do some more research into the specific laws of your state, as well as the nature of your own DUI case. Read on to find out more.

Is a DUI a felony or a misdemeanor?

DUIs may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, and the punishments may be different for each. Punishments for DUIs will vary significantly state by state. It is important to look into your state’s laws and hire a local DUI lawyer to find what might apply to your situation. Also, DUI consequences can vary based on the circumstances. You can get a DUI anytime your driving is impaired. This includes when your blood alcohol level is below the legal limit, and when you are driving under the influence of prescription drugs or other substances, not just alcohol. You should always be mindful of what you are putting in your body before driving. Generally, a first-time DUI is charged as a misdemeanor, and not a felony. That said, DUIs are commonly charged as a felony if there are aggravating circumstances (read more about them below). If you intend to keep your driver’s license and avoid a lengthy prison sentence, it is very important to know how to avoid getting charged with a felony DUI. Keep in mind, however, it is more important to remember not to drink and drive in the first place!

Can you go to jail for a DUI?

Yes, you can go to jail for a DUI. In fact, some states even require it. But you are much more likely to go to jail for a felony DUI than a misdemeanor. Punishment for a misdemeanor DUI is typically less severe—there is a small possibility of jail time in a local prison in extreme cases, but it would be for one year or less. A felony DUI can result more serious consequences and jail time in a state prison for more than a year is likely. Also, many employers often inquire whether you have been convicted of a felony during job applications, so a DUI felony could easily prevent you from getting a job in the future.

What makes a DUI a felony?

There are certain factors that are much more likely to make a DUI a felony. These are known as “aggravating factors.” An explanation of two of the most common aggravating factors is below. Aggravating Factor 1: Multiple DUIs Drivers who are repeatedly intoxicated and behind a wheel are more dangerous to society and are punished more severely. For the first DUI, most states limit the minimum jail time to 0 to 4 days. The punishments quickly escalate from there. For a second DUI offense, California enforces a 90 day minimum jail sentence, Texas requires 30 days, and New York requires only 5 days, or 30 days of community service. For a third offense, California requires 120 days of jail time, which is below the felony level, but Texas imprisons third time DUI offenders for 2 years, which is certainly a felony. Be aware that these are just the minimum sentences. Judges have a lot of discretion to punish DUI offenders much more severely. For example, in California, authorities aren’t required to punish second or third offense DUI convictions as felonies, but they may have the discretion to if the circumstances deem it necessary. Aggravating Factor 2: Causing Injury or Death Obviously, intoxicated drivers are more likely to harm others on the road. To prevent drunk drivers from hurting others, states often come down hard on intoxicated drivers who have caused an injury or death. If a driver is charged with a DUI related to an accident that resulted in serious injuries or killed someone else, then that driver can surely anticipate a felony charge. Injuring or killing someone while drunk driving is almost always going to be a felony. The distinction between a misdemeanor and felony has big implications for the future of the driver. Because there is so much on the line and DUI laws vary significantly state to state, it’s highly recommended that anyone charged with a DUI should hire legal counsel. Many attorneys focus only on DUIs and are extremely knowledgeable of their state’s DUI laws. DUI lawyers can be expensive, but it’s often worth the cost. You can find the best price for a DUI attorney here.

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