Is DUI A Felony?

Drunk Driving & DWI conviction

Misdemeanor DUI vs. Felony DUI: When Does The State Decide To Up The Charges

For the majority of states, first time DUI offenses are actually a misdemeanor offense, not a felony one. Of course, there are exceptions to this first time DUI offense and these exceptions are based on what happened in the case.

When Does A DUI Misdemeanor Become A DUI Felony

1 - Some states will raise a misdemeanor DUI to a felony DUI if someone besides the drunk driver suffered injuries in a vehicle accident. This won’t be seen every state, and even in those states it can be used, it’s not always applied.

2 - In the majority of states, a misdemeanor DUI can turn into a felony DUI if an innocent person was killed in the accident. Make sure you look over your state’s drunk driving laws to learn what will apply.

3 – Another reason misdemeanor DUIs turn into felony DUIs is that the intoxicated driver has had more than one DUI convictions. This is a person the court system terms as a habitual offender.

For a person to be coined “habitual offender” in the majority of states, the individual will need to be convicted of DUI at least three times over a certain period of time. When a state labels a person “habitual offender”, it means the state views them as a person who will never care and needs to be punished harshly by the law. Furthermore, if it's the case of commercial drivers DUI then the severe penalties will be likely to be applied.

DUI Punishments: Misdemeanor vs. Felony Offenses In Oregon

When a person is convicted of a misdemeanor DUI, they’ll typically spend a few days or months in jail. However, a person who has been convicted of a felony DUI will spend several years behind state prison bars.

For example In Oregon:

A person who’s gotten his/her first DUI offense, which is a misdemeanor, can have fines up to $10,000, 48 hours to 365 days in jail and one to three years suspension of their driver’s license… all based on the circumstances.

For a second DUI offense, it’s also considered a misdemeanor and can result into fines of up to $10,000 with jail time between five and 365 days, vehicle being impounded and one to three years suspension for their driver’s license. This is quite similar to a first DUI offense.

However, a third DUI offense is considered as Class C felony but only if the offense takes place within a 10-year period after the second offense. This felony DUI conviction will mean your driver’s license will be permanently suspended. Thus, an offender will never drive a vehicle ever again! Since it is a felony, offenders are not given jail time but rather spend up to five years behind bars at a state penitentiary.

Now, if you don’t live in Oregon, you can rest assured that your state’s DUI laws will vary from it. If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, you need to learn your state’s rules regarding DUI and how they fit your situation.

So is a DUI offense a felony? That will depend completely on the situation that surrounds the arrest. If you’ve just been arrested for a DUI, it’s vitally important to learn all you can about your state’s DUI laws. And, consider hiring the best and most experience DUI defense attorney you can, as this person will know the state laws on drinking and driving. Be sure they have a proven track record of defending their clients in DUI cases.


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