Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol can land serious legal problems. It’s a serious offense because many annual fatalities result from drunk driving. Operating a vehicle while under the influence might not be fatal, but it puts you and others at risk, meaning when the law catches up with you, you could go to jail or pay a hefty fine.
Is a DUI Felony or Misdemeanor
In some states, getting charged with a first DUI is a misdemeanor and can happen more than once. However, repeating the offense severally will get it elevated to a felony. Although the punishments of a misdemeanor aren’t as harsh as those of a felony, they can still affect your life negatively for a long time. Here are the likely charges you face when convicted of a DUI misdemeanor.
- A full year of jail time
- Hundreds of dollars in fines
- Compulsory community service
- Attending or joining alcohol education classes
- Probation for three to five years
- Suspension of your driver’s license
- Fitting an ignition interlock device (IID) into your car
- Paying restoration fees or property damage
Sometimes, first-time offenders receive lenient sentences, but the charge can also attract worse consequences beyond the courtroom. Sometimes, you can pay higher insurance rates, or the ruling remains on your record for a long. The situation is more serious when there are injuries to others or property damage.
Factors that can Influence a DUI to Escalate from Misdemeanor to Felony
DUIs are serious offenses, but some circumstances determine how a driver is treated and the charges they get. These circumstances are as follows.
- Prior Convictions – Your record will provide details on the crimes you’ve committed before. If you’ve been convicted of DUI severally, the charge can escalate to a felony.
- High Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) – The acceptable BAC is 0.08 in some states, and if yours reads more than that, you’re in trouble, especially after causing an accident. DUI charges can be elevated if your BAC is over 0.15 in some states.
- Presence of Children in the Car – Some states have regulations to elevate a DUI charge if the car contains minors under 16 years. Driving under the influence with a child in your car is a DUI, and more charges endangering a child’s life come into play.
- DUI when Your License is revoked, suspended, or restricted – After your driver’s license is suspended or revoked, driving is illegal for you. Therefore, if you’re caught driving with DUI, the charge is a felony and imprisonment.
- Causing fatalities or bodily harm – Driving while intoxicated is worse for you if you cause death or serious bodily harm to others. Some States might not charge you with a blanket DUI but a separate case for every injured or dead individual.
If you find yourself on the wrong side of the law by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it’s wise to call your lawyer immediately. A good lawyer will guide you on what to do and what to say to ensure you don’t get into more problems with the law. Besides, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; if not, you can walk away with the least charge in the book.