Felony DUI Laws – What Makes a DUI a Felony?
All states in America, and the District of Columbia, enact their own DWI-DUI misdemeanor or felony laws. Over the decades, many states “copied” statutes of their neighbors, but differences show up, such as New Jersey not making ANY DWI cases felonies, and limiting jail time to 6 months, in order to deny a person committing DUI felony charges the right to have a jury trial. So, NJ statistics show that the Garden State regularly convicts and puts a higher percentage of their DWI offenders in jail than any other state, by only allowing bench trials (only a judge and no jury).
Other nations have ONE federal law on drunken driving, and one set of rules for all drivers charged in that country. In the United States, the acronym for intoxicated or impaired driving is not universal. Instead of DUI or DWI being the acceptable acronym for the intoxicated driving crime in the USA, these additional abbreviations exist: OWI, OUI, DUII, DWUI, OMVI, DWAI, OVI and many other acronyms for driving drunk. See my link to Six Ways a DUI can be a Felony.
Plus, in a few states, their state Legislatures have broadened the use of felony punishment to incidents in which an arrested DUI suspect REFUSES to submit to post-arrest forensic tests under that state’s implied consent laws (also called informed consent, in some jurisdictions). So, a driver in North Dakota could have 2 DWI convictions and 2 refusals to blow into an Intoxilyzer (regardless of whether later convicted of a drunk driving felony) and be facing a felony offense carrying significant jail time at a ND state prison. In states like Louisiana, a 30-year prison sentence awaits you on a felony DWI-DUI, with no chance of early parole.
When Is a DUI a Felony in Your State?
While some trends in DUI cases are discernible (e.g., that repeat offenders reach a magic “number” of convictions and the 3rd DUI or 4th DUI) within a possible number of years, and the meteoric growth of mandatory ignition interlock device protection against future crimes. Some states, like Michigan, utilize a driver’s LIFETIME record, calling for felony DUI-OWI for any third offense DUI. This means that almost all states categorize the new crime as a felony. Florida, Georgia and Alabama make a 4th DUI a felony, but over differing periods of time as a “look back” period. In GA, it is DUI convictions within the last 10 years. In AL, if within the past 5 years. In FL, it is in the driver’s lifetime.
Driving impaired by any substance taken into your body by any means, including alcohol and marijuana, can lead to a driving under the influence arrest. Absent a DUI accident involving serious bodily injury or death to another, virtually all states call for misdemeanor DUI-DWI punishment. The circumstances and specifics of the drunk driving charge can vary somewhat in the various laws of 51 jurisdictions.
Common Factors That Trigger DUI Misdemeanor or Felony Charges
A DUI offense can be enhanced to a drunk driving felony based on other factors. Just to outline those, here is a comprehensive list of typical enhancement issues for evaluating the question: “Is DUI a felony” in your state:
- Prior conviction(s). A criminal record from any state for DUI charges can be used as a prior offense.
- Children in the vehicle as passengers, which is commonly known as child endangerment DUI. In Georgia, one driving incident can create four DUIs by the driver being convicted when three children were passengers in the vehicle. Plus, in GA, all license suspension penalties and jail sentences for the four DUIs are stacked end-to-end.
- Did a motor vehicle collision with another vehicle, pedestrian or object (e.g., telephone pole) injure or kill anyone (directly or due to putting others at risk of this harm)? Death or serious injury to a person or even to an unborn fetus is criminalized with felony DUI punishment in most states.
Find the Best Law Firms Near Me With an Experienced DUI Attorney to Defend You
Felony or misdemeanor DUI is a major, life-changing problem. Because convictions can derail your employment, future promotions, and jack up car insurance rates for years, seek the best DUI lawyers for your representation. Go to one of these links for that assistance or call 1-800-462-8222 and ask for Mr. William Head:
Georgia DUI attorneys outside metro Atlanta
Maine OUI Lawyer in southern part of the State