Understanding The Legal Process

Why Is My DUI A Felony Rather Than A Misdemeanor?

by Eli Gregory

When you are accused of driving under the influence, commonly referred to as a DUI by legal experts, a judge can either charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor typically involves a lenient sentence, such as a large fine, time at a rehab center, or a few days in jail. A felony charge is much more serious than a misdemeanor and requires the assistance of a DUI attorney who can help keep you from landing a lengthy jail sentence. Some states do not have set guidelines outlining the difference between misdemeanor and felony DUI charges, but here are some factors that can lead to a pending felony DUI charge. 

The DUI is a Repeat Offense

If this is not your first DUI in the last 7 or 10 years, you will probably be charged with a felony. There are a few different reasons this can happen, including the following:

  • You are still on probation for your first DUI, and violating your probation resulted in the threat of jail time or a long-term stay at a state-run rehab center
  • The records for your first DUI were expunged, but now you are facing charges for both DUIs because part of your expungement deal involved an agreement not to get additional DUI charges
  • The judge may feel you didn't learn your lesson after the first DUI charge and decide to impose a harsher sentence

If you are a repeat offender, do not attempt to represent yourself in the courtroom. A DUI lawyer will explain your side of the story to the judge and fight for a reduced sentence, such as less jail time or a work-release lockup where you only go to jail on the weekends. This can help you keep your job and provide for your family.

Property Damage Occurred

Property damage, even minor amounts, can affect your DUI charges. Here are some examples of property damage:

  • Knocking over a stop sign
  • Crashing into a home, garage, or business
  • Driving into lawn furniture or yard ornaments

If you are accused of property damage, you will probably have to reimburse the individual or business that owns the property. This can be problematic if you owe thousands of dollars for the repair or replacement of the property. Talk to a DUI specialist to find out if you are eligible for payment plans for the damage and find out if there is any chance of getting the felony charges dropped.  

A Party Filed a Personal Injury Claim

Nearly 50% of pedestrian fatalities and 40% of vehicular fatalities involve alcohol. You might be charged with a felony DUI if the other driver or a pedestrian was injured or killed as a result of your negligence. 

Personal injury claims are very serious, as they can be very expensive and result in separate charges. You might be charged with a felony DUI for injuring another party, plus receive a separate charge for vehicular homicide. The judge can order separate fines and jail sentences for each charge, so it's wise to schedule a consultation with a legal professional who specializes in DUI cases and be honest about your involvement.

Mistakes happen, and a DUI lawyer can help you defend yourself in any of the situations listed above. Contact a DUI expert (such as Kevin R Bryant Attorney at Law) prior to your court date to ensure the best possible outcome of your case.