Depending on where you live, there are many situations that can escalate a DUI misdemeanor into a DUI felony. When a DUI becomes a felony, the charges are more serious -- rather than facing fines, penalties, or probation, an individual can be facing prison time. Further, a felony can result in the permanent or prolonged loss of an individual's license, rather than an ordinary license suspension. Here are a few of the situations that can cause a DUI to become a felony.
1. The DUI Involved Children
If a child was in the vehicle while the driver was thought to be intoxicated, it may elevate the charges to a felony. These charges may also come with additional charges, such as "child endangerment."
2. The DUI Caused an Injury or Death
DUIs are generally considered to be more serious if an injury or death occurred, as it is then presumed that the driver was impaired enough to cause serious damage. This applies to both the driver's own passengers and any other individuals that were injured in an accident. Even if a passenger was in the vehicle willingly and may have been sober, the DUI may still be escalated to a felony.
3. The DUI Was Not the First
Multiple DUIs will eventually become felonies even if each individual charge did not involve property or bodily damage. In most states, three or four DUIs within ten years will escalate the next DUI charge into a felony. This is because it shows a pattern of poor behavior. The charge may also become more serious if the subsequent DUIs occur when the individual still has their license suspended from the prior DUIs.
4. The DUI Was "Extreme"
An "extreme" DUI is a DUI that is well over the legal limit. Each state sets their own limit for an "extreme" DUI, but it is usually anywhere from two times to three times the legal limit. These DUIs are often considered to be more serious because of the level of impairment; a driver can be expected to have foreseen the consequences of their actions if they became this impaired.
Felony DUIs are best dealt with through the use of a criminal defense attorney. A felony DUI will often cost thousands of dollars in fines and penalties (in addition to the potential jail time), so it's usually worth it for the individual to hire an attorney, such as Eric J. Engan Attorney At Law, to help minimize the damages.