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Drunk Driving - What is a felony DUI?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="230" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]English: Concertina razor wire at a prison[/caption] Many drivers, who have been arrested for drunk driving, want to know if they are facing misdemeanor or felony charges and the potential penalties for a DUI conviction. The good news is that most drunk driving arrests and subsequent charges will be misdemeanor charges, although this is not always the case.

When is a driver charged with a felony DUI?

  It is illegal in every state to operate a motorized vehicle with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08% or higher. It is also illegal to operate a motorized vehicle with any amount of alcohol in your system if you are not safely able to do so. Drivers arrested for drunk driving will have their drunk driving offense classified as either a misdemeanor or felony. Felony charges are more serious criminal charges, and the fines and penalties of a felony DUI conviction will be more severe than a misdemeanor charge. When can a driver expect to be charged with a felony? State laws vary significantly and it is important to talk to a DUI lawyer about your charges, but in general, felony charges may be assessed for the following:
  • Causing injury or bodily harm to another driver or occupant
  • Causing a death
  • Prior drunk driving convictions within a specified time period (the amount of time varies by state). For instance, in the state of Kansas and Missouri drivers will generally be charged with a misdemeanor for their first and second DUI (assuming there are no other aggravating factors) but subsequent DUIs will be considered a felony drunk driving offense.
  • Driving with a minor in the car (varies by state)
  • Having a high blood alcohol content level (varies by state)

Why a felony conviction may have harsher long-term consequences

  Obviously, as mentioned above, if you are convicted of a felony drunk driving charge you will face more severe penalties. For instance, in many cases you may have to spend more than a year in prison. Some drivers also do not consider the simple stigma attached to being a convicted felon. For instance, many employers may have the right to access your criminal record during the hiring process and many companies have policies against hiring anyone with a felony on their criminal record. This can be especially true for anyone applying for a governmental position or a position working with young children.

Does a DUI lawyer charge more to defend against a felony DUI?

  If you have been charged with a felony DUI this can increase the amount the drunk driving lawyer will charge to defend you. Felony DUI cases may require more time which can dramatically increase the rates. Unfortunately, the more drunk driving arrests you have had or the higher the charges the more important it become to have great legal representation. Finding a great DUI lawyer who understands the possible penalties and fines you may face if convicted of a felony DUI is critical. Felony DUI convictions have life-long ramifications which make it imperative that you have the best DUI defense possible.
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