It is illegal in every state to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. Drivers can also be arrested for operating a motorized vehicle with any amount of alcohol or drugs in their system if they are cannot safely operate the vehicle.
Drivers arrested for DUI or driving under the influence are generally charged with a misdemeanor, but drivers can have their DUI charges elevated to a more serious DUI felony charge if certain conditions apply.
All states impose more severe penalties and higher fines for a felony DUI charge, including jail terms for one year or longer and fines which can cost thousands of dollars.
When will I be charged with a felony DUI?
According to information from MADD (Mothers against Drunk Driving), Forty-six states have felony DUI laws for convictions. The District of Columbia and the following states do not: Maryland, Maine, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
If you live in a state which has felony DUI conviction laws and you continue to drive drunk and you are arrested multiple times for DUI, at some point you will be charged with a DUI felony.
For example, in the state of Louisiana a drivers fourth offense is a felony, in Iowa a third or subsequent offense is a class D felony, in Kentucky the 4th or subsequent offense is a class D felony, and in the State of Texas the 3rd DUI and all subsequent offenses are 3rd degree felonies.
So whether or not you will be charged with a felony DUI after multiple DUI arrests will depend on your states DUI laws.
Aggravating factors and Felony DUI
Other aggravating factors, in addition to the number of times a driver is arrested, can also increase the charge to a felony DUI charge. For example, in some states, drivers may be charged with felony DUI if their BAC is above a specified statutory level, if they cause bodily harm or death to another person, if they are arrested with a minor in the car, or they are operating their vehicle with a restricted or revoked license.
Injury, death, and felony DUI
Killing another person while driving intoxicated is a very serious crime. Charges will vary by state. Some states will consider this manslaughter, while others may charge the driver with second or third degree murder. Penalties are likely to include jail time and fines of at least $1,000 or more.
If you have hurt or killed another driver and you have been charged with a felony DUI, it is important to talk to a lawyer.
Should I plead guilty to a felony DUI?
If you have been charged with a felony DUI it is always a good idea to talk to a DUI lawyer before making any type of plea. If you have an arraignment scheduled and you have not talked to a lawyer you can always plead not guilty at the arraignment. This will give you a chance to seek legal counsel and discuss your options.
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