Since over 10,000 people die due to DUI every year, it’s understandable state laws are adapting to the growing problem of drinking and driving. One affect of the stiffer laws is being charged with a felony. There are many questions concerning this issue, but for now let’s consider what infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies mean.
An infraction is a minor charge, such as a speeding ticket.
A misdemeanor, a more serious charge, is the term used when there is the potential of a year or less jail time. You may face 30 days in jail, for example, after being charged with your first DUI.
A felony, on the other hand, means you face a year or more jail time.
As you can see, there are differences between felonies and misdemeanors and felonies, namely jail time. However, you also face stiffer penalties on other levels, including: longer license suspension, higher fines, and longer probation.
So which one will you be charged with, a misdemeanor or a felony? It all depends on the state and what exactly happened. It also depends on how effective the defense is. Sometimes charges for a felony fail to stick, such as when you get a second DUI, but misdemeanor charges are made.
Most DUI cases come with misdemeanor charges. Rarely will you be charged with a felony for a first or second DUI. It’s important to note that misdemeanors themselves can be quite strict. You might face months in jail for one charge, while a different charge leads to no jail time.
Felony charges most commonly occur when someone is hurt or endangered. If a death results from a DUI you face a felony, if not vehicular homicide. If you have a long record of DUI charges, you get in an accident, and someone is severely hurt, you often face a felony.
Simply being in an accident where someone is hurt after doing some drinking is no guarantee you will be punished with a felony. A strong DUI defense can at the least lessen your penalties. Defenses can be based on whether you truly were over the limit, whether you made the mistake causing the accident or not, and how the arresting officer acted.
Felony charges for DUI cases may not be common, but with over 10,000 deaths caused by drinking and driving every year, they happen often enough. If you’re unsure of how the legal process works, it’s time to consult with professional legal counsel. Understanding the full scope of misdemeanor or felony charges is something a lawyer can best explain to you.