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Is A DUI A Felony? What You Should Know

By: Jane C. Smith|LRL Editor

DUI ChargesDUI is still a misdemeanor, not a felony. However, if arrested with DUI involving injury, death, and damage to property will result under felonies with higher penalties, especially with repeat offenses with two or more prior DUIs.  Let's take a closer look at how DUI becomes a felony.

When a person is convicted for drinking and driving, he or she is slapped with driving under the influence charges by the police. The drunken driving offense is common nowadays, especially among teenagers. Fearing that DUI charges may be put under their criminal record, offenders usually inquire, "is a DUI a felony?" This depends on a number of factors, such as presence of other offenses aside from the DUI charges, and whether or not the drunken driving resulted in a car accident.

The ability of the offender's lawyer to convince the court to lower charges to minimum penalty is also a pivotal factor in answering the question, "is a DUI a felony?" A reduced DUI charges result in the offender having to spend less time in jail, or not being put to jail at all.  If the lawyer can convince the courtroom that the offender's blood alcohol levels were not that high, or that the offender still demonstrated average driving ability despite alcohol intake, then the offender will most likely be released without a criminal record. In this scenario, the question "is a DUI a felony" is answered by a definite no. The offender, however, is still obliged to attend DUI classes to lessen the probability of drinking alcohol before and during driving.

In order to ensure that the DUI offense is not repeated, police may integrate breath analyzers into the offender's vehicle. Breath analyzers serve as safeguards which disable the vehicle's ignition once alcohol is detected in the offender's breath. Police help the offender not to commit the DUI offense twice, because the second time would not be so easy to negotiate as the first.  

However, presence of other charges, such as traffic violation, as well as presence of evidence such as high blood alcohol levels may aggravate the situation and may upgrade the DUI charges to felony. A second-time DUI offense is also more likely to be treated as a felony, and obliges the offender to spend a maximum of five years in prison. The worst situation would be the DUI offender figuring in a major car accident which results in the injury or death of his victims. In this scenario, the question "is a DUI a felony" is answered by a resounding YES, with the offender being put to jail according to gravity of the charges against him. The offender may also be stripped of his driving license and end up with a bad criminal record.

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