Is a DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor?

Over 10,000 people in the United States died in alcohol-related car deaths in 2020 alone. DUIs are, clearly, a major problem.

But, what is a DUI? And what kind of crime is it classified as?

Keep reading to find out, is a DUI a felony or misdemeanor?

What is a DUI?

The term DUI is actually an acronym for driving under the influence. The phrase refers to the crime of operating a motor vehicle after having consumed a drug – most commonly alcohol.

In most jurisdictions, a person is considered to be driving under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the legal limit, which is typically 0.08% in the United States.

You might also be wondering about DUI vs DWI (driving while intoxicated). These terms are often used interchangeably to describe the same crime, although DWI has become more common in recent years.

Is a DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor?

Whether a DUI (driving under the influence) charge is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the specific circumstances of the case and the laws of the area in which the offense occurred.

In general, a first or second DUI offense is typically classified as a misdemeanor. However, there are certain circumstances under which a DUI may be classified as a felony, such as:

  • Causing significant injury or death to another person while driving under the influence
  • Multiple prior DUI/DWI convictions
  • Driving while drunk or high with a minor in the vehicle
  • If you have a license that has been suspended or revoked
  • How high your blood alcohol level is

It’s also worth noting that a DUI conviction can have serious consequences, including fines, license suspension or revocation, increased insurance rates, and even jail time, even if it is classified as a misdemeanor. In addition, a DUI conviction can also have long-term impacts on an individual’s career, reputation, and personal life.

Common Penalties For DWI

No matter if a DWI/DUI is a felony or a misdemeanor, you’ll face stiff penalties if you’re convicted of either.

Drivers convicted of DWI may be required to pay fines, which can range from under a hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the particulars of the event and the state in which it occurred.

Many states will suspend or revoke the driver’s license of someone convicted of DWI. The length of the suspension or revocation can vary, but it is typically for a period of several months to several years.

Some states automatically make drivers who have been convicted of DWI install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. These devices prevent the car from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Other states require people convicted of DWI to attend and complete some type of alcohol awareness or treatment programs no matter what.

And, of course, you could end up incarcerated. Repeat DWI offenders or those who cause injury or death while driving under the influence can face jail time. The length of the jail sentence can vary depending on the circumstances of the case.

The specific laws and penalties for DUI offenses vary by jurisdiction, so it is important to consult with a local attorney or the appropriate legal authority for more information on the specific laws and penalties that apply in a given case.

State Variations For DWI/DUI

Some laws have stricter rules for DUIs. For example, some states have implemented more strict enforcement measures, such as the use of ignition interlock devices or sobriety checkpoints.

Some states also have “implied consent” laws, which require drivers to submit to chemical testing if they are thought to be under the influence.

Avoiding a DUI

The easiest way to avoid a DUI is, no matter how much more convenient it would be, avoid consuming drugs and alcohol and driving. If you know you will be drinking, plan for a designated driver, taxi, or ride-sharing service to get you home safely.

If you’re feeling too impaired to drive, consider sleeping it off at a friend’s house, finding a safe place to walk, or taking a taxi or ride-sharing service.

If you are drinking, take steps to ensure you don’t end up impaired. Drink slowly and alternate between alcoholic and water or other non-alcoholic beverages. Eating a meal while drinking can also help slow down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream.

Be aware of your personal limits, too. Everyone’s tolerance is different, so it’s important to understand your own limits and to stop drinking before you reach the point of being impaired.

Keep yourself and others safe. If someone you are with has been drinking, don’t let them drive. Call a taxi or ride-sharing service.

If you’ve already made the poor decision and been caught, it’s time to lawyer up.

An experienced DWI attorney can help you navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and potentially negotiate a plea bargain or reduced sentence.

It is important to attend all court dates and hearings related to your DWI case, as failure to do so can result in additional penalties. And, follow any restrictions or requirements that the court gives you.

If required by the court, or if it is offered as a potential alternative to jail time, enrolling in an alcohol treatment program can demonstrate your commitment to addressing any alcohol-related issues. This can potentially help reduce the consequences of your DWI conviction. You can even enroll preemptively.

Depending on your state, they might have different suggestions for how to get out of it. Educate yourself about the different ways to beat a DUI today.

Is a DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor?

Now that you know the answer to, “is a DUI a felony or misdemeanor”, you’ll be able to better protect yourself.

Do you want more legal tips and tricks? Some of our other posts may be able to help you out.

Cheryl Henson

Cheryl Henson is a passionate blogger and digital marketing professional who loves writing, reading, and sharing blogs on various topics.

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