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When is DUI a Felony Offense?

Getting pulled over for a suspected DUI or DWI can be nerve-racking.  After you engage in the field sobriety tests and wait for your blood-alcohol content results, you may wonder the consequence of a DUI conviction.  Many drivers accused of DUI or DWI are fearful that the offense will be considered a felony.  However, in most states and in most circumstances, a DUI conviction is classified as a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanors and felonies are the two types of criminal offenses, and a felony carries a much steeper consequence than a misdemeanor.  A misdemeanor can still result in time in jail, but the punishment and jail sentence are less than what accompanies a felony conviction.  A felony could result in a state prison term of more than a year, in addition to other consequences imposed by the court.  However, since both a misdemeanor and a felony are criminal offenses, if you are convicted, the offense will go on your criminal record and could affect your future.

For the most part, a first time DUI offense is charged as a misdemeanor, not a felony.  There are some exceptions to this rule.  For example, if a drunk driving accident caused someone to be injured, the charge against the driver could be raised to a felony.  If someone dies as the result of a drunk driving accident, the driver could be charged with reckless homicide or a similar offense.

States have various laws relating to how a DUI offense will be charged.  In Arizona, most DUIs are misdemeanors.  However, under Arizona law the charge can be raised to a felony if you received your DUI while your license was suspended for any reason or restricted because of a DUI.  If the DUI was your third offense within seven years or if you were arrested for DUI when you had a child in your vehicle under the age of 15, you could be facing felony charges.

In California, a DUI offense will be classified as a felony if the drunk driving results in an injury to another person.  Virginia  will prosecute a drunk driver with a Class 6 felony if the DUI was the third offense within ten years and a fourth DUI offense will require mandatory time in jail of one year.

If you have been accused of DUI or DWI, you need to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney immediately.  There are many defenses available for a DUI allegations and a knowledgeable DUI lawyer can help you build a strong case.