Is a DUI a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

person driving with open alcohol container

In the US, a conviction will be categorized as either a misdemeanor or a felony. How a court classifies a conviction ruling depends on what penalties the crime warrants and the circumstances of each case. Generally speaking, misdemeanor crimes are usually less severe than felonies, and this applies to DUI (driving under the influence) convictions. In most cases, first-time offenders of DUIs will often get the minimum penalty as long as there are no aggravating factors.

Penalties for DUI as a Misdemeanor

Penalties of a DUI include either jail time, fines, license revocation for drivers. Here’s a brief overview of the penalties for a DUI as a misdemeanor:

Type of DUI conviction Penalty
1st offense Up to 6 months of jail time Up to $1000 in criminal fines License suspended for 4-10 months 3-9 months of DUI school
2nd offense Up to 1 year in county jail Up to $1000 in fines License suspended for 2 years 18-30 months of DUI school
3rd offense Up to one year in county jail Up to $1000 in fines License suspended for 3 years 30 months in DUI School
DUI with injury Up to 1 year in county jail Up to $5000 in criminal fines License suspended for 1-3 years Up to 30 months of DUI school

When does a DUI become a felony?

The prosecution could escalate a DUI to a felony if there were aggravating factors present. Aggravating factors are those that make the outcome of your actions more serious. In a DUI case, some of the common aggravating factors include injury, death, or if a child was present at the time of the incident. Apart from the presence of aggravating factors, DUIs can be prosecuted as a felony if you’ve had more than 3 prior DUI convictions (the 4th DUI is usually the felony) or if you’ve had any previous DUI felony convictions.

Penalties for felony DUI

Felony charge Penalty
Caused injury/death Between 16 months and 16 years in state prison Up to $5000 in fines License suspended for 1 year Mandatory 30 months in DUI school
4th DUI Conviction in 10 years Maximum of 3 years in state prison $1000-$5000 in fines License suspended for 5 years Mandatory 30 months of DUI  school

Despite these immediate consequences, DUI convictions will also have rippling effects on your lifestyle and future opportunities. Offenders will also be subject to a probationary period with certain conditions imposed on them. During this period, offenders cannot drink and drive with any alcohol content in their blood. The 0.08% limit will not apply to them. Offenders on probation cannot refuse to take a chemical test on-site or otherwise if suspected of a DUI.  Finally, the law requires that you absolutely cannot commit any other crime non-related to DUIs during your probation.

Your insurance rates will also skyrocket, making a huge dent on your finances if the criminal fines and restitution fees didn’t already. Insurance companies will always charge higher premium rates for beneficiaries with a DUI conviction because such individuals are classified as high-risk investments. Additionally, having a DUI on your record will decrease your chances of acceptance when applying to college and jobs. Nobody wants to hire an individual, an employee who doesn’t seem responsible enough to take a cab when they are intoxicated. Even for professionals who need a license to practice, their respective licensing bodies, such as the Medical Board of California, often revoke their license privileges for a certain period. Let’s not forget that you won’t be able to move around behind the wheel with a suspended driver’s license.

We know that the situation you are in seems dire and you do not know where to start or who to ask for help. We at Criminal Defense Hero are here to help you in this time of need. You do not need to do this alone. We’ve got your back. Did you know you can have your DUI criminal record expunged? Don’t hesitate to chat with us on our website or call 888-DUI-HERO right now! We are here for you.

The DUI Attorney Don Hammond


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