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Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) is illegal in 50 states, though penalties vary widely in each state. Further, aggravating factors such as blood alcohol concentration (BAC) influence charges and potential penalties. The one constant across America is the legal level at which drivers face charges of DUI or DWI: a BAC of 0.08.
Is it a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
Even when a DUI is classified as a misdemeanor, it carries serious penalties far above those of typical misdemeanor charges. These penalties include jail time, fines, and license revocation. The majority of DUI charges are classified as misdemeanors, but a variety of aggravating factors move DUI from a misdemeanor and into the felony column.
In some states, higher BAC levels constitute a felony charge. You may also face felony DUI charges if you hit another vehicle, a pedestrian, or private property. If you commit DUI and cause bodily harm to another, you may also face an assault with a deadly weapons charge.
Depending on the state, your third or fourth DUI charge is a felony, even if you don't meet any of the other felony requirements.
Penalties of Felony DUI
DUI felony convictions result in a wide range of penalties including fines, prison time, and restricted liberties such as license revocation. These all vary widely, depending on the state, the severity of the charges, and whether the driver has previous DUI convictions. Your conviction may also require paying restitution to victims, such as the person you hit or that person's family.
Fines for first offenses begin around $250 but may go beyond $10,000, depending on whether the intoxicated driver killed or injured someone. Felony DUI convictions typically carry a minimum jail sentence of 24 months, though some states have harsher sentences while others pass lighter sentences. Again, aggravating and mitigating factors play a large role in sentencing.
Restricted liberty penalties also vary widely by state. In addition to the typical penalties such as license suspension or revocation and alcohol counseling, many states impose certain penalties on all convicted felons. This may include losing the right to vote, own a firearm, serve in the military, or work in certain professions such as teaching and law.
Below, we offer examples of felony DUI penalties in three states: Arizona, New York, and Ohio.
Felony DUI Penalties in Arizona
Arizona felony DUI convictions include incarceration for a minimum four months, extending to 30 months in the Department of Corrections. However, first-time felony DUI convictions may receive 10 years' probation. Minimum fines begin at $750, with a $250 assessment to the Arizona DUI Abatement Fund, plus another $1,500 assessment for total minimum fines of $2,500.
Felony DUI also comes with loss of driving privileges for a minimum of three years and mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) installation for 12 to 18 months. DUI convictions also require alcohol or drug counseling, with drug and alcohol screening that determines the length of counseling.
Felony DUI Penalties in New York
New York felony DUI convictions carry penalties of up to four years in state prison and minimum fines of $1,000 with a maximum fine of $5,000. Additionally, drivers pay a $520 surcharge plus a driver responsibility assessment of $250 per year for three years. Probation lasts for five years, and the court may prohibit driving while you are on probation.
Conviction also brings a mandatory license revocation of at least 12 months. The court will not relicense you until you provide evidence of alcohol evaluation or rehabilitation. You must also attend a Victim Impact Panel and install an IID throughout the term of probation.
Felony DUI Penalties in Ohio
Ohio felony DUI convictions come with numerous mandatory penalties, including incarceration, fines, and several restricted liberties.
Mandatory incarceration is between one and five years (possibly more if a fatality is involved), and most judges sentence felony cases to state prison rather than local or county jails. The minimum fine is $1,350 with a maximum fine of $10,500.
Drivers convicted of felony DUI in Ohio forfeit their vehicle and face a minimum three years of suspended license which extends to a lifelong suspension in extreme cases. If driving privileges are returned, drivers receive restricted plates that are yellow with red lettering.
If you face felony DUI charges, schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney today, preferably one with experience defending people accused of felony DUI. Bring all pertinent information to your initial consultation, as well as pen and paper to record the attorney's answers to your questions.