DUI, or driving under the influence covers several different criminal charges and can be considered a misdemeanor or felony depending on the state jurisdiction. In most cases, a DUI will be elevated to a felony when the defendant has three such charges on his or her record. Usually there is no “wipeout” period for past DUI offenses. This means that DUI’s you got over a decade ago could still affect you in the present day.
Felony offenses can be punished by six years in prison on average. They are also permanent marks on your criminal record. Aside from prison time, a DUI felony can get you a host of other problems. You can be fined, put on probation, forced to take substance abuse classes, community service, and other types of drug/alcohol education.
Many states have taken a harder stance on DUI’s by making them felony cases. Only certain types of DUI charges can be elevated to felonies, but don’t think you can luck out by catching one of the less serious cases. The risk is always there. You don’t want to be one of the people that passed the limit by a minuscule amount, only to find that you are now facing felony charges. In most cases, the possibility of a felony offense is good enough to deter most people from engaging in a DUI offense. DUI’s are also often used in conjunction with more serious cases such as vehicular manslaughter.
The Different Types of DUI Charges
As stated, most jurisdictions now hold that when someone has three or more DUI’s on their record, they qualify to be charged at the felony level. The passage of time between each DUI conviction does not matter under most state laws. You could’ve had a DUI over 20 years ago, and still get a felony when you are charged with a new offense. Another issue is that the law doesn’t distinguish between drug related DUI offenses, and those involving just alcohol. The moral of the story is, if you have DUI’s on your record, you can’t afford another one! Get a criminal attorney’s help to beat these types of charges.
Other Factors Affecting DUI’s
There are other things that come into play when prosecutors charge a DUI at the felony level. In other words, they do not just look at the timing of previous offenses and the facts of those cases. They also look at the particular situation that occurred in the current case and whether it was egregious or extremely reckless in nature. One factor that usually does not matter much is the location of the DUI. You don’t get a higher charge for getting a DUI near a school, for example. However, if you are lucky enough to get a DUI in a state that only charges it at the misdemeanor level, you might be able to dodge a bullet.
Doing the Time for a DUI Conviction
The misdemeanor DUI charge carries a maximum of one year in the county jail. Felony offenses can get someone locked up for 2 to 6 years assuming there are no aggravating factors. Ways that DUI offenses are enhanced include where the incident resulted in the death or disability of another person, or resulted in some sort of property damage. Whenever damage to another person is involved, you can be sure that the sentence will increase exponentially. Some courts will even add on restitution so that the victims of the crime can be compensated for their economic loss.
Not all DUI’s result in jail time. Even if a felony DUI is charged, the prosecution and/or the judge may agree to hold the defendant responsible for fines and a probation term in lieu of jail time. This type of deal may be obtained through careful negotiation with the prosecution, or if there are mitigating factors that show the defendant would benefit from a reduced sentence. Typically, you are only going to qualify for a reduction in sentence if you have a clean criminal record. If you have a previous DUI, you better have some really solid proof that you deserve a break the second time around.
Getting Substance Abuse Help for a DUI
Some jurisdictions are moving to a more holistic approach in fashioning DUI punishments. Take Colorado for example, there a judge may examine the defendant’s ability to successfully complete an alcohol abuse course and whether it would work towards rehabilitating the person. In the case that the answer to this question is in the positive, the judge has the authority to reduce the sentence accordingly. Other states are a lot tougher on DUI enforcement, and they do not care whether or not the defendant could use some psychological counseling. However, many people feel that the way to stop future DUI offenses is to promote counseling services to teach people of the dangers associated with the act. Throwing people in jail doesn’t really teach them anything aside from taking time out of their personal lives. It is probably a positive thing to try and change the offender’s mind about DUI incidents rather than just inflicting punishment on them.
Asserting a DUI Defense
No one DUI case is the same. However, a large portion of people charged with the crime decide to fight the case for one reason or another. There are several defenses available to fight a DUI charge. Some have to do with challenging the reason for the vehicle stop. Others have to do with suppressing statements made by the defendant when questioned by officers. Whatever the defense may be, it should be well thought out if it is going to be effective. It is wise to get a lawyer to help you mount a defense. Law is a difficult subject, and the police have a lawyer on their side who is trying to convict you. Make sure to take your DUI defense seriously and assert every possible defense that may help you!