The majority of DUI charges are misdemeanors, but most states will increase charges to felony charges in certain circumstances. Each state’s criteria for felony charges differ, but the most common reasons for a change in the level of the charge are bodily harm, repeat offenses and an elevated blood alcohol concentration.
Most states give prosecutors leeway in deciding if someone will face felony or misdemeanor charges when physical harm related to a DUI occurs. In other states, before someone is charged with a felony for bodily harm, it must be proven that the injury was the result of the actions of the person facing charges. For example, if someone runs a red light and hits the vehicle of a driver who is under the influence and is injured, this would not result in felony charges due to injury.
A number of states will increase charges to felonies if an individual has repeatedly been convicted of DUIs over a certain period of time, and the time frame and number of convictions vary widely depending on the state. Another common reason that a DUI may become a felony charge is if a person’s BAC exceeded a particular level. All states have per se DUI regulations that state anyone with a BAC of .08 or greater is automatically assumed to be intoxicated. However, in a number of states, charges or penalties for convictions increase if this level is greatly exceeded, which is usually a BAC of .16 or higher.
Should someone be charged with a felony DUI, their penalties are likely to be greater than for a misdemeanor level charge, but convictions at either level generally result in loss of a driver’s license, fines and the possibility of jail time. Contacting a lawyer is likely an individual’s best chance for fighting the charges or working to arrange a plea bargain.