Facing a first drunk driving or a felony drunk driving charge can be a harrowing experience. You probably have more questions than answers. The police might have taken your driver’s license. Your head is swirling as you think about your employment, your family and even your freedom.
You can fight back
The good news is that fighting a DWI or felony drunk driving is not as hard as you might think. The police have to follow search and seizure and due process rules when they investigate a case. They also have to follow procedures when they give chemical tests. If they don’t do these things, your felony drunk driving case might be dismissed.
Juries want to see a high amount of proof before they convict someone of drunk driving or felony drunk driving. What the police might think is good enough might not be enough evidence for a jury of your peers. This is true for even felony drunk driving cases. You have options, and a felony drunk driving DUI attorney can help you explore them.
What is felony drunk driving?
There are a number of ways that drunk driving can be felony drunk driving. Although the rules vary from state to state, a third drunk driving offense is usually a felony. That means, if you have two or more prior convictions for drunk driving and you receive another drunk driving charge, the state can enhance the charges so that you’re facing a felony. Although the question – When is a DUI a felony? – depends on your specific state, a DUI can be felony drunk driving when you have prior offenses or when you face aggravated drunk driving charges.
Aggravated drunk driving
There are a number of ways that you might face an aggravated drunk driving charge or felony drunk driving, even if it’s your first offense. If a person suffers a serious injury or even dies in a crash, you can face a first time aggravated DUI. In that case, your drunk driving is felony drunk driving, even if you don’t have any prior offenses. In some cases, repeat offenders who commit felony drunk driving can even face manslaughter or homicide charges. In addition, if you’re in an alcohol-related crash and you flee the scene, your offense might be felony drunk driving in addition to charges for fleeing the scene of a crash.
Even if you’re facing a felony drunk driving, there are things that you can do to defend yourself. There are skilled and experienced attorneys who will represent a DUI case and help you prepare your best defense. In some cases, your best option is to go to trial. In other cases, it’s best to ask the state’s attorney to reduce the charges as much as possible in exchange for your guilty plea. Your DUI attorney can make recommendations based on their expertise.
High Blood Alcohol Levels
Many states use a charging system where the seriousness of your offense depends on your alcohol level at the time you’re arrested. In most states, the legal limit is a .08. However, if your alcohol level at the time of your arrest is .16 or higher, some states enhance your charges off the bat. In most cases, if it’s your first offense, you still face a misdemeanor rather than a felony drunk driving. Even so, the charge can bring a longer license suspension, more possible time in jail and bigger fines.
If I’m charged with a felony, what does that mean?
A felony drunk driving is punishable by more than one year in jail. If the offense you’re facing carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail or less, it’s a misdemeanor. As soon as the offense might land you in jail for more than one year, it’s labeled a felony. If you’re getting 3rd DUI, you’re probably facing felony drunk driving charges.
In most states, a felony drunk driving or other felony charge means that you can face prison time. Often, if your sentence is one year or less, you serve it in the local jail. If you receive more than one year’s incarceration, you serve the time in a state prison.
Should I just plead guilty?
You might be wondering what to plead for your first DUI or felony drunk driving charge. You might be temped just to plead guilty in an effort to get it over with, but don’t make this mistake. The question – DUI plead guilty or not? – is an easy question. The answer is that you should always plead not guilty and take the time to explore your options and defenses.
Your first drunk driving arrest
In many cases, the state’s attorney extends plea offers to first-time offenders in an effort to lighten their case loads. If it’s your first drunk driving arrest, that can mean that you get a break in exchange for your guilty plea. However, in order to ask for a plea deal, you first have to plead not guilty and ask for a conference with the state’s attorney.
If you’re wondering what to do after first DUI arrest, contact your DUI attorney as soon as possible. It’s best to enter a plea of not guilty when you appear in front of a judge or a magistrate. They’re probably going to release you from jail with bond conditions while you wait for the next steps in the case.
The court might order you not to drink alcohol while your cases is pending. They might order you to take alcohol tests. It’s important that you comply with all of your bond conditions.
Your DUI attorney can help you understand what you’re facing in the local court for your first drunk driving charge. In some cases, the state’s attorney lets a first-time offender plead guilty to a reduced charge. You might even have the option to plead to an offense that doesn’t result in a suspension of your driver’s license.
What are the possible penalties?
The DUI penalties for a first offense or for felony drunk driving are unique for each case. Every state and even each local court has penalties that they typically give for each type of charge, but they also have the option to treat every case differently. Most of the time, jail time is minimal for a first offense if there are no physical injuries or property damage.
You can expect to receive a term of probation. That usually includes not using alcohol while you’re on probation. You also likely have to pay a substantial fine. The fine can be more than $1,000. A DUI attorney can help you prepare for sentencing in order to talk to the judge in a way that places you in the best possible light.
Drug and recovery courts
More and more, courts are turning to recovery programs for felony drunk driving offenses. That means if you’re facing a felony drunk driving offense, the court might decide that it’s better to help you find the treatment you need rather than just punishing you. To participate in recovery court, you enter a guilty plea to your felony drunk driving charge and enter the program.
In recovery court, you have frequent court appearances, and you’re monitored for alcohol use. You may also receive counseling and other treatment for substance abuse. If you complete the program successfully, the court reduces your drunk driving charge or dismisses it completely. This is a wonderful option for someone who faces a felony drunk driving charge. Your DUI attorney can help you determine if you qualify and if this program is available in your area.
Work with an attorney
If you’re charged with felony drunk driving, an experienced, local attorney can help you understand what to expect. They can review your case for felony drunk driving defenses and help you determine the best course of action. They can give you peace of mind and confidence as you make a plan for your best defense.