How Can a DUI Become a Felony
Like some other offenses, driving under the influence (DUI) is an enhanceable crime, meaning that certain facts within an individual DUI case may make the charge more severe.
DUIs can be enhanced based on breath or blood alcohol levels, property damage, injury, if a minor is in the vehicle, and also prior offenses.
For example, a first offense DUI is typically punishable by up to 180 days in the county jail or up to twelve (12) months’ probation and up to a $1,000.00 fine.
However, if a person has a breath or blood alcohol level of above a 0.15, then the maximum penalties become enhanced to 270 days in the county jail or 12 months’ probation and up to a $2,000.00 fine.
One way a DUI can become a felony offense is based on prior DUI convictions. Two separate DUI offenses can lead to a felony-level DUI based on priors, a third offense within ten years, and a fourth or subsequent offense.
There are two general third offense DUI offenses—a third offense outside of ten years and a third offense within ten years. The major difference between the two is that a third offense outside of ten years is a misdemeanor charge, so the maximum penalty is one year in the county jail and up to a $5,000.00 fine. A third offense outside of ten years occurs with both prior convictions that are outside of a ten-year period from the current pending DUI offense.
A third offense within ten years is a third-degree felony offense, meaning the maximum penalty is up to five (5) years in prison and up to a $5000.00 fine. A third offense within ten years also carries with it a 10-year driver’s license revocation.
Another difference is that a third offense inside of ten years also requires a minimum mandatory jail sentence of thirty (30) days. Also, though the charge reads as third offense inside of ten years, it does not require that both prior convictions occurred during a ten-year period. Only one prior conviction needs to be within the ten year from the pending DUI charge—the other conviction can be from eleven (11) years or twenty (20) years ago. This means that if a person had a prior conviction in 1999 and 2010, then is arrested and charged with DUI in 2019, that person could be charged with a felony DUI offense.
A fourth offense or subsequent DUI offense is automatically a third-degree felony, which again is punishable by up to five years in prison or up to five years of probation and up to a $5,000.00 fine. Another penalty that a judge must impose on a fourth or subsequent DUI is a permanent driver’s license revocation.
There are potential defenses to a felony-level DUI, just like there are defenses to a misdemeanor level DUI. Was there an illegal traffic stop, are there errors in with the breath test, can the State actually prove that the individual does have the prior convictions necessary for a felony-level DUI offense? No matter what the level of DIU charges an experienced DUI lawyer can help find and discuss your options.
If you are charged with a driving offense, contact Meldon Law at 352-373-8000 to set up a free consultation. We have the knowledge and experience to help defend you and protect your rights.