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Is a DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor

Is a DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor

What is a DUI?

Some states refer to it as OWI, OUI, or DWI, but DUI is the most common term. It stands for driving under the influence. In every state except Utah, the legal limit for blood alcohol content when driving is .08 percent. Utah is stricter, allowing for a BAC of just .05 percent to be charged with DUI.

A DUI is an alcohol-related driving offense. If you blow above .08 percent, or refuse a test, you risk being charged with DUI and resulting consequences. This can happen as the result of an accident or a routine traffic stop. Some states may even charge with intent to operate a vehicle while under the influence, which applies if you are in the driver’s seat but not actually driving.

Is a DUI a Felony, or a Misdemeanor?

Driving under the influence is taken seriously by states, but there are key differences in the way some states handle the offense. Currently, forty-six states have felony DUI laws on the books, and four do not. Maryland, Maine, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania do not have felony DUI laws, and neither does the District of Columbia.

A state specialist can help you understand the requirements in your state as l, most states have varying degrees of DUI offenses. In many states the following circumstances would increase a misdemeanor DUI to a felony:

  • A child is in the car — if a minor child is in the car while you are arrested for DUI, many states will consider the offense an automatic felony.
  • Excessive Blood Alcohol content — if the BAC of the driver is higher than specified amount (often twice the legal limit) most states consider the offense a felony.
  • Injury or death — if you are in an accident as a result of your drunk driving, and another party is injured or killed, the misdemeanor DUI may be considered a felony. Additionally, there may be separate legal charges as a result of the death or injury.
  • Property damage — if your drunk driving resulted in property damage to an individual or government property, this may be considered an aggravated DUI/a felony by some states.
  • Multiple offenses within a set time frame — the limits vary by state, but many will increase consequences and potentially bump a misdemeanor to a felony if it’s the second or third offense within 5 years or less. The felony consequences will then be applied.

In all cases of felony DUI, the consequences are harsher, typically with increased fines, risk of longer jail time, increased suspension period, and other legal requirements.

Will I Be Required to Take DUI Classes?

The consequences of alcohol-based driving offenses are often far-reaching. Drivers are required to pay fines, and in many cases will lose their license or have it suspended for a certain time period. Some will be required to serve a jail sentence or complete hundreds of hours of community service. In many cases, they may also be required to attend DUI courses. Be sure you understand your requirements by visiting our State Requirements page for your specific state.

DUI courses vary by state, but will typically consist of multiple hours of classroom instruction. Participants are typically required to earn a certificate or have documentation of their attendance at the class in order to fulfill the requirement. The goal of these classes is to deter offenders from committing another alcohol-related offense.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on My Record?

Many drivers are concerned about this, especially as many job applications require applicants to disclose felony offenses. There are varying consequences depending on what state you offend in. You should always confirm with your attorney, monitoring authority, or court system. Below is a list of the length of time a DUI will stay on a driver’s record by state:

  • Within 5 years — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, and Rhode Island will remove a DUI offense after or within 5 years from the offense.
  • Within 7 years — Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and North Dakota will remove a DUI offense after or within 7 years in most cases.
  • Within 10 years — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming will remove a DUI offense within 10 years.
  • Within 11 years — Virginia is the sole state that removes DUI from records after 11 years.
  • Within 12 years — Iowa and Nebraska typically remove a DUI from records after 12 years.
  • Within 15 years — New York and Washington remove DUI from records after 15 years.
  • After 75 years — Florida is the only state who removes DUI after 75 years, though it’s unclear if offenders are able to drive after that point given their advanced age.
  • For life — Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont all leave DUI offenses on driving records for life without removal.

Of course, some states may make exceptions for a variety of reasons, so it’s always best to inquire directly if you’re hoping to have a past DUI removed from your record.

Note: This data is subject to change, as states may update their policies. This data is correct as of March 31, 2021.

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