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What is the Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor DUI?

What is the Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor DUI?

While some states refer to it as OWI, OUI, or DWI, DUI is the most common term, and the acronym stands for driving under the influence.. The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) to drive is below .08 percent in every state except Utah. Utah has stricter regulations, allowing for a BAC of just .05 percent. Drivers found to be at or above .05 percent BAC in Utah will be charged with DUI.

In all states, a DUI is an alcohol-related driving offense. If law enforcement requests you test your BAC, and you blow at or above 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 all 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 most states have varying degrees of DUI offenses. However, if you are researching what your options are, it is helpful to know what constitutes a felony DUI. In many states the following circumstances would increase a misdemeanor DUI to a felony:

  • A minor 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. This is because of the added endangerment caused to the minor, which is a more serious offense.
  • 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. This is because this high level signifies an extreme level of intoxication and lack of safety.
  • 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. This is not surprising, as a serious crash resulting in death or injury would result in consequences even if alcohol were not involved. With alcohol involved, it becomes more serious.
  • 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. The offender may be responsible for paying for the cost of the property damage in addition to other offense-related fines
  • 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. This is an attempt to deter repeat offenders and punish them accordingly if they do reoffend.

When it comes to felony DUI, there are harsher consequences. They can include a very real possibility of jail time, longer jail time, an increased driver’s license suspension period, and more.

Will I Be Required to Take DUI Classes?

In addition to the financial penalties, those convicted of DUI experience other consequences including losing their driver’s license, community service, jail time, or treatment or education requirements. Some offenders 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. This could include an educational course about alcohol abuse, a Victim Impact Panel showing real-life DUI consequences and impact on victims, or alcohol abuse treatment. Be sure you understand your requirements by visiting our State Requirements page for your specific state.

Sometimes, a DUI assessment is required by the court, or it may be recommended by your attorney. A DUI assessment may help your case. Intoxalock partners with New Directions, which provides online assessments led by professional, certified evaluators. Their assessments have a 99% acceptance rate in court, and documents are securely delivered via email. They also offer rush services if you are dealing with a close court deadline. Treatment or education might be recommended in your assessment, but it would not be required unless ordered by the court.

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 educate offenders in order to deter them from committing another alcohol-related offense.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on My Record?

This is a concern for many drivers, because 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. In some states, an expungement is possible. Expungement would remove the offense from your records after you have completed all penalties.

Note: This data is subject to change, as states may update their policies. This data is correct as of May 26, 2022.

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