A DUI is a serious offense that can have life-changing consequences in the courtroom, in your professional life and in your personal life. However, due to the circumstances of a DUI charge a DUI can be considered either a misdemeanor or a felony. If a DUI involves an accident with another vehicle, person, or property, it typically gets charged as a felony. If a first-time DUI does not involve an actual accident, many times it will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Many states also have a limit on the number of DUIs that can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. In California for example, the fourth DUI conviction, regardless of the circumstances, becomes a felony charge.
Some differences between a felony DUI and misdemeanor DUI are:
• DUI Misdemeanors are less severe than DUI felonies and have less severe consequences.
• A misdemeanor DUI charge may include some jail time, but a felony usually requires that a person spend at least one year in prison.
• Fines that are imposed for felony DUI charges tend to be a lot more than fines imposed for misdemeanor charges.
• Once convicted of a felony, a person loses both the right to vote and the right to serve on a jury.
• A person with a felony DUI may have a hard time finding employment or housing, as these places often inquire about criminal history.
With consequences like ignition interlock installations, jail time, fines and court costs, any person charged with a DUI can find life is never the same after making the choice to drink and drive. Understanding the difference between misdemeanor and felony DUI charges is important while going through the court system, but, the most important way to have a clean criminal record is to always drive sober.