Driving under the influence (DUI) convictions make life more difficult. They bring stress to the present moment and also have the power to bring stress for the unforeseen future. Whether the conviction is for a felony or misdemeanor DUI, the time, energy, and money spent dealing with the issue could be best used elsewhere. But, what makes a DUI conviction a felony or misdemeanor? What are the differences?
We normally consider misdemeanor charges as less of a big deal than felony charges, but all criminal convictions are a big deal. While any sort of criminal conviction should be avoided, misdemeanors are not likely to have as big of an impact upon your life as felonies. Many job applications still ask for information about former arrests and misdemeanor charges, but more companies have moved on to bigger fish. They will, however, want to know if you have any felony charges and will do a criminal background check on you to verify your answer.
A misdemeanor DUI conviction often results in fines and time in jail. How severe the punishment is depends upon how many previous DUI convictions you have. A first DUI conviction is usually a misdemeanor, but in many states, a second or subsequent DUI conviction within a certain time frame automatically becomes a felony. Most states look at a person’s DUI conviction history for the five or ten years prior to arrest when deciding whether a felony or misdemeanor DUI charge is appropriate.
The first thing that makes felony DUI convictions a little more frightening than misdemeanor convictions is that the person is sent to prison after sentencing. The sentence is usually for a year or two and then the person is on probation and must report to a probation officer regularly. At the felony level, all states require use of an ignition interlock device once driving privileges are reinstated. Another difference between felony and misdemeanor DUI convictions is that felony convictions stay on your criminal record longer, negatively impacting housing, education, and job opportunities.
DUI arrests that involved personal and property injury, death, or minor children are more likely to result in felony convictions. Also, some states take into consideration the individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level at the time of arrest when deciding between the felony or misdemeanor charge. Convicted felons experience many inconveniences upon release from prison and that varies according to state, as well. Certain states, like Florida, provide lots of social and civil inconveniences after a felony conviction.
It is best to never drive after drinking, but we all make mistakes every now and then. Neither a felony nor misdemeanor DUI is something you want for yourself. The best thing to do is to always get a sober person to drive you where you need to go when you have had a drink or two. That way, you never have to worry about how a misdemeanor or felony DUI conviction will affect your life.