Driving under the influence of alcohol can carry serious charges. Is DUI a misdemeanor? In most cases, only a misdemeanor conviction is applied for drunk drivers. In the case of a serious accident, the offense is labeled a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
Driving while under the influence (DUI) represents a misdemeanor in all 50 states if it is the defendant’s first offense. Most states also consider the second or third DUI to be a misdemeanor, provided a certain period of time, generally, seven to ten years has passed between the offenses.
Whether a conviction ends up as a misdemeanor or as a felony depends on the types of penalties applied in every case. Misdemeanors carry the possibility of jail time for one year or less, while felonies usually result in a state prison conviction for more than a year.
Repeated DUI offenses can become felonies.
State DUI Felony Laws
The following list is with the states in which a repeated drunk driving is considered a felony, even if nobody gets injured or killed:
- Alabama. Starting with a 4th offense within a five-year period becomes a felony.
- Alaska. 3rd of the following offense with ten years is a felony.
- Arizona. 3rd of subsequent offense is a class 4 felony.
- Arkansas. Starting with a 4th offense within a period of five years constitutes a felony.
- California. Beginning with a 4th offense becomes a felony when the offender is sentenced to prison.
- Colorado. The 4th or subsequent offense is a felony.
- Connecticut. Both 3rd and subsequent offense within ten years are felonies.
- Delaware. 3rd offense is a G class felony.
- Florida. 3rd or subsequent offense within ten years is a 3rd-degree felony.
- Georgia. Starting with a 4th offense within a ten-year period is a felony.
- Hawaii. 4th of subsequent offense is a class C felony.
- Idaho. 3rd or subsequent offenses are felonies.
- Illinois. 3rd and subsequent offenses are class 4 felonies.
- Indiana. Subsequent conviction within five years constitutes a felony categorized within the G class.
- Iowa. Starting with a 3rd offense becomes a class D felony.
- Kansas. 3rd or subsequent offense is a non-person felony.
- Kentucky. 4th or subsequent offense are class D Felonies.
- Louisiana. The 4th offense is a felony.
- Massachusetts. Beginning with a 3rd offense is considered a felony.
- Michigan. 3rd of subsequent offenses within ten years are felonies.
- Minnesota. A 2nd offense based on circumstances.
- Mississippi. 3rd and subsequent offenses are felonies.
- Missouri. 3rd of subsequent offenses are class D felonies.
- Montana. 4th and subsequent offenses are felonies.
- Nebraska. 4th and subsequent offenses within 12 years are felonies.
- Nevada. 3rd of subsequent offenses are category B felonies.
- New Hampshire. 4th or subsequent non-injury DUI offenses are felonies.
- New Mexico. The 4th offense is a 4th-degree
- New York. A 2nd offense within a ten-year period becomes a class E felony.
- North Carolina. All the offenses above 4th are categorized as a Class F felony.
- North Dakota. 4th and subsequent offenses within a period of seven years are included in the class C felonies.
- Ohio. A 4th offense produced in a period of six years constitutes a fourth-degree
- Oklahoma. Starting from the 2nd offense in a ten-year period is considered a felony.
- Oregon. 4th and subsequent offenses are class C felonies.
- Rhode Island. The 3rd offense within five years is a felony.
- South Carolina. The 4th and all subsequent offenses within a period of ten years are part of class F felonies.
- South Dakota. The 3rd offense within a five-year period represents a class 6 felony.
- Tennessee. The 4th and all subsequent offenses within a period of ten years become a class E felony.
- Texas. The 3rd and all subsequent offenses are 3rd-degree
- Utah. The 3rd and all subsequent offenses within a period of ten years are 3rd-degree
- Vermont. The 3rd and all subsequent offenses constitute felonies.
- Virginia. The 3rd offense within a ten-year period represents a class 6 felony.
- Washington. The 5th or subsequent offenses related to DUI within a period of ten years.
- West Virginia. The 3rd and all subsequent offenses represent felonies.
- Wisconsin. The 4th offense within a period of five years becomes a class H felony.
- Wyoming. The 4th or all subsequent offenses within a period of five years become felonies.
Is DUI a misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that can have consequences such as jail time for up to one year. Most of the states categorize misdemeanors into classes depending on their severity, which will determine if imprisonment is necessary.
When you are convicted of a misdemeanor DUI, you can get a short jail time or community service if it is your first offense. The sentence might also include other legal penalties such as a probation period, a fine, going to DUI school, and even license suspension.
The jail sentence is mandatory in the following cases:
- The offender has a very high blood alcohol concentration.
- One of the passengers is under a certain age.
A few states treat a second DUI as a low-level felony if it is committed within a 10-year period of the first. There are other states that consider a third DUI as a felony in any case. Most of the states charge a fourth or more DUI as a felony if it was committed within a 10-year period.
What Is a Felony?
Is DUI a misdemeanor? Well, there are times when even a first offense can be considered as a felony. These include circumstances in which:
- There was serious bodily injury or disfigurement
- There was a fatality
- The individual who caused the accident had a blood alcohol concentration way over a certain limit
- The defendant has previous DUI convictions; all received within a certain period
- There were underage passengers in the car
- The one that caused the accident had his/her license suspended or revoked when the incident happened
However, these aggravating cases will not make an offense become a felony in all states. Depending on the state which you are in, a prosecutor usually has to make the decision whether to upgrade a DUI conviction to a felony level.
If someone does get killed or suffers serious injuries in a DUI accident, all states will charge the offender with one or more felonies including the following:
- Vehicular homicide
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Criminal negligence
- Assault with a deadly weapon
In any case, the best thing is to seek help and consult a DUI specialized lawyer. These attorneys know the law and can handle your case, protect your rights, make sure that all procedures were accurate, and could even lower your charges.
So, is DUI a misdemeanor? All in all, DUI offenses can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the state which you are in, or of how aggravating are the circumstances of the accident. In either case, the wisest decision you can make is to consult a DUI lawyer. He/she can help you build a strong case.