If there were no injuries, extensive property damage, or other extenuating circumstances with your arrest, and this is your first DUI, it is generally classified as a misdemeanor. This offers the possibility of a range of fines, probation, driving school, and other court-ordered punishment. Even a misdemeanor can result in incarceration for up to a year.
For a felony DUI punishment is more severe. In addition to the misdemeanor punishment options, you could serve jail time of more than a year; pay expensive fines; get probation; have your license restricted or suspended for anywhere from one to five years, or have your license permanently revoked; or receive court-ordered treatment for drug use or alcoholism. At your expense, an ignition interlock device may be installed on your car. This device requires the driver to perform a breathalyzer test before the car can be started. Expensive impoundment or even forfeiture of your car are possible.
A “driving while under the influence” (DUI or DWI) felony charge indicates that this was a situation where a driver did more than take a drink and go for a drive. That situation is normally charged as a misdemeanor, although that, too, can have expensive consequences on many levels. However, the status of the charges could be raised to a felony for many reasons:
- Someone was injured because the driver of a vehicle was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
- There was a minor in the car and the driver was arrested for exceeding that county or state’s blood-alcohol (BAC) level
- This was not the driver’s first drunk driving offense
- Other crimes were committed during this incident
- There was extensive property damage due to an accident.
Felonies are much more serious and the implication is possible incarceration in a prison for more than one year as well as expensive fines. Convicted felons often have difficulty in finding jobs and obtaining other services once they list a felony conviction on an application, they cannot vote, and often application for expungement of the record is refused.