If you are facing a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or another controlled substance, you may be asking a common question: Is DUI a felony?
This answer is not so simple, since DUI laws vary from one jurisdiction to another. In general, DUI cases are handled in state superior court, and each state has its own laws that govern DUI.
In general though, a first time DUI is a misdemeanor, with a few caveats. First, even a first time DUI will usually be raised to a felony if someone was injured as a result of a drunk driver, or if there are grounds for believing that the driver was negligent or reckless in addition to being impaired by alcohol. In the case of serious injury, a DUI is often charged as a felony called vehicular assault. If someone is killed a result of the drunk driving episode, the at fault driver will likely be charged with felony vehicular manslaughter, or in some cases vehicular homicide, which carries a higher sentence if the defendant is convicted. Another way that DUI is raised to a felony instead of a misdemeanor is when a driver has multiple DUI convictions.
This varies by state, but DUI is commonly raised to a felony on the fourth DUI conviction. However, in some states even a second or third DUI arrest may be charged as a felony. In some cases, blood alcohol level may also impact whether DUI is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. In most states, the legal blood alcohol. If blood alcohol level is considerably above the legal limit, the prosecutor may take this into account as evidence of negligence. Presumably someone who is severely impaired as a result of a very high alcohol intake should know that driving in such an impaired state is likely to result in serious harm to others. With all of this information about when DUI becomes a felony, it may be helpful to define exactly what the terms “misdemeanor" and felony mean.
In general terms, a misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to one year in county jail. A felony, on the other hand, is punishable by one year or more in state prison.