In every state, crimes are categorized as either felonies or misdemeanors depending on the severity of the misconduct. Certain crimes are nearly always considered a felony, such as those involving extreme violence or loss of life. Other crimes, such as DUI, can either be a misdemeanor or a felony charge depending upon the specifics of the case.
A DUI charge is most likely elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony if there are aggravating factors at the time of the offense.
These factors include:
Bodily injury or death
Very high blood alcohol content (BAC)
For example, while a standard, first-offense DUI is most likely a misdemeanor, a 3rd DUI with an extremely high BAC could result in felony charges.
In nearly all US states, employers are permitted to investigate a job applicant’s criminal background. Often, candidates with a felony conviction (of any kind) are automatically disqualified and not considered for the job. With a felony DUI conviction on one’s record, it can be difficult to find gainful employment other than manual labor, contract work, or working with a friend or family member.
Likewise, employers in many states may be able to automatically terminate an employee with a felony DUI conviction, even if the conviction does not reasonably impact his or her ability to properly perform job tasks.
For practicing professionals, a felony conviction can mean a loss or suspension of licensure, which will prevent that individual from legally practicing medicine, law, accounting, financial transactions, or other profession requiring a license. A felony will also disqualify applicants for most security-oriented jobs, and will generally preclude eligibility for government contract work.
A felony DUI conviction will make it extremely difficult to obtain affordable auto insurance, requiring many people with a felony DUI either to choose the lowest possible coverage or to abstain from driving altogether.
Affordable life insurance may also be difficult to obtain for an applicant with a felony DUI, as this criminal conviction is seen by insurance underwriters as evidence of risk-taking behavior.
Aside from the financial impacts of a felony DUI, many states—and the federal government— impose a number of restrictions upon convicted felons. Loss of driving privileges will be an immediate concern post-conviction, and some states even revoke licenses permanently following a felony conviction.
From there, the potential penalties depend heavily on the state laws in place at the time of the conviction, and may include:
Loss of the right to vote or hold public office
Disqualification from jury service
Loss of the right to keep and bear arms
Loss of housing
Loss of eligibility for state or federal financial assistance
Disqualification to serve as a foster parent or adopt a foster child
Loss of student loans or financial aid
Negative impacts on visitation and custody rights
Denial of credit or loans
Loss of eligibility to enlist in the US military
In addition to these severe restrictions on felons by the United States, many other nations maintain prohibitions against entry by those with felony convictions on their records. Consequently, a DUI felony may restrict one’s ability to travel abroad, particularly if the incident is fairly recent. For example, Canada prohibits entry by any foreigner with a felony DUI unless a waiver is issued.