Altruism Counseling

Is A DUI A Felony

is a dui a felony altruism counseling

Driving under the influence is a huge gamble. Not only are there serious safety risks, but legal consequences too. And when these gambles are taken over and over again – eventually, you lose.

In the United States, more than two-million people have multiple DUI convictions, many of those at the felony level. This highlights a stark reality that many who live with alcohol use disorder find themselves taking the same risks over and over again. At Altruism Counseling Services, our mission is to empower you to escape from this loop, offering DUI classes to help get your life back on track.

Today, we’re going to talk about what makes a DUI a felony, and how this can potentially impact your life.

when does a dui lead to a felony

When Does a DUI Lead to a Felony?

So what makes a DUI a felony? 

Not all DUIs fall into this category. In fact, for most cases, a DUI will instead be classified as a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are still criminal offenses, but these result in fewer penalties, fines, and overall consequences. Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious charges, and the consequences can also be more severe.

But what makes that difference - when does a DUI cross that line from misdemeanor into felony?

Prior Convictions for DUI

The first thing that can lead to your DUI being classified as a felony is the existence of prior DUI convictions. When charged with a DUI, your past legal history and convictions will be taken into account. This will depend heavily on the location of the prior convictions, their severity, and how much time has passed between them. 

The more frequent the convictions, and the more recent, the more likely it is that your current DUI will be considered a felony. In Connecticut for example, a second DUI within a decade can result in a felony charge. Kentucky has a slightly more lenient approach than most – on the 4th DUI in a 10-year period, it is automatically considered a felony.

Bodily Harm or Injury

Causing injury while driving under the influence does not necessarily mean your DUI will be classified as a felony. However, depending on the extent of the injury, felony charges can still occur. Serious injury or death will often result in felony assault or manslaughter charges, and some states will use this to elevate your DUI to a felony. 

This can also lead to what are known as “aggravated DUI” charges – which carry additional penalties, and in some states are charged as felonies. Even if an aggravated DUI charge is not considered a felony, it carries additional penalties and fines, and may result in increased jail or prison sentences.

Driving With a Suspended License

In most states, driving with a suspended license is generally charged as a misdemeanor. However, if your license is suspended due to a DUI conviction, then this can be bumped up to a felony. If you are found driving under the influence while your license is suspended, the penalties can be even harsher. 

In this case, as with every criminal charge, your past will have a heavy influence. In Kentucky, the first charge of driving under the influence on a suspended license is generally classified as a misdemeanor. However, for the second charge and beyond, these are typically considered felonies.

High Blood-Alcohol Concentration

In some states, extremely high blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) can result in a felony conviction – these can be anything above the .15% level or beyond. While nationwide, the legal limit for impairment falls at .08%, higher amounts can result in stricter penalties. These penalties can range from increased jail time, to more time with ignition interlock devices, or greater fines. This can even come paired with additional felony reckless endangerment charges.

Property Damage

Property damage that occurs while driving under the influence can lead to additional criminal charges. The specifics will depend on a wide variety of factors – the prosecutors, the individuals involved, and the state where the incident occurs. As a general rule, property damage of more than $1000 can result in a felony charge, though in some cases it remains a misdemeanor.

Refusal to Take a Breath Test

While the specific laws on this vary from state to state, you have a Fourth Amendment right to refuse a field breath or sobriety test. However, this can come with significant downsides. 

In many states, this refusal results in additional penalties if a DUI conviction is eventually obtained, and your license will be suspended for the length of time as if you were convicted. Importantly, you are required to comply in the event a warrant is obtained for a blood test for alcohol. Refusal to do so can result in felony obstruction of justice charges.

The Consequences of a Felony DUI

While the specific consequences can vary from state to state, no matter where it happens, the impact of a felony DUI can be life-changing. This can range from immediate legal ramifications, to the long term effects of a felony on your record.

Immediate Consequences

When you are convicted of a felony DUI in Kentucky, there are immediate and serious legal ramifications. These can seriously derail your life, and it’s important to speak to an attorney if you or a loved one have been charged with a felony.

Prison time can fall between 1-5 years, and a minimum of 120 days with probation. Any aggravating circumstances – such injury, speeding, or endangerment of children – will generally double this sentence. This comes with a 60-month suspension on your license, and a year of alcohol or addiction treatment. Significant fines can be applied, especially if damage has occurred.

Often, ignition-interlock devices may be installed once your license is returned after suspension. These expensive devices prevent your car from starting unless you pass a breath test. 

Additional felonies or misdemeanors, such as those from property damage or reckless endangerment, can only add to these penalties. While the judge and prosecution will have significant sway in what specific sentencing looks like, a felony conviction carries significant and immediate penalties.

Long-Term Consequences

In Kentucky, a felony DUI can stay on your record for a long time , with at least 10 years passing before you are able to begin the process to expunge it from your record. In the meantime, this can have a serious impact on a number of areas in your life.

Many employers or landlords run background checks, and having a felony DUI on your record can make finding work or housing difficult. Insurance rates can skyrocket, as many companies consider those with DUI convictions “higher risk” individuals. If you are ever involved in other legal proceedings, your criminal record can be held against you in many cases. There are even travel restrictions, with some countries barring entry to those who have convictions on their record.

Additionally, there are the long-term consequences of being in prison for what can be up to 5 years. This can have not only significant life, family, and financial consequences, but also serious mental health implications. Research tells us that for those who have been incarcerated, many often leave with PTSD and trauma, which can ripple out into all areas of your life.

All of these can combine to make leaving your DUI behind even more difficult, and underscore the importance of getting the treatment you need. But help is available.

getting help for alcohol addiction in lexington

Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction in Lexington

If you’re worried about felony DUI convictions, it’s likely that you or a loved one are living with alcoholism. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, with consequences steadily mounting. But it is always possible to get your life back on track. You aren’t alone, and getting alcoholism treatment is always possible. Finding the right partner to help you on your recovery journey is crucial, both for avoiding future legal penalties, and for reclaiming your life.

At Altruism Counseling Services, our goal is to be there for anyone who needs us. That’s why we offer the lowest-cost DUI program in the state of Kentucky and provide expert care and treatment for alcohol use disorder. Our mission is to help you learn the skills needed to not only recover, but to build the life you deserve. Please call us today at 859-310-6505, or connect via our contact page. 

Altruism Counseling Services: Find Yourself.

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