When you are arrested for a DUI, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. While most people know misdemeanors are less severe than felonies, they aren't exactly sure how they differ. Here's more information about what distinguishes felony and misdemeanor DUIs so you know what to expect.
More Jail Time
The primary difference between a misdemeanor and a felony DUI is that you'll spend more time in jail for a felony. This happens in two ways. First, you'll have to wait longer to be released from jail when you're arrested.
People charged with misdemeanors can typically use the bail schedules to pay bail and be released. In some jurisdictions, however, arrestees charged with felonies must wait until their bail hearings before they can pay to get out of jail. In many cases, the bail amount for felony charges is higher than that for misdemeanors, so people without the financial means to pay are effectively barred from getting out of jail before their court dates.
Second, sentencing in felony cases is longer than misdemeanor cases. In fact, felonies require defendants to be sentenced to a minimum of one year in prison if they are convicted. However, the actual amount of time you are required to spend in jail depends on why you were charged with a felony. You will typically spend more time in prison if you severely maimed or killed someone in an accident than if you were simply a repeat offender with no accidents on record.
Bigger Fines and Financial Penalties
Another difference between misdemeanors and felonies is that felonies hit your bank account much harder. To start with, the fines associated with felonies are typically much larger. For example, in Michigan, a first-time DUI is considered a misdemeanor and can result in an up to $500 fine. However, a third DUI within a seven year period is considered a felony and comes with a fine of up to $1,000.
However, this is only if you don't injure a person or damage property. If you caused an accident, you may be ordered to pay restitution to the victim commiserate with the amount of damages and losses he or she sustained because of the incident. Additionally, as noted previously, people convicted of felonies are sent to prison, which typically levies an assortment of fees against prisoners during their stay in the facility.
Lastly, you may be required to complete a drug and alcohol treatment program or install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, which you must pay for out of your own pocket.
More Severe Societal Consequences
The societal consequences of a felony conviction are also typically more severe. Felonies cause you to lose some important civil rights, such as the ability to serve on a jury, vote, or own a weapon (e.g. firearms and certain types of knives). You may also be barred from getting jobs in certain professions, such as the military, law, or teaching, and you may have trouble obtaining housing once you're released from jail.
It may be possible to get a felony DUI reduced to a misdemeanor by challenging the aspects that raised the charges to that level. For instance, you may be charged with a felony if your blood alcohol content is 0.16, which is twice the legal level in most states. However, you could get the felony charges reduced if you successfully dispute the accuracy of the test.
As you can see, being charged with a felony DUI can have a significantly negative impact on your life. Work with a DUI attorney at a law firm like Thomas & Associates, PC to fashion the best defense possible to achieve the outcome you want.