Facing a first drunk driving or a felony drunk driving charge can be a harrowing experience. You probably have more questions than answers. The police might have taken your driver’s license. Your head is swirling as you think about your employment, your family, and even your freedom.
You can fight back
The good news is that fighting a DWI or felony drunk driving is not as hard as you might think. The police have to follow search and seizure and due process rules when they investigate a case. They also have to follow procedures when they give chemical tests. If they don’t do these things, your felony drunk driving case might be dismissed.
Juries want to see a high amount of proof before they convict someone of drunk driving or felony drunk driving. What the police might think is good enough might not be enough evidence for a jury of your peers. This is true for even felony drunk driving cases. You have options, and a felony drunk driving DUI attorney can help you explore them.
What is felony drunk driving?
There are a number of ways that drunk driving can be felony drunk driving. Although the rules vary from state to state, a third drunk driving offense is usually a felony. That means, if you have two or more prior convictions for drunk driving and you receive another drunk driving charge, the state can enhance the charges so that you’re facing a felony. Although the question – When is a DUI a felony? – depends on your specific state, a DUI can be felony drunk driving when you have prior offenses or when you face aggravated drunk driving charges.
Aggravated drunk driving
There are a number of ways that you might face an aggravated drunk driving charge or felony drunk driving, even if it’s your first offense. If a person suffers a serious injury or even dies in a crash, you can face a first time aggravated DUI. In that case, your drunk driving is felony drunk driving, even if you don’t have any prior offenses. In some cases, repeat offenders who commit felony drunk driving can even face manslaughter or homicide charges. In addition, if you’re in an alcohol-related crash and you flee the scene, your offense might be felony drunk driving in addition to charges for fleeing the scene of a crash.
Even if you’re facing a felony drunk driving, there are things that you can do to defend yourself. There are skilled and experienced attorneys who will represent a DUI case and help you prepare your best defense. In some cases, your best option is to go to trial. In other cases, it’s best to ask the state’s attorney to reduce the charges as much as possible in exchange for your guilty plea. Your DUI attorney can make recommendations based on their expertise.
High Blood Alcohol Levels
Many states use a charging system where the seriousness of your offense depends on your alcohol level at the time you’re arrested. In most states, the legal limit is a .08. However, if your alcohol level at the time of your arrest is .16 or higher, some states enhance your charges off the bat. In most cases, if it’s your first offense, you still face a misdemeanor rather than a felony drunk driving. Even so, the charge can bring a longer license suspension, more possible time in jail and bigger fines.
If I’m charged with a felony, what does that mean?
A felony drunk driving is punishable by more than one year in jail. If the offense you’re facing carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail or less, it’s a misdemeanor. As soon as the offense might land you in jail for more than one year, it’s labeled a felony. If you’re getting 3rd DUI, you’re probably facing felony drunk driving charges.
In most states, a felony drunk driving or other felony charge means that you can face prison time. Often, if your sentence is one year or less, you serve it in the local jail. If you receive more than one year’s incarceration, you serve the time in a state prison.
Should I just plead guilty?
You might be wondering what to plead for your first DUI or felony drunk driving charge. You might be temped just to plead guilty in an effort to get it over with, but don’t make this mistake. The question – DUI plead guilty or not? – is an easy question. The answer is that you should always plead not guilty and take the time to explore your options and defenses.
Your first drunk driving arrest
In many cases, the state’s attorney extends plea offers to first-time offenders in an effort to lighten their case loads. If it’s your first drunk driving arrest, that can mean that you get a break in exchange for your guilty plea. However, in order to ask for a plea deal, you first have to plead not guilty and ask for a conference with the state’s attorney.
If you’re wondering what to do after first DUI arrest, contact your DUI attorney as soon as possible. It’s best to enter a plea of not guilty when you appear in front of a judge or a magistrate. They’re probably going to release you from jail with bond conditions while you wait for the next steps in the case.
The court might order you not to drink alcohol while your case is pending. They might order you to take alcohol tests. It’s important that you comply with all of your bond conditions.
Your DUI attorney can help you understand what you’re facing in the local court for your first drunk driving charge. In some cases, the state’s attorney lets a first-time offender plead guilty to a reduced charge. You might even have the option to plead to an offense that doesn’t result in a suspension of your driver’s license.
What are the possible penalties?
The DUI penalties for a first offense or for felony drunk driving are unique for each case. Every state and even each local court have penalties that they typically give for each type of charge, but they also have the option to treat every case differently. Most of the time, jail time is minimal for a first offense if there are no physical injuries or property damage.
You can expect to receive a term of probation. That usually includes not using alcohol while you’re on probation. You also likely have to pay a substantial fine. The fine can be more than $1,000. A DUI attorney can help you prepare for sentencing in order to talk to the judge in a way that places you in the best possible light.
Drug and recovery courts
More and more, courts are turning to recovery programs for felony drunk driving offenses. That means if you’re facing a felony drunk driving offense, the court might decide that it’s better to help you find the treatment you need rather than just punishing you. To participate in recovery court, you enter a guilty plea to your felony drunk driving charge and enter the program.
In recovery court, you have frequent court appearances, and you’re monitored for alcohol use. You may also receive counseling and other treatment for substance abuse. If you complete the program successfully, the court reduces your drunk driving charge or dismisses it completely. This is a wonderful option for someone who faces a felony drunk driving charge. Your DUI attorney can help you determine if you qualify and if this program is available in your area.
Work with an attorney
If you’re charged with felony drunk driving, an experienced, local attorney can help you understand what to expect. They can review your case for felony drunk driving defenses and help you determine the best course of action. They can give you peace of mind and confidence as you make a plan for your best defense.
Drunk Driving Offenses
Facing drunk driving offenses or having a loved one dealing with drunk driving offenses can be scary and intimidating. The bonding process, hiring a lawyer, and the judicial system is not always easy to navigate or understand. Many times people facing drunk driving offenses just want to bury their head in the sand and hope it all goes away. Their embarrassment sometimes will get in the way of doing what needs to be done to protect their future. We are going to walk you through the basics of drunk driving offenses so that you or your loved one can make informed decisions about what to do next. Our hope is that providing you some basic answers, we can reduce some of the stress and anxiety you are probably feeling. So, first things first:
What are drunk driving offenses?
Drunk driving offenses are a category of driving under the influence or DWI laws. Driving under the influence is also often referred to as driving while impaired in some jurisdictions. In general, driving while impaired crimes are offenses committed by driving a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Impaired by drugs can include illegal drugs and those prescribed by a physician. Driving while impaired, regardless of what it is called, is a crime in all fifty U.S. states and D.C. Also, a motor vehicle does not just apply to automobiles, people have been charged for driving boats, golf carts, scooters, and even motorized coolers while under the influence.
Do I need a DUI lawyer?
Yes, if you can in any way afford to hire a lawyer, you should. A lawyer may be able to get your charges reduced, may be able to keep your license from being suspended, and may be able to keep you or a loved out of jail. Hiring a qualified lawyer is the single best thing you can do to protect you or your loved one’s future. They will be able to exclaim the system to you and relieve your stress and anxiety about dealing with the justice system.
What happens for your first DUI offense?
Most likely after a first DUI offense, you will be taken into custody, arrested, and a bond set by a judge in less than twenty-hour hours. Once a bond amount is set, you or a loved can contact a bail bonds man, or women, to arrange for the bond to be posted. You will be arraigned or formally charged within a couple of days of being arrested. This is where the judge informs you of what you have been charged with and you get to enter a plea of guilty or no-guilty. If possible, you should have an attorney hired present by this point.
What to plead for your first DUI?
If you have not retained an attorney by your arraignment, you should plead not-guilty to any and all charges. You are not in the best position to weigh the evidence against you or know what, if any, defenses you may be able to avail yourself of until you have met and talked with a legal professional. Pleading not guilty at the arraignment will give you the most options on how to handle your drunk driving offenses going forward. A not-guilty plea can always be changed down the line to a guilty plea if that is what is deemed to be in your best interests. Also, pleading not guilty leaves the door open to hoping to have the charges reduced or even dismissed in the future. Also, in most jurisdictions pleading guilty will prevent you from ever having the record sealed or expunged. You want to have any many options as possible going forward and pleading not guilty will most likely leave you with the most options.
What to expect for a first time DUI charge?
Hopefully, there is not enough evidence for the state to prove any drunk driving offenses and you will be able to have the charges reduced to reckless driving or some other non-drunk driving offense. This will often depend on whether you blew over the legal limit, whether you passed or failed any field sobriety tests, whether they have incriminating video evidence, and whether they have any witnesses.
What are the standard DUI penalties?
The DUI penalty that is imposed by the court will differ greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The penalty will largely be based on what charge a defendant pleas to and if this is a first-time drunk driving offense. If a defendant does not a plea to the charges, he penalty will depend on what the state charges them with and whether the jury finds them guilty of one or more of the charges. If a defendant can plea to something other than a drunk driving offense, reckless driving, for instance, they will have a better chance of just having to pay a fine and maybe some probation. If someone pleads guilty to drunk driving offenses or is found guilty of drunk driving offenses, they are more likely to get jail time as part of their penalty. A good local lawyer will be in the best position to discuss your individual case and what penalties you or someone you know may be exposed to.
What if this is my 2nd offense DUI?
What impact a 2nd offense will greatly be influenced by how your first charge was resolved. If you were able to get the first charge reduced to a reckless driving you have a better shot of retaining your driving privileges and avoiding jail time. If you pled or were found guilty of a drunk driving offense the first time around you will have a harder time retaining your driving privileges and may face jail time. Again, a local DUI lawyer will be able to review your options with you if you are facing a 2nd offense DUI. The DMV rules for 2nd offense are usually much stricter and depending on how many points you already have on your license can result in temporary and permanent license suspensions.
What if this is a 3rd offense DUI?
Many jurisdictions have mandatory jail time for a thrid DWI offense. Because of these mandatory minimum sentencing issues, it is critical to contact an experienced local DUI attorney. With repeat offenders, it is, even more, to try and get the charges reduced. If the charges cannot be reduced taking a DUI charge to trial might become necessary to try and beat a 3rd conviction. A 3rd offense DUI is very serious charge that more often than not results in serious jail time. If you or a loved has been charged with a 3rd DUI offense you should contact a local experienced attorney today.
What happens if you get caught drinking and driving under 21?
Most jurisdictions have stiff penalties for anyone convicted of a DUI under 21 years of age. A DUI conviction for anyone under 21 years of age will almost certainly result in at least a suspended license. This is also a permanent scar on your record that can impact your ability to get a job, get into college, and professional licenses. A DUI conviction can follow you around and haunt you for years, it is imperative that you try and get the charges or reduced or dropped if possible.
Whether this is your first time being charged with drunk driving offenses, your second DUI offense, or your third offense you should be aware of the various DUI penalty levels in your jurisdiction and get the professional legal advice you need. Facing these types of charges is scary but you do not have to face it alone. You should rally your friends, family, and legal team around you to help you get through this process. We know that being charged with a first-time drunk driving offense or with a DUI controlled substance is intimidating. We hope that the information here will help answer some of your questions about drunk driving offenses and get you headed in the right direction.
free dui consultation
It is well-known that alcohol-impaired drivers are the largest “preventable” factor in traffic accident fatalities in the United States. Despite the enactment of “zero-tolerance” anti-DUI laws in every state of the country, we are still confronted with statistics such as:
- On an “average” day, it is estimated that there are 3,200 DUI-related arrests.
- Over the course of such an “average” day, 28 people are killed in DUI-related accidents.
Given numbers such as these, it is understandable that local and state law enforcement agencies feel pressured to vigorously enforce existing DUI/Impaired Driver laws. Sadly, this means that there will always be cases where a driver finds themselves subjected to a DUI arrest that is not made in accordance with the established principles of criminal law.
Make no mistake, we humans are notorious for judging others based on the nature of the crime that someone has been charged with rather than whether those charges are supported by the alleged “facts” of the case or if the available evidence confirms or refutes those “facts.” It is for these reasons that anyone who is arrested on a criminal charge of “driving under the influence” of alcohol (DUI) or “driving while impaired” (DWI) be given the opportunity to defend themselves in an open court and to be represented/advised by a qualified attorney. On this page, we will present our advice on how to handle a DWI/DUI charge beginning with a free DUI consultation with a local attorney.
One of the first questions asked of an attorney during a free DUI consultation is usually “Is there a mandatory jail time for the first DUI offense?” followed closely by “Is a DUI a felony?” Fortunately for those who have been wrongly accused of DUI, the answer to both questions is “No.”
Each state has the authority to enact its own laws that define what a DUI conviction means as far as qualifying as either a “misdemeanor” or a “felony” DUI, as well as the DUI penalty that may be imposed by a court.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding an arrest, and on each state’s DUI laws, a DUI charge can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony. During your free DUI consultation you will learn that a misdemeanor-level charge can be filed against you for:
- A first time DUI, meaning that this is the first time that you have been charged with DUI.
- A DUI charge that is associated with a “minor” traffic offense such as making an improper U-turn, speeding, or if you were involved in an accident that did not result in serious injuries or major property damage.
- Having an open container of an alcoholic beverage in your vehicle.
- Since each state has its own “implied consent” law, refusing to take a field sobriety test or a “breath test” can result in a DUI conviction if that charge can be supported by other evidence.
In the United States, a first time DUI penalty can result in 1) up to a year in jail, 2) a fine of up to $1,000 or more, 3) a term of supervised probation including the mandatory installation (at your own expense) of an ignition interlock device, mandatory completion of a driver training and education program or 4) any combination of these punishments that is allowed by state law. In addition, a misdemeanor DUI conviction is enough to cause you to lose your commercial driver’s license (CDL) or to prevent you from obtaining such a license in the future.
Although the potential punishments for a misdemeanor conviction may seem harsh, they pale when compared to what you will face if you are convicted on a “felony DUI” charge. As your lawyer will explain during your free DUI consultation, you will likely be charged with “felony DUI” in situations where:
- This is your 2nd DUI offense (or even more) and you have been convicted on a previous DUI charge, even if you have complied with all the terms imposed by the court as a part of your sentence.
- You were driving while your license was suspended or in revocation.
- You are under the minimum age (usually 21 years old) to purchase or possess alcohol in your state.
- You are also charged with a “major” traffic offense such as reckless driving, attempting to flee from the police, an accident resulting in major property damage or in an injury that required medical treatment.
- If there was a fatality in an accident that is related to your DUI charge, you can expect to be charged with (at least) manslaughter or even vehicular homicide.
- If a passenger in your car is legally considered to be a child (usually, anyone younger than 18 years of age), in some states you can also be charged with child abuse or reckless endangerment of a child in addition to DUI.
As is the case with a misdemeanor DUI conviction, the punishment for a “felony DUI” conviction varies from state to state. Again generally, a felony DUI can result in 1) from 1 to 10 years in prison, 2) a fine of several thousand dollars, 3) long-term or even permanent loss of your driver’s license, or 4) any combination of these punishments that is allowed by the prevailing state law. Additionally, having a DUI conviction on your record is sometimes enough to make you ineligible for certain types of federal student loans or financial aid and could also be used to deny you a federal or military security clearance and make you ineligible for enlistment in the armed services.
From the information presented above, you should realize that a DUI conviction can cause life-changing consequences in both the near and far term. Considering these potential consequences, it is always in your best interests to arrange a free DUI consultation with an experienced DUI lawyer as soon as possible after you are arrested.
Fortunately, practically all attorneys whose practice includes defending those who charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) have a policy of offering a free DUI consultation to all potential clients. Such a free DUI consultations is designed to provide you with an understanding of the charges against you as well as the options that may be available in preparing your defense. Regardless of the course of action developed during your free DUI consultation, you are not obligated to retain the services of that individual DUI defense lawyer until you are satisfied that he or she will provide you with a vigorous defense of the charges made against you.
During your free DUI consultation the attorney will ask you a series of questions that, when answered truthfully and to the best of your knowledge, will allow him or her to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of any evidence that will be used against you as well as the likelihood that a defense against those charges will be successful. During the course of your free DUI consultation, you will be asked to describe the circumstances of your arrest such as:
- When and where you were arrested.
- The reason that the arresting officer gave for stopping you.
- What you had been doing in the hours prior to the arrest.
- Whether you were given a “field test” such as being asked to walk heel-to-toe, count backward from a certain number, or to “blow up the balloon.”
- If you were later given a blood test or a “Breathalyzer” machine test. Depending on your answers to these and other questions, an attorney will be able to form a preliminary opinion on the best course of action that should be followed.
At the end of your free DUI consultation, the DUI attorney will advise you of his or her opinion regarding the most effective way to defend yourself against the type of DUI charge that you are facing. Since each case is unique in its circumstances, it is impossible to predict the success of any defense to a given charge based on a DUI lawyer’s previous “won-lost” record and any reputable DUI defense lawyer will make certain that you understand this point.
To recap, a conviction on a charge of “driving under the influence” or “driving while impaired” can have serious personal implications for years to come. We therefore strongly suggest that anyone accused of such an offense seek the advice of a DUI defense lawyer during a free DUI consultation as soon as possible after being charged with that offense.