“DUI” is an acronym for driving under the influence. Every state has some version of a DUI statute that prohibits people from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant. This includes being under the influence of or intoxicated by alcohol, as well as any other substance that is known to impair a person’s motor skills.
If a person decides to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of anything that will impair their senses, they may be ticketed, criminally fined, arrested, and/or charged for driving under the influence. Other names for a DUI include:
- DWI, or Driving While Intoxicated;
- OUI, or Operating Under the Influence; or
- OMVI, or Operating a Motor Vehicle Intoxicated.
Drunk driving and DUI are essentially the same thing. While drunk driving refers specifically to driving while intoxicated by alcohol, DUI refers to a broad category of anything that impairs a person’s motor skills. Some examples of other intoxicants include but are not limited to:
- Illicit or illegal drugs;
- Prescription medication such as muscle relaxers; and
- Over the counter medication such as antihistamines (like benadryl).
Some states maintain different classifications for different types of DUIs, such as alcohol and the previously mentioned intoxicants. Additionally, some states include other vehicles in their statutes regarding driving under the influence, which could include bicycles, boats, mopeds, and golf carts.
What is a Felony DUI?
A felony DUI is a criminal charge that can be found in those states that have expanded their DUI laws. Every state dictates that a first time DUI offense is to result in a misdemeanor charge. However, there are some instances in which a DUI offense may result in felony charges, as opposed to misdemeanor charges.
A misdemeanor charge typically carries a jail sentence of no more than one year, as well as criminal fines. A felony, on the other hand, generally mandates five to ten years spent in a federal or state prison facility, as well as considerably larger fines.
Below are some examples of acts that could be classified under felony drunk driving laws in nearly every state. These types of acts include but are not limited to:
- Drunk driving resulting in the death or severe injury of another person, such as another person or a passenger;
- Vehicular manslaughter, which is the unintentional killing of another person with a vehicle;
- Assault with a deadly weapon, as a vehicle may be considered a deadly weapon;
- Repeat offenses. For example, a third DUI offense is generally considered to be a felony;
- Driving with a restricted, revoked, or suspended driver’s license;
- Driving with a severely elevated blood alcohol concentration level; and
- Having children in the vehicle while driving drunk.
It is important to remember that the specific details for these offenses can vary from state to state. Some states have expanded definitions of what constitutes a motor vehicle, while others simply include automobiles such as cars and trucks.
However, the most common type of felony DUI charge is the repeated DUI offense. A person may be convicted of felony drunk driving or DUI because they have two prior DUIs, which proves to the court that this is repeated and dangerous behavior for this particular person.
What are Some Consequences for Felony Drunk Driving?
In addition to the punishments for committing a felony, those convicted of a felony DUI may face multiple other consequences. Some examples of such consequences could include but are not limited to:
- Permanent or temporary loss of driving privileges, such as having their driver’s license suspended or revoked;
- Monitoring measures such as being placed under house arrest, ignition interlock devices, or secure continuous remote alcohol monitoring (“SCRAM”) ankle bracelets;
- The loss of some civil privileges, such as the right to vote or own a firearm; and
- The loss of child custody or visitation privileges, especially if the child was involved in the DUI offense.
Additionally, felony charges are much more difficult to have expunged or sealed from a criminal record than misdemeanor charges. Felony drunk driving or DUI is considered to be an especially serious felony crime.
Are There Any Defenses for a DUI?
DUI defenses can be affirmative defenses, such as:
- Entrapment, like when an officer encourages the driver to become intoxicated then drive;
- Mistake of fact; and
- Involuntary intoxication, such as being drugged and unaware of that fact that they were taking an intoxicant.
Other common DUI defenses include:
- Improper stop;
- Inaccurate field sobriety test;
- Inaccurate portable breathalyzer test;
- The blood test’s chain of custody; and
- Rising blood alcohol concentration.
Keep in mind that the appropriate defense will depend on the circumstances surrounding the DUI, so it is important to work with your attorney to determine which defense would be the best for you.
Do I Need an Attorney for Felony Drunk Driving or Felony DUI?
You should immediately consult with a skilled and knowledgeable DUI/DWI attorney if you are facing felony charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your state’s specific laws regarding felonies, such as what constitutes a motor vehicle, and what constitutes impairment.
Further, an attorney can help protect your rights, as well as determine if any defenses are available to you based on the specifics of your case. Finally, an attorney can represent you in court as needed.