St. Paul, Minnesota-When a person has been arrested driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) they are facing serious charges. The majority of those who receive a DUI/DWI are charged with a misdemeanor, but there are circumstances in which a driver can be charged with a felony intoxicated charge.
There are a number of factors that weigh into whether a DUI suspect is charged with a felony or misdemeanor. If the driver was involved in an accident, was anyone harmed or killed? Did the suspect have any passengers? How high was their blood alcohol concentration? Is this a repeat DUI offense?
See also: What is the difference between a DUI and DWI?
If the alleged intoxicated driver causes an accident involving injury or death to another individual or individuals, they almost always face a felony charge. In some states, an intoxicated driver who causes a fatal accident will be charged with DUI reckless homicide or DUI manslaughter; these charges often result in mandatory jail time. Some states treat the drunken driving offense and the fatal accident separately so even though a driver may be charged with a misdemeanor for their DUI, but face felony charges for any resulting injuries or fatalities.
Every state has established .08 as the limit for blood alcohol concentration. Some states classify a DUI as a felony if the driver’s blood alcohol concentration is well over the legal limit; between two and three times the legal limit.
Minnesota has two classifications for intoxicated drivers. A DUI indicates the driver was under the influence, but their BAC was under the legal threshold and prosecutors must prove the driver was impaired at the time of their arrest. A driver is charged with a DWI when their BAC is over the legal, whether that is considered a felony depends on a number of aggravating circumstances.
Another circumstance in which a person can be charged with a felony DUI is repeat offenses. For instance in New York, a driver can be charged with a felony DUI for their second offense within a 10 year-period. In Minnesota, a driver may face a felony DWI if they have had five DUIs/DWIs over a ten year-period. As you can see states vary wildly on how they classify a drunken driving charge.
Driving while intoxicated with minor children in a vehicle can also result in additional charges.
If a driver is charged with a felony DWI/DUI they are facing severe consequences and could be sentenced to jail. On top of receiving a jail sentence, a convicted offender will face costly fines, have their license revoked and will in all likelihood have to attend alcohol education courses. Most states require repeat DUI offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles at their expense.
The DUI laws in each state vary; therefore it is critical that the offender retains a criminal defense lawyer with a comprehensive knowledge of their state’s statutes. If you are facing intoxicated driving charges, a strong defense provided by a Minnesota DWI attorney may be able to have your charges reduced or argue for a lenient sentence.