What Makes my DUI a Felony?

All laws that are broken can be classified in one of three ways: misdemeanors, felonies, or infractions. Infractions are small things like broken tail lights and having your license plate in the window instead of attached to the vehicle. Generally, you only have to pay a fine for minor infractions. However, a traffic violation can be looked at as either a misdemeanor or a felony, based on how severe the offense is.

Let’s say you are involved in an accident that causes damage to another person or that person’s property. Your infraction may become a misdemeanor or felony. Incidents that commonly are considered felonies include repeat DUI offenses, hit-and-run accidents, and vehicular homicide.

A DUI Charge in Pennsylvania is Affected by Many Factors

Several things determine how a DUI is charged in Pennsylvania. Below is a list of some of those determining factors.

  • If you are a repeat offender
  • If you were under the influence of drugs other than alcohol
  • Your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
  • If you were involved in a crash that caused bodily injury, death, or damage to property.
Impairment Level

The determination of your DUI charges is based first on your impairment level. Pennsylvania has three levels of impairment for drivers who are over the legal drinking age of 21. They are:

  • General Impairment: 0.08 percent to 0.099 percent BAC
  • High DUI: 0.10 percent to 0.159 percent BAC (for minors and school bus drivers, this number drops to 0.02 percent, for CDL holders, it is 0.04 percent, and for drivers who fall into the General Impairment category who caused a crash that involved bodily injury, death, or damage to property)
  • Highest DUI: 0.16 percent BAC and above

DUI penalties become harsher as your BAC goes up. For example, a third offense in the General Impairment and High DUI categories will be felonies, but a second offense in the Highest DUI category is a felony.

A person whose first offense falls into the High DUI and Highest DUI categories might qualify for ARD, or the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. Participants in this program do the following:

  • Remain under supervision of the court for six months.
  • Submit to an alcohol and drug evaluation.
  • Attend alcohol highway safety school for 12.5 hours.
  • Get their driver’s license suspended for up to 90 days.
  • Pay fines of $300 to $5,000.
  • Go through drug and alcohol treatment, if needed.
Previous Offenses

Your DUI charges are partly based on how many previous DUI offenses you have had. If you have had multiple DUI’s in the previous ten years, you will be charged with a felony.

Third DUI’s are always felonies, despite the level of impairment. Convictions for felony DUI’s come with penalties that are far more severe than for misdemeanor DUI’s. Those penalties include:

  • Mandatory jail time of 10 days to 5 years
  • Fines from $500 to more than $10,000
  • Driver’s license suspended for a minimum of 12 months
  • Additional payments for legal and court fees

Other consequences include:

  • Participation in alcohol and drug education classes
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, at your expense
  • Mandatory community service
  • Ongoing court supervision
Property Damage, Death, or Bodily Injury

If you caused a crash with your vehicle while drinking and driving, and that crash resulted in someone’s bodily injury or death, or injury to their property or that of someone else, it could raise your DUI charges from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Even if your BAC was in the General Impairment category, being involved in a car crash automatically gives you the same punishments as a High DUI offender. If this is the first DUI offense you’ve had, you will:

  • Have higher fines to pay
  • Spend at least two days in jail
  • Get your driver’s license suspended for 12 months

If you or a loved one has been charged with Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs in or around the city of Pittsburgh, you will need an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Logue Criminal Defense team serves Pittsburgh, PA, and the surrounding areas, including West Virginia and Ohio. To get in touch and schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced Pittsburgh Criminal Defense lawyer from Logue Law, call us today at 1-844-PITT-DUI or (412) 389-0805. Or, you can contact us online.

Don’t wait to call! The longer you wait to hire an attorney, the more difficult it becomes for him or her to get a good outcome for you and your case. Call today!

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