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When can drunk driving charges be upgraded to felony ones?

In most jurisdictions, an individual who is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) only faces misdemeanor charges. There are situations, however, in which a DUI charge may instead be elevated to a felony. If this occurs, then the defendant is likely to face higher fines, a longer driver's license suspension period and an extended term in jail.

One circumstance in which a defendant is likely to have their misdemeanor DUI charge upgraded to a felony one is if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is found to be 0.16 percent or higher.

In most jurisdictions, a BAC of 0.08 is enough for police to arrest an individual on suspicion of being intoxicated. Therefore, if you're arrested for a BAC higher than that, then it's likely that your decision making abilities were impaired significantly at the time. A judge is likely to impose a harsher sentence largely because you chose to drive in this state.

Another situation in which a prosecutor may charge a DUI defendant with a felony is if they were transporting kids in their vehicle at the time when they were arrested.

In some jurisdictions, a prosecutor may only charge a defendant with this more aggravated type of DUI if the child riding in the vehicle at the time was below a certain age. In others, if the child passenger was old enough to have a permit or driver's license themselves, then a defendant may be able to avoid felony DUI charges.

A misdemeanor DUI charge is also likely to be elevated to a felony charge if the prosecutor finds that the defendant has multiple convictions for the same crime during a short window of time. Before filing charges, prosecutors are likely to look at your criminal record in not just your current state of residence but former ones as well.

Depending on the jurisdiction, the prosecutor may look back into your record for as many as ten years. If you exceed a certain conviction threshold within that time span, then you're likely to have your DUI charges upgraded to felony ones.

If you happen to be convicted of a felony DUI charge, then it's likely that your job prospects will be greatly diminished in the future. A Clinton, Maryland criminal defense attorney can advise you of your rights in your criminal matter.

Source: FindLaw, "Felony DUI," accessed Nov. 03, 2017

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