Understanding a DUI Charge: Is It a Felony?
If you’ve ever been charged with a DUI, you know the panic and confusion that grips many people while in the presence of the arresting officer. In the immediate aftermath of an arrest, however, what’s most important is understanding the legal consequences. Penalties for a DUI in Pennsylvania can range from fines and community service to potential jail time and the loss of your license. The main factors that determine the extent of the punishment are:
- The driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the arrest
- A prior history of DUI arrests
- Whether or not an accident, injury or fatality was involved
In addition to the legal consequences, a DUI conviction can also lead to higher insurance rates for as long as the charge remains on your record. When making decisions following a DUI charge, it’s important to be informed of the law and take these factors into consideration.
Misdemeanor DUI Charges
Although Pennsylvania has some of the strictest alcohol-related laws in the country, most DUI charges are classified as a misdemeanor. State law categorizes misdemeanor DUI charges into three severity levels based on BAC:
- Lowest penalty, for BAC levels between 0.08 and 0.099
- Higher penalty, for BAC levels between 0.10 and 0.159
- Highest penalty, for BAC levels of 0.160 and above
First offenders generally face a fine of up to $300. Penalties increase considerably for repeat offenses, and for a second infraction, fines can range anywhere from $300 to $2,500 depending on the severity level. There is also the potential for a 12-month license suspension and up to 6 months in jail. Third and subsequent offenders may face up to two years in jail and $5,000 in fines, and they can have their licenses suspended for up to a year.
When Is a DUI a Felony?
Felony DUI charges are typically only pursued when an injury or fatality occurs. Through the use of sentencing enhancements, the prosecutor in a DUI case may petition to bump charges up to one of the following:
- Felony DUI with injury — When someone other than the driver is hurt in an accident, the state will often choose to pursue felony DUI with injury charges. A conviction of a felony DUI can entail fines up to $5,000, six months in jail and a one-year license revocation, regardless of BAC or prior offenses.
- Aggravated assault while under the influence — Felony DUI with injury usually involves minor injuries. In cases where long-term impairment or permanent disfigurement occurred, aggravated assault charges may be pursued. Penalties for these offenses include up to $25,000 in fines and 10 years in jail.
- Homicide while under the influence — As the most severe type of DUI charge, homicide while under the influence is a second degree felony punishable by fines of $25,000 and between three and ten years in jail for each victim.
Representation Without Judgment From MPL Law
Due to the wide range of potential consequences, anyone facing a DUI charge — regardless of whether or not there was an injury involved — should speak with a lawyer for a clear picture of their legal options. For an honest assessment of your case, contact the York, PA office of MPL Law today.
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