When is a DUI a Felony?
I just got off the phone with a lawyer representing the victim of a DUI accidentcaused by my client. My client's recollection of events is poor and I do not have the arrest report yet. However, the police charged my client with a misdemeanor DUI with no injuries alleged. Unfortunately, based on my discussion with the personal injury lawyer representing the victim, I now need to advise my client that the case is likely to be filed as a felony DUI with injuries. The victim suffered a serious head trauma resulting in over $20,000 in medical treatment to date and the treatment is ongoing. My client was uninsured.
A first time DUI is normally filed as a misdemeanor. This is bad enough as it is a criminal offense that will stay on a persons record for at least ten years. However, if an accident occured, and as a result another person suffered personal injuries, the case can be filed as a felony. Felony DUI convictions can result in significant penalties including State prison. In addition, if a person has three or more prior convictions within ten years, the case can also be filed as a felony.
The District Attorney's Office is not bound by the charges in the police citation. Upon a review of the evidence, an attorney in the DA's office may file different and more serious charges with the Court prior to the arraignment date. This can be an unpleasant surprise for the unprepared defendant. If you have been involved in a traffic accident and have been charged with drunk driving, you need to consult with an experienced dui attorney immediately as time is of the essence in defending these cases.