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Can a DUI be a felony?

Can a DUI be a felony?

            The answer is yes, in certain circumstances. Let's start with the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, since most DUI charges are misdemeanors. Va. Code § 18.2-8 says “offenses are either felonies or misdemeanors. Such offenses as are punishable with confinement in a state correctional facility are felonies; all other offenses are misdemeanors. Traffic infractions are violations of public order and not deemed to be criminal in nature.” A DUI doesn't count as a traffic infraction. A first offense DUI in Virginia is a class 1 misdemeanor. We'll return to what that means, but for now, let's look at the law above. Generally, felons are sent to prison (though there are exceptions), and misdemeanants are sent to jail.

            Most counties, including Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudoun, have what's called “adult detention centers.” That's where they send people who are convicted of a misdemeanor offense, like a DUI, and sentenced to a jail term. You can go to jail for up to 12 months (again, there are exceptions). If you have a sentence over a year, such as in felony cases, you will be sent to prison.

            What's the punishment for a first offense DUI?

            A first offense DUI in Virginia is a misdemeanor. It is punishable, under Va. Code § 18.2-11, with “confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.” In addition, there is a required fine of $250 minimum. You will also be placed on a restricted driver's license for a period of one year, have ignition interlock added to your vehicle, and be required to complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP). Call Mr. Tyler Bezilla today to discuss your Fairfax DUI case.

            What's the punishment for a second offense DUI?

            A second offense DUI in Virginia is a misdemeanor. It has the same punishment range as a first offense, but it also includes mandatory time, a higher fine, and longer license loss. If it's a second offense in 5 years, you must serve 20 days in jail. If it's a second offense in 10 years, you must serve 10 days in jail. This is in addition to any other punishments imposed by the court. You will be required to pay a mandatory $500 fine, up to the $2,500 prescribed by statute. The statute also requires your license to be revoked for 3 years. However, there are ways to avoid these penalties. A Fairfax DUI Lawyer can negotiate with the Commonwealth to treat a second offense as a first, for example, allowing you to avoid these harsher penalties and required jail time. Call Mr. Tyler Bezilla to discuss your options.

            Will a DUI become a felony if I have a high BAC?

            No. BAC will affect the mandatory punishment (meaning the jail time you're required to serve). But BAC alone will not make a DUI into a felony case.

            When can a DUI become a felony?

            There are three situations in which a DUI can become a felony. These are not exclusive. There are ways a DUI can elevate another offense to a felony. But for a DUI by itself, here are the three situations where it becomes a felony:

  1. DUI Third or subsequent offense
    A third DUI in a 10-year period is a class 6 felony. In addition to license loss and a $1,000 fine, it carries a mandatory punishment of 90 days of incarceration (jail time). A third DUI in a 5-year period is a class 6 felony as well, but it carries a mandatory 6 months of incarceration. The government can also seize your car and have your license permanently revoked. Class 6 felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison. If you are charged with a felony DUI offense, you need an experienced Felony DUI lawyer to help you. Call Mr. Tyler Bezilla today.

  2. DUI Maiming
    If you unintentionally cause “serious bodily injury” to another person as a result of driving drunk, the DUI becomes a felony. DUI maiming is governed by Va. Code § 18.2-51.4 and is a class 6 felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. If the person injured has a “permanent and significant physical impairment,” the DUI becomes a class 4 felony, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. If you are charged with this, you need to speak with an experienced DUI Maiming Defense Lawyer. Mr. Tyler Bezilla can talk you through your defenses and expectations. Call today for a free consultation.

  3. DUI Manslaughter
    If you unintentionally “cause the death of another person” while driving under the influence, you may be charged with involuntary manslaughter. In Virginia this is a class 5 felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Depending on the facts, the Commonwealth may choose to charge aggravated DUI manslaughter if they feel the “conduct of the defendant was so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.” Aggravated DUI manslaughter is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If you are charged with this, you need an experienced DUI Manslaughter Defense Lawyer. Call Mr. Tyler Bezilla today.

Just because you're charged with a felony DUI offense doesn't mean you'll be going to prison. In every case, there are defenses and mitigating circumstances that can change the outcome of your case. There is extensive case law requiring the government to prove more than just what's listed above. There are also ways to get your BAC excluded, get the stop or arrest excluded, and get all manner of evidence kept out at trial. When you're charged with a DUI, the government makes the case seem open and shut. But it is never that simple. There are hundreds of cases in Virginia where people have been vindicated because of an error in law or evidence. Go to court with an experienced defense lawyer who once sat on the other side of the courtroom and prosecuted thousands of cases. Call Mr. Tyler Bezilla today and speak with an experienced Fairfax Felony DUI Lawyer.

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