DUI: Felony or Misdemeanor?
It can be hard to determine whether a DUI should be considered a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on who you talk to. Some states make it more transparent, and depending on circumstances, the charges typically range in the misdemeanor arena. The bottom line is how Indiana views the charges, as that is what you will be up against should you be charged with a DUI.
Let’s look at how Indiana views DUIs and what you may need to defend against.
A First DUI Offense
If you were just charged with your first DUI in Indiana, these typically result in a misdemeanor offense rather than a felony. You could face up to one year in jail and up to a $5,000 fine if you are charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If you are charged with a Class C misdemeanor, you could face up to 6 days in jail and a $500 fine.
The difference between the two misdemeanors boils down to the blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the arrest. If your BAC of .15 or higher will result in a Class A misdemeanor, with heavier penalties, while a BAC of .08 will result in a Class C misdemeanor, with lesser penalties.
It’s important to note that if it’s been more than seven years since a prior DUI offense, it may be viewed as your first, although courts typically have the ultimate discretion based on the present charges.
What Does a Felony DUI Mean?
Indiana takes repeat DUI charges seriously, which can mean that a DUI charge could result in a felony. For example, if someone is charged with a second DUI in five years, they may face up to five days in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. If it’s your third or fourth DUI in a short period of time, the penalties can increase to up to 30 days in jail and fines of up to $10,000. Courts may also impose additional penalties for habitual offenders, such as mandatory alcohol education courses, community service, extended probation, and more.
Additionally, if you had a minor in the vehicle with you while you were driving under the influence, even if it’s your first offense, you could be charged with a felony. Indiana takes the safety of others seriously, and if you are driving while under the influence with a minor who isn’t able to get away from you, they may automatically skip the misdemeanor level and charge you with felony DUI.
If you seriously hurt someone or kill someone while driving under the influence, this also results in a felony.
Levels of Felony DUI in Indiana
Felony DUI charges can range based on the circumstances, such as 2 to 12 years in prison, penalties of up to $10,000 in fines, and more.
Some of the characteristics that make penalties higher in Indiana are if you severely injured another as a result of driving while under the influence. A severe injury could consist of loss of bodily function or an organ, disfigurement, loss of fetus, and more.
Additionally, if you have prior DUI convictions in the past five or seven years, your DUI charge may automatically be on the felony level as you are a habitual offender.
If you cause the death of a law enforcement animal while driving under the influence, you may also face a felony charge with extended incarceration time and hefty penalties.
How Can Charges Affect Me Outside of Courts?
Aside from the jail time or fines, you may have to pay for a DUI charge, it’s important to understand that even the lowest charges can affect your personal life. If you have a conviction on your record, you may face challenges in renting or buying a home, obtaining gainful employment due to your background check, and more.
Some colleges or specialized training programs won’t allow those with DUI charges into their programs, and select career paths will be ended due to a DUI conviction as well.
It’s important to understand that regardless of the severity, you should consult an experienced DUI attorney to form a robust strategy against the charges to avoid them affecting the rest of your life.
By working with an experienced and strong attorney, you may be able to get your charges reduced or dropped entirely.
Some of the common defenses for DUI are;
Lack of probable cause for arrest
Violation of Miranda Rights
Unrealistic or inconsistent testimony by police
Improper stop by the police, without probable cause to pull you over
Failure to administer field sobriety tests before arrest
There can be a wide array of defenses that may work with the right lawyer in place. Consult your attorney immediately for assistance.
Criminal Charges Should Be Taken Seriously
It’s important to remember that though the penalties for a less severe charge like a misdemeanor can affect your life for a short time in the courts, it can affect your personal life for years to come. If the charges are more severe, you may be facing life-altering challenges with extended time incarcerated, high dollar fines, and more.
Don’t let just anyone represent you, and hope for the best. With a vision and mission to assist everyday people with challenges, our team is ready to navigate this challenging chapter in your life and get you moving forward.
Call our office at (317) 623-4546 to schedule your evaluation. We will work with you to determine what options you may have. We are patient and compassionate and fiercely advocate for you when necessary.
We look forward to serving you.