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The difference between misdemeanor and felony drunk driving

If you're been recently charged with driving under the influence (DUI), in researching the penalties associated with the crime, you might have found that a misdemeanor generally results in a lesser sentence than a felony one. You may have wondered why you were charged with one crime versus the other.

As you already may be aware, misdemeanors are a type of criminal offense that is considered to be much less serious than a felony one. While a misdemeanor charge may leave you serving some time in jail, on probation or paying a fine, it generally won't result in you spending an extended time in state or federal prison.

For a person's first DUIs, he or she is generally charged with misdemeanor. Aggravating circumstances that would cause charges to be upgraded to felony ones would include such factors as a child being in the car or another person being either injured or killed during the commission of the offense.

If you were found to be driving on suspended license for a prior drunk driving charge when stopped for this most recent DUI, then you may be charged with a felony. The same goes for if you've been previously convicted for DUI, even if they were just misdemeanor charges, especially three times before.

If you're convicted of misdemeanor DUI charges, then you'll most likely face any number of penalties for the crime including community service and a short stay in jail. In addition, a judge may put you on probation, suspend your driver's license, impose a significant fine or require you to complete an alcohol education class.

In contrast to the penalties associated with misdemeanor DUI convictions, for felony ones, there's a strong possibility that you'll face up to a year in prison for the crime. Also, as a felon, you'll lose your right to vote, own a gun, serve on a jury and hold certain public offices. You may have difficulty acquiring and retaining employment as well.

If you've been charged with a felony DUI, with the proper defense strategy in place, it's quite possible to have your charges reduced to either misdemeanor ones or thrown out all together. You'll want to discuss the details of your alleged crime with a Van Nuys DUI criminal defense attorney to find out about the different strategy options that apply in your particular case.

Source: FindLaw, "When is a DUI a misdemeanor?," accessed Aug. 11, 2017

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