October 24, 2022

Are DUIs Felonies?

are duis felonies

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Dane Perikly

Director of Virtual Services & DUI Education

Last Update on July 5, 2023

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You drank just a tad too much alcohol at that party and decided to drive home rather than call an Uber or have a trusted friend or family member escort you home. Now an officer has pulled you over and given you a drunk driving offense.

What’s next? Are DUIs classified as felonies? A DUI designated as a felony would depend on the number of times you committed the crime before the current offense and the severity in which the DUI is classified.

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What Are DUIs and What Are the Penalties For It?

A DUI is an acronym for driving under the influence. It can be used interchangeably with DWI which can also mean driving while intoxicated. 

If this was your first time committing a DUI, it would be considered a misdemeanor and not a felony. Hence, taking the first offense of minor wrongdoing is a lesson to not get behind the wheel while you are drunk ever again.

However, if someone was injured or killed because you were driving while intoxicated, a DUI can turn into a felony charge on your permanent record. 

Even if no one was hurt, the judge may consider the DUI a felony if you were transporting minors in your vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol.

Your state’s laws can differ based on where you live. Some states consider your first two DUI offenses as misdemeanors but any subsequent offenses after that would be considered felonies.

How Does a DUI Compare With Other Felonies In Terms of Severity?

DUIs are considered worse than reckless driving offenses. Depending on your state and if anyone was harmed during reckless driving, such an offense can be converted from a misdemeanor to a felony.

However, DUIs are worse than felonies because you did not have the ample ability to properly operate your vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or an illegal substance. 

A reckless driving offense could have been prevented by obeying the rules of the road and the offender had full recollection of their desire to drive recklessly rather than normally.

Alternatively, offenses such as texting and driving are considered criminal misdemeanors. However, if someone is injured or dies because of someone texting and driving, this would be considered vehicular manslaughter, which is a felony.

DUIs are still worse felonies than texting and driving because of physical impairment. Those texting and driving were still privy to the fact that they were on the road, but they were operating their vehicle while distracted by a cellular device.

What Are Some Possible Defenses If You’re Charged With a DUI?

If you are charged with a DUI, you can prove that you are innocent. Sometimes police may pull you over thinking you are driving under the influence when you are not. If this is the case, collect evidence and hire a lawyer to support you in the courtroom.

Alternatively, you can claim insanity, which is not used very often, but it can help your case if the claim is true. If you were suffering a mental breakdown or disease when you committed the crime, profess your feelings to help the judge and jury believe your claim.

If someone slipped a substance into your drink and you did not know it while driving home, you would have to undergo drug tests and get camera footage of the local bar or restaurant in which you frequented that day to get evidence that it was not you.

Also, if you were forced to take a substance or drink alcohol, or face violence from another person, this could help your DUI case as well. In this case, it may be reduced to a lesser offense.

Can You Get a DUI If You’re Not Driving?

Yes, you can get a DUI even if you are not driving. Most states have an open container law that there should not be an open bottle of alcohol anywhere in the vehicle. 

Even if you are sleeping in your vehicle after a night of drinking, especially if you have open or empty bottles in your car, you will still be charged for a DUI.

Of course, if you operate a party bus service or a limo service, this is one of the exceptions to the rule about having open containers of alcohol in a vehicle. Besides that, alcohol should be sealed and kept either in the back seats away from the driver or stored in the vehicle’s trunk while transporting it to a home destination.

What Should You Do If You’re Arrested For a DUI?

First, remain calm. Being charged for any offense is gut-wrenching and scary, but keeping calm will make the process go smoother.

Think back to when you committed the offense. What happened that day or night? What can you remember about the events leading up to law enforcement pulling you over? 

Sometimes when you are intoxicated, you may not have a full recollection of the events that occurred leading up to your arrest. Write down what you can remember so you can refer to it later when you are in court.

Next, hire a local DUI defense attorney that can defend you in court. Especially if you feel you have been wrongfully convicted, going to court with a lawyer is better than trying to defend yourself against a judge and jury.

Be prepared to work out a payment plan for the offense payments and court fees as DUI court charges are much higher than court charges for other offenses.

How Will a DUI Affect Your Life in the Long Run?

A DUI conviction means you will have your license suspended for at least up to two years if it is your first offense. 

You will not be able to get around easily to complete daily errands because you will not have a valid license to drive until the end of its suspension. This means you will have to ask people constantly for a ride if where you need to go is too far from your home.

A DUI on your record can make it difficult for you to find a job. When potential employers run background checks on you, they will see the DUI offense for as long as it remains on your record. 

Hence, you will have to look for an employer that is willing to give DUI offenders a second chance at dwelling like normal citizens in society if the offense is still listed on your record.

If you are attempting to attend college, you will not be able to receive scholarships as the college will not award them to DUI offenders. Plus, you may have trouble maintaining personal relationships as people may judge you for your DUI conviction.

How Long Does It Take To Remove a DUI Felony From Your Criminal Record?

In some states, it takes about five to 10 years to get a DUI charge off of your record. Of course, it would depend on how many times you committed the offense before that current one and whether the DUI was considered a misdemeanor or a felony.

For first-time offenders, you will not have to commit another DUI or general misdemeanor for about two to five years before you can apply to have the DUI removed from your permanent record. Check your state’s requirements to find out more about how to remove a DUI charge from your criminal record.

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Author & Reviewers

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Dane Perikly


Dane is the Director of Virtual services at Cornerstone. He contributes guides on DUI education so that you can understand all there is to know about DUI charges, education, and the overall process of meeting Arizona requirements after a DUI. He cares deeply about raising awareness of the dangers of DUI and illustrating the impact on victims and on those charged. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges, he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues of conditions.

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