Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.

When Is a DUI a Felony?

Sep, 25 2018 - By: S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.
Is a DUI a Felony

Driving under the influence can be a grave charge. Do you know the circumstances when is a DUI a felony or a misdemeanor? In Rhode Island, DUI charges can fall under either classification depending on the conditions that are involved. It’s important to understand how severe your charges are to help you determine the best course of action to go forward after this event.

When Is a DUI a Felony?

There are a few different circumstances that can take what would have been a misdemeanor and makes it a felony. The first is if there is a death involved in your DUI. Did an accident happen where someone was killed because you were driving under the influence? The next is if there’s a serious bodily injury involved. In this situation, you may have caused an accident, and while the person hurt wasn’t killed, they are still facing severe injuries that can have an impact on their future.

The next two circumstances are both related to the number of times you’ve been charged with a DUI and your blood alcohol content at the time of the offense. If you’ve hit your third offense with a BAC between .08 and .15 or over .15, you’re going to be charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor. For the courts, this shows a pattern of behavior that requires a more severe penalty.

What Steps Do You Need to Take If Facing Felony DUI Charges?

The first, and often most important step, to take is to create a defense. The strategy of how best to handle your case is critical. It will help you in determining how to face the charges, and impact the potential penalties that you face. Getting an experienced lawyer that has handled similar DUI cases in the past can be a vital tool to have in your pocket.

It’s also important to get legal representation early in this process. This timing allows your attorney an easier opportunity to view the evidence, interview witnesses, and make decisions about your case. The longer that you wait there can be a potential for problems, such as witnesses to not be able to be contacted or trouble remembering the exact events.

Refusing a Breathalyzer

You may think to protect yourself by refusing to take a breathalyzer or other test to determine your blood alcohol content at the time of the incident. However, in Rhode Island, this can result in penalties. By driving your automobile, you’ve given consent to this testing. Not complying with orders for a test can result in the loss of your license for six months, a community service sentence, and a fine. Refusing it again in a different offense can increase that suspension on your license to a year along with increasing the amount of community service and fines.   

What are the Penalties?

When comparing the penalties between a felony DUI and a misdemeanor, you’ll notice the key is the difference in the jail sentence. A felony misdemeanor can result in a longer minimum sentence. For instance, even if it is the first offense, the mandatory minimum sentence can be between one to five years with a maximum of 15 years. It can be rather serious with lasting penalties.

There are also the same penalties that include probation, community service, substantial fines, license suspension, and even having to have an ignition interlock device added to your car’s ignition system.

Circumstances Where It’s Not a Felony

There are plenty of situations when you’re not facing felony DUI charges. Perhaps there were no injuries, or it was your first time. That doesn’t mean you can breathe a sigh of relief. DUIs are serious charges even at the misdemeanor level and can stay with you years after an arrest. It’s still vital to take steps to protect yourself by seeking professional legal assistance. Remember that your early DUI charges can lead to a felony DUI charge if it happens again.

An Experienced Attorney Can Help

No matter if you’re wondering is a DUI a felony or a misdemeanor; it’s essential to get legal representation. An experienced attorney on your side can make a difference in the outcome of your case. In fact, in some instances, an attorney can help to have your charges reduced or dismissed depending on the circumstances. It makes sense to protect yourself rather than allowing the justice system to bring down your life over a mistake. You deserve to have an adequate defense to help you move forward.

Are you pondering the question is a DUI a felony in your case? It’s time to take action. The Law Office of S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq. is here to help. Contact our experienced staff today to discuss your circumstances. We can develop a game plan on how to handle your case to help minimize how it will impact your future.  Schedule a free consultation with one of the most experienced DUI Attorneys in RI to learn about your defense options.

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