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What to expect when driving under the influence becomes a felony

At what point does a DUI offense become a felony offense? If you have had at least three prior convictions of DUI, and the last conviction occurred within the past 10 years, a fourth or any subsequent offenses are a felony offense.

A felony DUI conviction comes with some harsh penalties. With prior convictions, you may have spent some time in jail, endured periods of license suspension and paid some hefty fines. With a felony conviction, you will have some longer-lasting, harsher consequences.

A first-time DUI offender, depending on the results of one's blood-alcohol content, may have to spend anywhere from 48 hours to 90 days in jail. In lighter sentencing, one may be able to do community service in lieu of jail time. Fines are maximized at $1,000.

A second-time DUI offender may result in jail time from five days to one year. The offender must also attend a substance abuse program. License suspension will be one year with no eligibility for a provisional license, and following the suspension, he or she will be required to have an ignition interlock device on the vehicle. Fines can be from $2,100 to $5,500.

A third-time DUI conviction results in jail time of six months to five years, fines from $7,500 to $10,000, attendance of a substance abuse program, and license suspension for two years with a subsequent ignition interlock device on one's vehicle. So you might imagine that a felony offense couldn't get much worse --- but it can.

If you are convicted a fourth time for driving under the influence, your license will be revoked for life, meaning you can never drive again. Fines may still be up to $10,000 plus court costs. Jail time could be up to a maximum of seven years. This is just for the DUI offense. If you were in an accident and injured someone, you could be facing much harsher consequences.

DUI charges are not always hopeless and do not always have to turn into a conviction. Your attorney may be able to get the charges reduced, or even thrown out under the right circumstances. There are many options they can investigate, such as your interaction with the arresting party, to try to help you avoid the worst scenario. Were your rights violated in any way? An investigation of the facts of the incident may turn up something in your favor.

Source: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, "DUI Felony Laws," accessed Aug. 14, 2015

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