DUI is an acronym for driving under the influence, often of drugs or alcohol. If you’ve been arrested for DUI and are facing charges, you should know that your infraction’s severity will be scrutinized to determine the outcome of your case. However, not all DUI charges are treated equally. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a DUI conviction—even a first offense—is most often considered a misdemeanor crime. Still, there are certain circumstances in which a DUI can be a felony. It’s crucial, in this case, that you understand the difference.
Not long ago, Pennsylvania had some of the most tolerant DUI laws in the country, but recent legislation changed everything. Today, Pennsylvania has comparatively rigid DUI laws, especially for repeat offenders. This makes it all the more essential to know the difference between felony and misdemeanor charges related to driving under the influence.
Understanding Misdemeanor and Felony DUI Charges
DUI charges are among the most common types of criminal offenses in Pennsylvania, but the penalties associated with a conviction are severe nonetheless. Yet, the type of DUI charge you’ll face in Pennsylvania can vary depending on your blood alcohol content (BAC) and the number of times you’ve been arrested. Whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or felony DUI affects the penalties you may face and how you and your lawyer will approach a defense. It’s essential, with this in mind, to differentiate the nuances between the two.
Under the state’s DUI laws, a misdemeanor DUI means a person is suspected of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 percent. In most cases, a DUI will be charged as a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, and the penalties may include jail time, fines, probation, and other penalties.
Pennsylvania has a three-tiered system for charging DUI based on blood alcohol content and prior convictions. However, unless death or serious injury was involved, all three tiers are typically charged as misdemeanors, with progressively more serious repercussions for those with a higher BAC or prior DUI convictions.
Certain aggravating circumstances—usually involving harming another person while committing a DUI—may result in a felony charge and harsher punishments. While a misdemeanor DUI conviction can bring severe penalties, the potential consequences of a felony offense are typically much more harsh. You may be charged with a felony DUI offense in the following circumstances:
- If you cause an accident while you’re impaired in which someone is injured (note that to be charged with this offense, the injuries don’t need to be serious)
- If you have no prior convictions and are charged with homicide by vehicle
- If you have a prior conviction and are charged with homicide by vehicle
- If you have three DUI convictions of any level over a 10-year period
- If you have two DUI convictions within the past 10 years while a minor is in the vehicle
Because of the harsh penalties involved, anyone charged with a felony DUI in the Montgomery County area should immediately consult a DUI defense attorney. Likewise, even if your DUI is considered a misdemeanor, it’s still important to have an experienced legal professional to help reduce the impact it may have on your future. In some cases, it may be possible to have your charges dismissed or reduced.
For more information on DUI laws and penalties, take a look at our comprehensive DUI chart, which breaks down every possible circumstance that may play a role in your DUI arrest and the associated penalties.
Aggressive DUI Defense in Southeastern Pennsylvania
No matter whether you’ve been arrested for a misdemeanor or a felony DUI in Pennsylvania, it’s crucial that you get in touch with a knowledgeable legal professional who can help. Fortunately, you can find quality assistance at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford. Our team of experienced lawyers is dedicated to fighting for your rights and protecting your interests throughout the legal process. Our highly trusted and well-versed lawyers understand the ins and outs of Montgomery County DUI defense law and will be with you every step of the way.
For more than 65 years, the attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford have been serving clients’ legal needs in Montgomery County, Bucks County, Lehigh County, Chester County, Delaware County, and throughout the surrounding areas. Our attorneys are here to protect you and guard your rights. Give us a call at (215) 822-7575 or complete our online contact form today.