DUI Felony Charges

Last Modified: June 7, 2024
By: James HansenJune 4, 2024 |
DUI felony charges

Facing a DUI felony charge is a serious and potentially life-altering situation. When an individual is charged with a DUI felony, it means that their actions while driving under the influence have met certain criteria that elevate the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. This can be due to various factors, including prior DUI convictions or the severity of the incident.

At Genesis DUI & Criminal Defense Lawyers, we know the serious nature of this criminal offense. Felony DUIs are prosecuted vigorously under the law, and DUI offenders can face major penalties. Learn more below. Then, contact us to schedule a free case evaluation.

What Does It Mean To Drive Under the Influence?

Driving under the influence (DUI) typically involves operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. This impairment can substantially reduce a driver's ability to operate a vehicle safely, affecting reaction times, decision-making, and awareness of surroundings.

Most states have legal limits on blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and going over these limits may lead to a DUI charge. However, a person can also be charged with a DUI if drugs, including prescription medications, impair their ability to drive.

Impairment is not just about legality; it's about safety. Drivers who are under the influence pose a major risk not only to themselves but also to other road users. This is why DUI laws are strictly enforced. The threshold for impairment can vary, but the focus is always on maintaining road safety.

What Makes a DUI a Felony?

A DUI becomes a felony under several circumstances. If the defendant has prior DUI convictions, the latest DUI charge might be escalated to a felony.

Other factors include causing an accident that results in serious injury or death or if a minor was present in the vehicle at the time of the DUI. Each of these situations increases the seriousness of the offense.

Some specifics include:

  • A third DUI within seven years
  • Driving on a suspended license
  • Having a minor in the vehicle
  • Extreme BAC levels
  • An ignition interlock device violation

Repeated offenses are taken particularly seriously. If a person has a history of DUI, it indicates a disregard for the law and public safety, which courts tend to punish more severely.

A felony DUI conviction often leads to major fines, prolonged license suspension, or even imprisonment. If you have a prior felony DUI conviction, the stakes are even higher. Contact us today.

Legal Consequences of a DUI Felony Conviction

Legal consequences of a DUI felony conviction

A felony DUI conviction carries notable legal consequences. These can include extended jail time, heavy fines, and long-term suspension of driving privileges. Being convicted of a felony also impacts civil rights, such as voting and firearm ownership.

Potential Penalties and Fines

The penalties for a felony DUI are severe. Often, a felony DUI in Arizona is called an aggravated DUI, charged under ARS 28-1383. Penalties for a first-time aggravated DUI often include up to two years in prison, suspension of driving privileges for one year, and fines that exceed thousands of dollars.

The penalties vary depending on the case's specifics, such as the driver's BAC level and prior convictions. In general, the penalties are worse than those for a misdemeanor conviction.

Furthermore, those convicted may face long probation periods, during which any minor infraction could result in imprisonment. Community service and an ignition interlock device are also common requirements. These penalties are designed to prevent future DUI incidents by imposing strict consequences.

Long-Term Impacts on Driving Privileges

A felony DUI conviction can lead to a long-term revocation of driving privileges. Initially, this can mean a complete inability to drive for several years legally. Once driving privileges are reinstated, restrictions such as only driving to and from work may be imposed.

In addition, insurance rates will skyrocket as insurers view those with a DUI felony as high-risk drivers. In some cases, drivers might be required to file an SR-22 form, proving that they have insurance that meets minimum liability coverage, which can be costly and is required for several years following a conviction. These long-term effects can seriously disrupt a person's ability to work and maintain their lifestyle.

Aggravating Factors in DUI Cases

  • High blood alcohol content: Substantially exceeding the legal BAC limit can turn a standard DUI into a felony. This is seen as evidence of substantial recklessness.
  • Prior DUI convictions: Individuals with prior DUI offenses are more likely to face felony charges if arrested for subsequent DUIs. The legal system aims to deter repeat offenders through harsher penalties.
  • Causing an accident: If the DUI results in an accident, especially if there are injuries or fatalities, felony charges are almost certain. The severity of the accident's outcome can heavily influence the charges and penalties.
  • Impact on minors: Driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle can escalate a DUI to a felony. This is considered an aggravating factor because it puts additional lives at risk.
  • Resisting arrest: If the individual resists arrest, during their DUI stop, additional charges can compound the severity of the situation. This behavior can further complicate the case and lead to stricter penalties.

What Happens During a DUI Arrest?

What happens during a DUI arrest
  1. Initial stop: A police officer will ask you to stop if they suspect you are driving under the influence. They will observe your behavior to look for signs of impairment.
  2. Field sobriety tests: If the police officer suspects impairment, they may conduct field sobriety tests to assess your physical and cognitive functions.
  3. Breathalyzer test: You might be asked to take a breathalyzer test to measure your BAC. Refusal can lead to automatic penalties in many states.
  4. Arrest: If the officer determines probable cause, you will be arrested for DUI. This involves reading your rights and taking you into custody.
  5. Booking: You will be walked through the booking process at the police station, which includes fingerprinting and photographing.
  6. Detainment: You may be held in a holding cell until you can post bail or until your initial court appearance.
  7. Legal representation: Calling a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible is essential. An attorney can help you through the next steps and begin preparing your defense.

Building a DUI Felony Defense

Building a defense against a felony DUI charge requires a thorough understanding of DUI laws and a strong legal strategy.

Your lawyer will need to scrutinize every detail of your arrest and the evidence presented by the prosecution. This could involve challenging the way blood alcohol content was measured or questioning the legality of the traffic stop.

Challenging Evidence and Test Results

Inaccuracies in BAC testing can be a key defense in DUI cases. Your lawyer may argue that the equipment was faulty or the test was administered improperly. It's also possible to challenge the officer's interpretation of sobriety tests.

The context of the arrest may also be questioned. For instance, if the initial traffic stop was not conducted according to legal standards, the evidence gathered during the stop might be considered objectionable. Each piece of evidence must be rigorously examined to ensure your rights are not violated.

Witness Testimonies and Alibi

Witnesses can help you form a strong defense. If others can corroborate your location and condition at the time of the alleged offense, this could seriously impact your case. An alibi must be solid and backed by credible evidence and witnesses.

Similarly, if witnesses observed the arrest, their accounts of your behavior and the officer's conduct could be beneficial. Your lawyer will work to gather all relevant testimonies that support your case. This includes eyewitnesses and expert witnesses who can comment on the technical aspects of the evidence.

Plea Bargains and Negotiations

Plea bargains and negotiations

Plea bargaining is not unusual in felony DUI cases, particularly when the evidence against the defendant is strong. Negotiating a plea deal can sometimes result in reduced charges or lighter penalties. This is often considered when the prospects of a full acquittal are slim.

When to Consider a Plea Deal

Consider a plea deal if the evidence against you is overwhelming and the likelihood of conviction at trial is high. Your lawyer can negotiate terms that may include reduced charges or penalties. It's important to make this decision based on informed legal advice.

Plea deals are only right for some. They require admitting to a crime, which can have long-term repercussions. Discuss all potential outcomes with your lawyer before agreeing to a plea.

Potential Outcomes of Plea Bargains

Plea bargains can lead to various outcomes, from probation and community service to reduced fines and shorter jail times. Each deal is tailored to the specifics of the case. Understanding what you agree to and the long-term implications of a guilty plea is important.

The goal of a plea bargain is to achieve a better outcome than what might result from a trial. However, weighing this option carefully and considering all potential benefits and drawbacks is essential.

Court Process for DUI Felonies

Pre-Trial Motions and Hearings

Before the trial, there will be several pre-trial motions and hearings. These are opportunities for your lawyer to challenge certain aspects of the prosecution's case. For example, motions to suppress or toss out evidence can be filed if the evidence was obtained illegally.

Trial Procedures and What to Expect

During the trial, both the prosecution and defense will have the opportunity to present their case. This includes opening statements, witness testimonies, and closing arguments. The trial process can be complex, and understanding each step is important.

In the trial for a DUI felony, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence. Your defense lawyer will counter this by questioning the reliability of the evidence and presenting any contradictory evidence.

Connect With Genesis DUI & Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free Case Consultation

Connect with Genesis DUI & Criminal Defense Lawyers for a free case consultation

If you or someone you know is facing felony DUI charges, acting quickly and securing expert legal representation is essential.

Genesis DUI & Criminal Defense Lawyers is here to help. Even a misdemeanor DUI conviction comes with stiff consequences, but a felony offense can change your life forever, particularly if you have a prior DUI conviction.

If you have been accused of drunk driving, we can help you. Contact us today to schedule a free case consultation.

James Hansen
Thomas Hogle is a Principal Attorney at Genesis Criminal Defense and DUI Lawyers, leads a dedicated legal team specializing in criminal defense and DUI cases, offering comprehensive and skilled representation to clients facing legal challenges.
21321 E Ocotillo Rd Suite 125, Queen Creek, AZ 85142

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