Is a DUI a Felony?

Woman in JailThe Federal government defines a felony as a crime punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year. A misdemeanor is a “lesser” criminal act and is often punished with monetary fines.

In the state of Arizona, DUI cases are typically treated as misdemeanors. Under some circumstances, however, a DUI can be treated as a felony. A DUI will be treated as a felony if:

1) The accused person has two or more DUI offenses within the past five years
2) The accused person committed the DUI offense while his/her driving privileges were suspended
3) A child under the age of 15 is in the car at the time of the drunk driving offense

Another very serious and unfortunate reason why even a first time DUI will be raised to a felony is if someone was injured or killed as a result of a drunk driver. If such serious injury occurs because of an intoxicated driver, the at-fault driver will likely be charged with felony vehicular manslaughter, or even worse, vehicular homicide, which carries a harsher sentence if the defendant is convicted.

For first-time offenders, DUIs will generally be considered as misdemeanors. But just know that repeat offenses or a criminal record can result in different types of punishment and penalties. Punishment for DUIs may include a term of incarceration in the county jail or state prison, fines, suspension of driving privileges and attendance in an alcohol education course.

The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony may have very real effects on your everyday life from here on out. For example, when applying for a job, housing, or even credit in some cases, some employers may be unwilling to hire anyone with a felony conviction on record. While not all, some employers, landlords, and lenders may be willing to do business with someone who has what is only considered a “minor” misdemeanor conviction.

This post was intended to provide general information only and is not intended as specific legal advice. You should not rely upon this information alone, but should consult legal counsel regarding the application of the laws and regulations discussed and as applied to your specific case or circumstance.