DUI Can Be Charged as Both a Misdemeanor and a FelonyThe Commonwealth of Virginia aggressively prosecutes individuals charged with DUI. While any first or second DUI offense is a misdemeanor, it can become a felony after the second conviction in certain situations. If convicted of either a misdemeanor or felony, you face serious penalties that include a jail or prison sentence, fines, driver’s license suspension, and a permanent criminal record. Because of these long-term consequences, it is essential to retain an experienced DUI attorney who can build a strong defense to the charges you face.

What Are the Penalties for DUI as a Misdemeanor?

In most cases, a person will be charged with DUI as a Class 1 misdemeanor if this is his first or second DUI and there are no other aggravating circumstances (e.g. no accident or injury, no child in the vehicle, no prior felony DUI convictions). Under Virginia Code § 18.2-266, a person can be charged with DUI for driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher or if the police observe him driving while appearing to be intoxicated due to alcohol or drug consumption. Here are the possible misdemeanor punishments:

  • First offense. A first offense DUI is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine of between $250 and $2,500, successful completion of VASAP, one-year probation, and driver’s license suspension for one year. If a person’s BAC was at least 0.15 percent but less than 0.20 percent, the punishment will include a mandatory five days in jail. When the BAC was 0.20 percent or higher, the mandatory jail time increases to 10 days.
  • Second offense. If convicted of a second DUI, a person faces a minimum jail sentence of 20 days in jail if the offense occurred within five years of the last DUI conviction or 10 days if the conviction was within 10 years. There is also a mandatory $500 fine, and the individual’s driver’s license would be suspended for three years. In addition, the mandatory jail sentence increases by 10 days if the BAC was between 0.15 percent and 0.19 percent and 20 days if the BAC was 0.20 percent or higher.

When DUI Is Charged as a Felony

If you are convicted of DUI for a third time within a 10-year period, you will be guilty of a Class 6 felony. Additionally, if you have been found guilty of felony DUI at any prior time, felony boating while intoxicated at any prior time, or a number of other DUI-related felony offenses, then you can be charged with felony DUI. While this is the lowest level felony, it still comes with harsh penalties. These can include:

  • Prison. There is a mandatory minimum prison sentence of six months if the person is convicted of a third offense within five years or 90 days in jail if the conviction is within 10 years. The total prison sentence can be as long as five years. Typically, a court will impose active jail time beyond the mandatory minimum in order to suspend that time and hold it over the defendant's head while he or she is on probation.
  • Fines. The fines can range from $1,000 up to $2,500.
  • Driver’s license suspension. A driver’s license can be suspended indefinitely for a third or subsequent DUI conviction, but an individual may be able to get a restricted license after three years and full driving privileges once five years have passed from the last conviction.

The penalties are even more severe for a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction within a 10-year period. The minimum prison sentence increases to a minimum of one year while the maximum remains at five years. The fines that are assessed are the same as those for a third conviction.

What Other Felony Charges Can You Face for DUI?

There are other felony crimes that you may be charged with committing if you were intoxicated and caused an accident victim to suffer serious injuries or death. You may be charged with DUI maiming if you are intoxicated and unintentionally cause someone to suffer serious bodily injury that results in a permanent or significant physical impairment. This is a Class 6 felony, and if convicted, you may be sentenced to prison for one to five years, and fined up to $2,500.

If your DUI accident caused someone’s death, you may be charged with involuntary or aggravated manslaughter. If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, you may be sentenced to one to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. There is a one-year minimum prison sentence for a conviction for aggravated manslaughter, and a maximum potential sentence of 20 years.

The experienced Fairfax DUI attorneys at Greenspun Shapiro PC understand the long-term ramifications of both a misdemeanor and felony DUI conviction and will work hard to mount a strong defense to the charges you face so that you receive the best possible outcome. Learn what you can expect in your criminal proceedings and get your questions answered. Schedule your free consultation by filling out our online form or calling our Fairfax office today.