A conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) is regarded as a misdemeanor in practically every state. However, driving under the influence can be viewed as a felony in certain states and under certain conditions.
The majority of convictions for driving under the influence or driving while ability impaired in Colorado are misdemeanors. However, if you have three or more prior DUI convictions, or if you cause an accident that results in the injury or death of another person, you may be charged with a felony instead. Knowledge of DUI law is needed to have a chance at minimizing punishment for a DUI, and hiring a felony DUI attorney in Colorado is the best way to achieve this.
Legal Limits and DUI Charges
The legal limit for intoxication in every US state is 0.08% BAC, except for Utah, where the limit is 0.05% BAC. Depending on how high your blood alcohol content is, you may face more severe penalties. Generally speaking, the greater your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the harsher the punishment will be.
So, your high BAC may not necessarily get you a felony charge in Colorado if it’s your first offense, but if you have a BAC of .15% or higher, you will have to get an interlock ignition device and may even lose your license for a period of time.
How Is a Misdemeanor DUI Different from a Felony DUI?
The key difference between a misdemeanor and felony DUI conviction is the severity of the punishment. The normal penalties for a minor DUI conviction are up to a year in prison and a fine of at least $1000 in most states.
However, a felony DUI can result in a year or more in imprisonment or prison and fines in the thousands of dollars. And often, a felony DUI conviction will result in a longer license suspension time than a misdemeanor DUI conviction.
In addition to these repercussions, a felony conviction for DUI can result in difficulties obtaining employment, finding a place to live, and further complications.
Conditions that Can Raise a DUI Charge to a Felony
DUIs are always severe offenses, but certain circumstances can have a big influence on how a motorist is handled and the severity of the penalties they might be facing.
Having a Previous DUI
It is not uncommon for jurisdictions to have legislation that outlines the charges drivers may face based on the number of past DUI convictions on their records.
Some jurisdictions, for instance, may let a motorist be prosecuted several times with a misdemeanor, with the penalty being raised to a felony after the third or fourth offense. In Colorado, if you have 3 previous convictions for drug or DUI, it’s an automatic felony.
Causing Physical Injury or Death
The most tragic circumstance in which a DUI is likely to result in felony charges is when there is substantial bodily harm or at least one death. In some places, in addition to a felony DUI conviction, a motorist may face additional charges for each person injured or killed.
Consequences may include lengthy jail sentences, heavy fines, and compensation payments to victims or their families.
DUI While Driving with a Suspended, Revoked, or Restricted License
Driving with a DUI, particularly if convicted many times, frequently ends in a license suspension or revocation. Therefore, it is not hard to assume that minor charges will likely be upgraded to felonies when a DUI is coupled with unlawful driving.
Having Children in the Car
In certain areas, a DUI involving a juvenile younger than 16 will result in an immediate felony prosecution. In most instances, driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle will result in both DUI and child endangerment charges.
The National Highway Road Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that drunk driving is responsible for around 30% of annual traffic deaths. It’s possible that driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs won’t always result in death, but because of the greater potential for injury to oneself or others, the consequences of being caught are also more severe.
Is There a Defense Against Felony DUI Charges?
When representing a defendant, it is the job of the DUI attorney to cast reasonable doubt on the accused’s guilt. It is possible that the district attorney will drop the charges or downgrade them to a lesser offense, such as careless or reckless driving.
In the best-case scenario, the DA is forced to realize their case is weak and drops it. Defending against allegations of DUI/DWI can be done in a number of different ways. Some of the most often-used defenses are:
- The breath test equipment or blood test equipment was faulty or handled inappropriately
- High BAC findings were the consequence of the defendant’s medical condition, such as GERD
- The police did not properly perform the field sobriety test
- Blood alcohol levels were rising, leading to high BAC readings
- The police did not have reasonable suspicion that the subject was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- A defense counsel in a four-strikes case may attempt to disprove the defendant’s claim that he or she had three prior convictions for driving under the influence
They can try to show that you’ve never been convicted of DUI in Colorado because you’ve had earlier cases dropped, reduced to lesser charges, or simply don’t fit Colorado’s definition of DUI. Additionally, a defense counsel might try to claim that the defendant’s driving did not cause damage or death in circumstances of vehicular assault or homicide. The defendant’s innocence could be corroborated by footage from a surveillance camera or statements from witnesses.
Even if someone is hurt in a car accident, the defense counsel might engage accident reconstruction specialists to establish that it was not the defendant’s fault.
Get in Touch with a DUI Attorney to Discuss Felony DUI Charges
If you’ve been charged with DUI in Colorado Springs, we can assist. Get in touch with Christian Schwaner immediately for a no-cost initial consultation.