Is a DUI a felony?
Criminal laws are complex. If you have been charged with drunk driving, a relatively straightforward question about your potential charges and penalties can lead to a number of follow-up questions regarding the circumstances of your arrest. Your answers to those questions will determine whether you are facing felony charges and your maximum potential penalties.
Felony vs. misdemeanor charges
First, the basics: A felony is a more serious crime that carries with it a penalty of at least more than one year in state prison. A misdemeanor, on the other hand, does not necessarily mean a person is facing jail time, although a misdemeanor in Colorado can result in up to two years in county jail. Both misdemeanors and felonies can vary in their severity.
New law effective August 5, 2015 makes a fourth DUI a felony
You may have heard that Colorado recently made certain repeat DUI convictions a felony offense. Previously, repeat DUI offenses in Colorado were misdemeanors. Whether it was your second or ninth DUI arrest on suspicion of drunk driving, you would be facing a misdemeanor, so long as there were no other factors associated with the arrest that would lead to enhanced charges.
Colorado is the 46th state to make a repeat DUI a felony offense. The law applies to previous DUI convictions in other states. Additionally, Colorado has no “look back” period, meaning a prior DUI – no matter how long ago – is subject to the new law.
Anyone convicted of a fourth DUI in Colorado is facing up to six years in jail.
Felony and misdemeanor drunk driving criminal defense
A DUI charge is always at least a misdemeanor, although that does not necessarily mean you will face significant jail time for a first offense. However, administrative penalties and fines, not to mention your criminal record, make any charge of drunk driving a serious matter.
In addition to prior convictions, a DUI charge can be raised to a felony if another motorist or passenger was injured. In addition, if there were minor children in the vehicle with the intoxicated driver or if significant property damage occurred, you may be facing enhanced penalties up to and including felony charges.
While not a felony, drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or greater (this amount was also recently lowered) are considered “persistent drunk drivers” and will face increased administrative penalties.
Questions? Contact a criminal defense attorney for specifics
As noted above, the criminal charges associated with drunk driving can vary widely according to the circumstances of your arrest. Because your circumstances are unique, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand your charges and potential defenses. Regardless of the specific charge, an arrest on suspicion of drunk driving will carry potentially life-altering consequences.
Flesch & Beck Law is a criminal law firm practicing out of Englewood and Denver.