What Constitutes A Felony DUI In Chester County, PA?

Most DUI cases in Chester County, Pennsylvania are misdemeanors. While misdemeanors are considered to be less serious than felony offenses, they still carry harsh penalties.

Certain factors can escalate a DUI to a felony offense. When these aggravating factors are present, the potential penalties for a felony DUI conviction are much more severe than for a misdemeanor DUI conviction.

Here is some information from DiCindio Law about what can cause a DUI to be charged as a felony.

Grading of DUI Offenses in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has a three-tier penalty system in place for misdemeanor DUIs based on your blood alcohol concentration at the time of your offense. People whose BACs range from 0.08% to 0.09% will face the penalties for general impairment DUIs.

Those whose BACs range from 0.10% to 0.159% will face the penalties for a high rate of impairment DUIs. Finally, those whose BACs were 0.16% or higher, those who refused chemical tests, and those who are convicted of driving while under the influence of drugs will face the penalties for the highest rate of impairment DUIs.

The penalties increase along with the BAC level, and the most severe penalties are reserved for those charged with the highest rate of impairment DUIs. However, each of these tiers is still a misdemeanor unless certain aggravating factors are present.

Even though high impairment DUIs and highest impairment DUIs are treated more seriously than general impairment DUIs, they are still misdemeanor offenses.

A first highest impairment DUI conviction will carry penalties of jail ranging from 72 hours to 12 months, a fine from $1,000 up to $5,000, and additional penalties. These penalties, while serious, are not nearly as serious as the penalties for a felony DUI conviction.

If you are convicted of a felony DUI, you could face a lengthy prison sentence instead of a jail sentence. Felony DUIs also carry stiffer fines and having a felony on your record could result in ongoing consequences in other areas of your life that continue long after you have served your sentence.

What Makes a DUI a Felony in Pennsylvania?

In 2018, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed Pennsylvania Act 153, which was subsequently signed into law by the governor. This law increased the penalties for repeat DUI offenders and established the state’s felony DUI offense.

There are several ways that you can be charged with a felony DUI in Pennsylvania under the law as described below.

Felony DUI with three prior DUI convictions

If you have three prior DUIs within the past 10 years and are charged with a fourth general impairment or high impairment DUI offense, the fourth offense will be a third-degree felony.

A conviction for a third-degree felony DUI includes a prison sentence ranging from one to seven years, an 18-month suspension of your driver’s license, fines from $2,500 up to $15,000, and other penalties.

Third Highest-Impairment DUI

If you have two prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years and are charged with a third DUI at the highest impairment level, your third DUI will be charged as a felony.

A third highest-impairment DUI is a third-degree felony DUI carrying a potential prison sentence of a maximum of seven years and a fine of up to a maximum of $15,000.

Third DUI with a Minor in Your Vehicle

If you are charged with a third DUI within 10 years when you had a minor in your vehicle, it will be charged as a third-degree felony. This includes having any minor in your vehicle younger than age 18 at the time of your arrest.

DUI Resulting in a Serious Injury Accident

If you cause an accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and someone is seriously injured, you could be charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle under 75 Pa. C.S. 3751.1.

This is a second-degree felony carrying up to 10 years in prison. If you also do not have a valid license or have a suspended or revoked license at the time of causing a serious injury DUI accident, two years will be added to your sentence.

Homicide by Vehicle While DUI

If you cause an accident while driving under the influence in which someone dies, you can be charged with homicide by vehicle while DUI under 75 Pa. C.S. § 3735. This offense is a second-degree felony carrying up to 10 years in prison.

However, if you are convicted of another DUI offense while your homicide by vehicle case is pending, a conviction will be a first-degree felony carrying a minimum of five years in prison. The court will assess consecutive five-year sentences for each person who died in the accident.

Collateral Consequences of a Felony DUI

Even when you are charged with a misdemeanor DUI, the penalties can be severe. The stakes are even higher when you are charged with a felony DUI, however.

A felony DUI conviction can result in a lengthy prison sentence, stiff fines, a loss of your driving privileges, and many other penalties. In addition to your criminal penalties, you will also face serious consequences in other areas of your life.

For example, people who have felony convictions on their criminal records often struggle to find employment. Employers, landlords, insurance companies, and banks will see the felony conviction and might turn you down for a job, apartment lease, insurance coverage, or credit.

People with felony records often also have trouble in their relationships. Finally, a felony conviction can result in a loss of your ability to own or possess firearms under federal law.

Licensed professionals might lose their licenses and careers when they are convicted of felonies. Those with commercial driver’s licenses might lose their jobs and be banned from working in the transportation industry for the rest of their lives when they are convicted of felony DUI offenses.

Contact Our DUI Law Firm in West Chester, PA

If you are facing criminal charges and need legal help, contact the West Chester, PA DUI lawyers at DiCindioLaw, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

DiCindio Law, LLC

29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 430-3535