In Pennsylvania, most DUI cases are charged as misdemeanor offenses. However, the state passed a stricter law in 2018 that makes certain types of DUIs felonies. There are also circumstances under which other DUIs can result in felony charges. If you are facing felony charges resulting from a DUI, it is important for you to talk to a criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law as soon as possible.
The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor DUI offense in Pennsylvania, the penalties that you might face will depend on the level of your charge. Pennsylvania grades its misdemeanor DUI offenses by your blood alcohol concentration. If you had a BAC of 0.08% to 0.099%, you will be charged with a general impairment DUI. If your BAC was 0.10% to 0.159%, you will be charged with a high BAC DUI. if your BAC was 0.16% or higher, you will be charged with a highest BAC DUI.
While the penalties for the high BAC and the highest BAC DUI convictions are more severe than they are for a general impairment DUI, they are still misdemeanors. For your first highest BAC conviction, you face jail time ranging from a minimum of 72 hours up to one year, a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, and other penalties. While these penalties are certainly serious, they are not nearly as severe as what you could face if you are convicted of a felony. A felony conviction can lead to substantial prison sentences instead of serving time in county jail. The fines for felony convictions are also more substantial, and a felony conviction can cause lifelong collateral consequences.
When can a DUI be charged as a felony?
Under the Pennsylvania Act 153 of 2018, the law that establishes Pennsylvania’s felony DUI offense, a DUI may be charged as a felony in some situations. You may be charged with a felony DUI when you have three prior convictions for a DUI at any level within the last 10 years. If you have two prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years and had a minor under the age of 18 in your car, you can also be charged with a felony DUI. This is when your BAC is at least twice the legal limit of 0.08%.
DUI for an accident that causes serious injuries
If you are charged with a DUI for an accident that caused serious injuries to others, you may be charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. This is charged as a second-degree felony under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3735.1. The maximum prison term for a conviction of a second-degree felony offense in Pennsylvania is 10 years.
DUI for an accident that causes a fatality
If you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and cause an accident that results in the death of someone else, you may be charged with homicide by vehicle while under the influence. A conviction for this offense may be a second or a first-degree felony, depending on the circumstances. Under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3735, a conviction may be a second-degree felony that carries a minimum sentence of three years in prison up to 10 years in prison. If you are convicted of another DUI offense while your sentence for homicide while driving under the influence charge, the offense will be a first-degree felony. This may result in a sentence that has a maximum of more than 10 years. There are also different minimum sentences. You will face a minimum of five years in prison if you incurred one prior conviction while you were waiting to be sentenced. You may also receive consecutive sentences of five years each for each person who was killed.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is treated harshly under Pennsylvania law whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony offense. However, the stakes for you are much higher when you are charged with a felony for your DUI offense. If you are convicted of a felony, you may face a sentence of years in prison combined with substantial fines and a loss of your driving privileges.
Even after you have finished your sentence, you may face ongoing consequences for having a felony on your record. The collateral consequences of a felony DUI conviction could include having difficulty finding work, the loss of a professional license, inability to get security clearances, trouble finding an apartment, and humiliation. When you have the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law, you may be able to secure a more favorable outcome to your charges. Fill out our online contact form today to request a consultation so that you can learn more about the options that might be available to you.