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Felony DUI: This one can really sting

The term "felony DUI" sounds ominous, doesn't it?

And for good reason.

Many people in Colorado and across the rest of the country who are arrested for and ultimately convicted of a drunk driving offense deal with penalties associated with misdemeanor charges.

And even the consequences of a misdemeanor conviction, while less stringent than those flowing from a felony offense, can be notably severe. They include fines, court costs, time lost from work, mandatory participation in alcohol/drug programs, the required installation of an ignition interlock device and, yes, sometimes a jail term and/or probationary requirement.

As harsh as those outcomes can be, an online overview of felony DUI basics notes that a felony conviction "carries stiffer penalties and more lasting consequences than a misdemeanor charge."

Any discussion of felony DUI begs this quick question: When does it kick in? In other words, when will a prosecutor seek a felony rather than a misdemeanor conviction for a drinking-related behind-the-wheel offense?

As the above-cited article states, that can vary -- and materially so -- from state to state, given that different jurisdictions have their own rules and procedures for adjudging DUI offenses.

In general, though, felony DUI -- which is a recognized offense in a clear majority of American states, including Colorado -- applies to certain situations and contexts that are deemed far more serious than is usually the case with an alcohol-related offense involving a motorist.

Here are a few "common situations" that the aforementioned overview notes will often bring a felony DUI charge:

  • Materially spiked BAC content, that is, a blood alcohol reading well above 0.08 percent
  • Physical injury of another person
  • Presence of children in the car of the drunk driver
  • Driving on a restricted license
  • Multiple prior convictions

We will focus a bit more on felony DUI in our next post, delving into the specifics of Colorado law and the role that a proven DUI/DWI defense attorney can play to help any person who is facing a felony DUI charge.

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