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What is Felony Drunk Driving?

By A. Gabrenas
Updated May 17, 2024
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Felony drunk driving is typically defined a driving under the influence (DUI) offense that carries a punishment that can include more than a year of jail time. Different areas have different DUI laws, but there are often similar criteria for classifying such offenses as felony or misdemeanor. The consequences for felony drug driving often include not only longer jail times, but also higher fines and other consequences.

Most governing bodies use the classifications of felony and misdemeanor to note the severity of a crime. Felonies are generally more serious and therefore typically carry harsher penalties. Misdemeanors are still crimes, but they are generally considered less damaging to individuals or society and tend to carry less severe legal penalties than similar felony crimes.

Typically, a drunk driving offense is considered a misdemeanor if it is the first offense and no one gets hurt as a result of it. Felony drunk driving is generally charged when a driver has had at least one previous DUI conviction within a set period of time. People may also be charged with felony drunk driving, even for their first offense, if they get into a car crash while drunk and hurt another person.

In some areas, there are different levels of felony drunk driving, which carry increasingly harsher penalties. For example, in the state of New York, there are two types of felony drunk driving. In this state, a class E felony is generally considered the lesser felony charge, while a class D is generally considered the most severe felony drunk driving charge. The class E felony is typically charged after the second DUI offense within five to ten years and carries a possible jail time penalty of up to a few years. A class D felony may charged after the third or greater offense within five to ten years, and typically carries a possible jail time penalty of up to nearly twice the amount of jail time as that of class E felony drunk driving.

Many people who are convicted of felony drunk driving face other problems beyond longer jail sentences. They may also be charged higher fines and lose their driver’s licenses for longer amount of time. People convicted of felony drunk driving who work in certain careers that require licensing, such as teaching, may lose such licenses. Others may have a hard time finding new jobs, since many employers require felons to self-identify during the hiring process. There may be additional consequences depending on the laws where the person lives, such as the inability to own a gun or vote in political elections.

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Discussion Comments

By Lostnfound — On Mar 11, 2014

Drunk driving is just so unnecessary. Most places will give a designated driver free non-alcoholic drinks for the evening, and most places will call a cab or tow truck for a driver who has had too much. It's just not necessary to drink and drive.

I don't have a problem with felony drunk driving charges. I think they're necessary. What bothers me is that people get their licenses suspended or revoked, and they drive anyway. That happened in my town. A man got 30 years in prison for vehicular homicide while DUI. The newspaper found out he had like, 12 prior convictions and a revoked license, but kept driving. What a shame.

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