Driving under the influence is not to be taken lightly – especially considering the severe consequences that can follow such a careless decision. DUI violations on all levels and in all scenarios can permanently damage the driver's record and significantly impact his or her life. However, many drivers aren't even aware of what distinguishes misdemeanor drunk driving from felony drunk driving. In both cases, drivers caught operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher are committing a criminal offense. To be classified as a felony conviction, the driver must be found guilty of causing bodily harm or death to one or more people. This can be applied to both the individual(s) in the car with the violator or a separate party.
A felony drunk driving offense can also be classified in cases where the driver has an existing misdemeanor DUI offense on his or her record upon the time of conviction. An existing offense on a convicted individual's record can automatically escalate the offense from misdemeanor to felony, regardless of whether or not anyone was injured during the current offense. However, the misdemeanor DUI offense must have occurred within a certain established time frame, which is decided by the jurisdiction in which the offense occurs. The time frame typically falls somewhere in the range of six to eight years. If the driver has an existing felony DUI offense on his or her record, the charge is escalated regardless of the time elapsed since the last conviction.
In terms of consequences, misdemeanor DUI charges usually result in a brief stay at a local county jail. Felony cases on the other hand, will result in a long term stay at a federal prison. In addition to time in federal prison, DUI felons suffer from several additional consequences once they return to the real world. These consequences include (but are not limited to) loss of driving license, regular counseling requirement, mandatory donation to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), loss of voting rights, and even mandatory installment of a breathalyzer machine in his or her vehicle. Individuals convicted of felony drunk driving will also have to sacrifice a significant amount of time and money for court fees, a defense attorney, and other expenses and requirements relating the the legal process of the offense. These are the general consequences for DUI violations at the misdemeanor and felony level; however, variations can occur by state for more minor consequences.