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The lowest level of DUI is a misdemeanor, and most first-time DUIs are charged that way. However, there are certain circumstances that can turn a misdemeanor DUI into a felony.
Whether you get charged with a misdemeanor or felony can greatly affect your punishment. Felonies are considered much more serious crimes and can result in more than a year in prison and hefty fines. On the other hand, misdemeanors usually result in less than a year in jail and potentially lesser fines.
Drunken-driving laws vary by state, but in general, here are three ways that a misdemeanor DUI can become a felony:
Depending on your state's laws, there could be other ways in which your misdemeanor DUI becomes a felony. And there are other factors -- like whether you were convicted of DUI as a juvenile or whether your DUI conviction was expunged -- that can also affect the outcome of your case.
That's why, if you're facing a drunken-driving charge, it's best to consult an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible.