New York has a specific DWI felony charge for drivers who commit DWI within 10 years of a previous conviction or convictions for an alcohol-related offense (other than DWAI). The “Class of Felony for which a motorist can be charged depends on the number of previous convictions and the time frame in which they occurred. In general, it is possible to be convicted of DUI as a misdemeanor or a felony. A standard first offense is almost always going to be a misdemeanor.
But a DUI offender who kills or seriously injures another person usually faces felony charges, even if it's the person's first offense. A driver could also face vehicular homicide charges for a DUI-related murder. In all states, a DUI can be a misdemeanor or a felony, with the DUI offense being the more serious of the two. What differentiates a misdemeanor from a DUI felony is a product of state law.
But in general, the presence of certain aggravating factors (discussed below) can elevate a DUI to a felony. Most drunk driving arrests involve misdemeanor charges, which are more serious than violations. A DUI misdemeanor is more likely to result in a jail term of up to one year and a punitive fine. You have the right to a trial if you face misdemeanor charges.
With few exceptions, driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) is considered a criminal offense. In other words, a DUI conviction will normally appear on your criminal record as a misdemeanor or felony. Below is a discussion of how DUI offenses are classified, the limited circumstances in which a DUI can end up being a non-criminal offense, and some of the penalties and other consequences of a DUI conviction. Many states have a laundering period for DUI convictions, which means that only DUIs that occurred with a certain period of time count.
While DUIs are considered misdemeanors in many situations, felony DUI charges are also possible. And felony DUI fines can be slightly higher than misdemeanor fines of several thousand dollars or more. If you are found to be driving under the influence of alcohol while your license is suspended, this is usually enough to raise the DUI from a misdemeanor to a felony. A person driving with a suspended license can also face a DUI felony regardless of other aggravating factors.
Other factors that can elevate a DUI to a felony are injury, death, and having child passengers in the vehicle during a DUI violation. In some states, the first and second DUI offenses are misdemeanors, but a third or subsequent conviction is a felony. Habitual offenders or repeat offenders often face felony DUI charges if they have had previous DUI convictions within a specific time limit. And, even if your state doesn't classify this type of DUI as a felony, having children in the vehicle could be a factor that could lead to increased penalties.
In some states, you can be charged with a felony DUI if your blood alcohol level was particularly high. Probably the most common factor that makes a DUI a felony is having two or more previous DUI convictions. And many states impose ignition interlock requirements for drivers convicted of first and second DUI.