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Drunk driving charges: Misdemeanors vs. felonies

No driver wants to lose his or her driving privileges, especially if it follows only a few drinks shared over lunch or an evening with friends -- which might have included one too many. Some New York drivers are unsure about when drunk driving charges will be misdemeanors and when will they be felony charges. There are certain circumstances under which a DUI charge will automatically be a felony.

Prior DUI convictions might lead to felony charges. A first offense with a blood alcohol level over .08 percent might be seen as a misdemeanor, but if the driver had a prior DUI conviction within the previous 10 years, he or she would be charged with a felony. The legal blood alcohol content allowed in New York is .08 percent, but .18 percent or higher is regarded as aggravated DUI, which is a felony, and penalties will be harsher than for a regular DUI charge, even if it is the first offense.

If the DUI driver caused an accident resulting in serious bodily injuries or death, he or she would likely face felony charges. The same applies to intoxicated drivers who have children under the age of 15 in the car with them. Other circumstances that might bring about felony charges are drivers who are impaired and driving with a revoked, suspended or restricted driver's license.

Many New York drivers who are facing felony drunk driving charges secure the services of an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can assess the circumstances and the charges, along with the evidence and possible defense options. An attorney might be able to prevent license suspension and get charged reduced or dropped.

Source: FindLaw, "Felony DUI", Accessed on April 27, 2018

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