DUI offenses are typically based on the finding that people had, while operating motor vehicles, blood alcohol content of 0.08%. After this finding has been made, the specific legal penalties to be incurred as a result of DUI offenses can vary according to the specific statutes on the books in the particular state where the DUI offense occurs.
As such, a DUI offense may be tried in court either as a misdemeanor or felony, with correspondingly varying penalties and levels of severity to be faced by the defendant in the event that he or she is convicted. Moreover, DUI offenses can also vary in terms of whether the defendant is required to serve a sentence of imprisonment, or merely to spend a period in probation.
The differentiation between felony and misdemeanor DUI offenses will depend on the presence, or lack thereof, of a number of various factors as may be present in the DUI offense. If the DUI offense led to any injury to other persons, or damage to the property of others, for instance, a DUI offense is likely to be treated as a felony.
On the other hand, DUI offenses may be treated as misdemeanors when the driver’s intoxication, although over legally allowed levels, did not actually result in any of the ill-effects to others which could have occurred. Some of the most serious DUI offenses are those which involved a fatal injury occurring to other person as a result of the driver’s intoxication. As such, charges as to a felony DUI offense might be leveled against the defendant in the form of charges such as vehicular or reckless homicide. DUI offenses at this level of sentencing can lead to severe penalties, such as in the forms of extended periods of imprisonment.
DUI offenses may also be considered felonies, and accordingly used as the basis for the filing of more serious penalties than would otherwise be involved, based on the past record of the defendant facing DUI charges. In this way, people who are convicted on multiple occasions of a DUI offense, such as initially at the level of a misdemeanor, may eventually be charged with having committed felonies if this pattern of criminal behavior persists.
While DUI offenses at the level of a felony will generally be lead to a jail sentence being imposed on the defendant, a less serious DUI offense may evince more variability in how it leads to penalties being imposed against the defendant. As such, a DUI misdemeanor might lead, instead of jail time, to the convicted defendant being ordered to carry out mandated community service.
Alternately, conviction on a misdemeanor-level DUI offense could also lead to the defendant being ordered to attend classes intended to inculcate more responsible behavior patterns for alcohol consumption and use of the roadways. DUI probation will also typically result from someone being convicted for DUI offenses, according to which the defendant’s license may be revoked for a period, and additional offenses used to justify more serious sentencing.