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There is no straightforward answer to the question, Is a DUI a felony? because each state enforces unique laws regarding the classification of DUI offenses. As a result, the same behavior can potentially be classified as a DUI felony in one state and a DUI misdemeanor in another.

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What Is A DUI Offense?

DUI stands for “driving under the influence.” By contrast, DWI stands for “driving while impaired” or “driving while intoxicated.” In some states, these terms are used interchangeably to refer to drunk driving, drugged driving, and operating a vehicle unsafely due to another kind of substance-related impairment.

In other states, DUI offenses and DWI offenses are distinct crimes. Drug DUIs and DWIs can result from use of illicit, prescription, and over the counter drugs that can cause impaired judgment. Additional impaired driving terms that may be used in your state include:

  • DUAC. Driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration
  • DWAI. Driving while ability impaired
  • OUI. Operating under the influence
  • OVUII. Operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant
  • OWI. Operating while intoxicated
  • OWVI. Operating while visibly impaired

Misdemeanor DUI And DWI

Most first-time DUI and DWI offenses are classified as misdemeanors. Misdemeanor crimes are punishable by no more than one year in jail. These offenses may also be punishable by a term of probation, suspension of driving privileges, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, fines, mandatory substance abuse counseling, community service, and other penalties.

However, DUIs and DWIs may also be classified as “wobblers,” or as felonies if aggravating or extreme circumstances warrant. A wobbler offense is a DUI or DWI that can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony offense under state law, depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, a first-time DUI that involves some degree of child endangerment may be treated as either a misdemeanor or a felony, especially if state law explicitly treats child endangerment as an aggravating factor in DUI cases.

Felony DUI And DWI

Felony DUI and DWI offenses may be punishable by terms of incarceration that exceed one year, in addition to the kinds of non-incarceration consequences noted above. Most of the time, repeat DUI offenses within a relatively limited timeframe, DUI incidents that cause bodily harm or death, and DUIs involving an unusually elevated blood alcohol content are almost always classified as felonies. Additionally, many states will treat any DUI offense as a felony if an offender has incurred multiple DUI convictions over a specific period of time.

State Laws: When Is DUI A Felony?

It isn’t always easy to know if a DUI offense will be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony if any special circumstances apply. To accurately answer the question, Is a DUI a felony? you’ll need to review your state’s specific laws. If you need help decoding your state’s laws, ask a local attorney for assistance. To start your research on the subject of DUI felony or misdemeanor classifications in your state, consult the table of state laws below:

AL

DUI Law

AK

Alaska Courts Pub-11: About D.U.I.

AZ

DUI Law

Extreme DUI Law

AR

DUI, DWI, and Administrative Driver’s License Revocation Law

CA

DUI Law

CO

Colorado Office of Legislative Legal Services DUI and DWAI Legal Summary

CT

DUI Law

Underage DUI Statute

DE

DUI and DWI Law

DC

DUI Law

Penalties Law

FL

DUI Law

GA

DUI Law

HA

DUI and OVUII Law

ID

DUI Law

DUI Punishment Law

IL

DUI Law

IN

OVWI and OWI Law

IA

OWI Law

KS

DUI Law

KY

Kentucky Government – Summary of DUI Laws in Kentucky

LA

OVWI and OWI Law

OVWI and OWI Punishment Law

ME

Maine Bureau of Highway Safety – OUI Laws Explained

MD

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration: Summary of Impaired Driving Laws

MA

Massachusetts Courts – Summary of Drunk and Drugged Driving Laws

MI

OWI and OWVI Law

MN

DWI Law

MS

DUI and OUI Law

MO

DWI Sentencing Law

Missouri Department of Revenue DWI License Revocation

MT

DUI Law

NE

DUI Law

NV

DUI Law

NH

DUI and OUI Law

NJ

New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety – Summary of Driving While Intoxicated Laws

NM

New Mexico Department of Transportation – Summary of DWI Laws

NY

New York Department of Motor Vehicles – Penalties for Alcohol or Drug-Related Violations

NC

North Carolina Department of Public Safety – Summary of DWI Laws

ND

North Dakota Department of Transportation – Penalties for Impaired Driving

OH

OVI Law

OK

Oklahoma Highway Safety Office – Summary of Impaired Driving Laws

OR

DUI Law

PA

DUI Law

RI

DUI Law

SC

South Carolina Department of Public Safety – SC Laws Relative to Impaired Driving

SD

South Dakota Department of Public Safety – Summary of Impaired Driving Laws

TN

Department of Safety and Homeland Security – Summary of DUI Offenses

TX

DWI Law

UT

DUI Law

VT

DUI Law

VA

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles – Summary of DUI Laws

WA

DUI Law

WV

DUI Law

WI

OUI and OWI Law

WY

Wyoming Council on Impaired Driving – Summary of DUI Laws

Is A DUI A Felony Where You Live?

If you’ve been charged with a DUI or you have questions related to DUI charges, speaking with a local attorney can clarify your situation. To learn more, schedule a free case evaluation today.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Related Resources

Want to learn more about DUI laws across the country? Here’s more to read from the Jalopnik legal team.

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