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Understanding the difference between misdemeanor and felony DUI

If you have recently been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence , you probably have a lot of questions regarding the consequences and process you will be faced with. Whether this is the first time it has happened or not, you should be aware of the legal implications. One important differentiation to make is whether you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor DUI. There are several important differences to note, including these four.

The criteria for being charged

The third drunk driving charge a person faces is automatically considered a felony in the state of Michigan. This is just one of several criteria that can turn what would be a misdemeanor into a felony charge. Other criteria that may make a DUI a felony include driving drunk with passengers, a collision that results in injuries or property damage, and presence of additional charges that accompany the DUI.

The potential consequences of each charge

Just as the criteria for each charge are different, the potential consequences you may face are vastly different, too. If you are simply facing a misdemeanor, a conviction may result in penalties ranging from jail time, license suspension, community service or fines. A felony conviction, on the other hand, may incur a prison sentence, a revoked license and substantially higher fines. A felony also comes with its own consequences, such as a permanent record and loss of voting rights.

The evidence necessary in either case

For a misdemeanor DUI case, a prosecutor will likely require little more than the breath test or field sobriety test collected by a law enforcement officer at the time of your arrest. For a felony DUI charge, however, there will typically be further evidence required. Unless it is an automatic felony due to prior charges, a prosecutor may need to provide the court with documentation of damage done.

The potential for additional charges

With both misdemeanor and felony DUI charges, you may be faced with additional charges for other crimes committed. If you cause a collision, for example, you might also be charged with property damage. If you drive with a passenger, you might be charged with reckless endangerment. If felony charges accompany your DUI, it is probable that the DUI charge will be upgraded to a felony, too.

No matter what kind of charge it is, a DUI is a serious issue with potentially devastating consequences. Reaching out to a lawyer may help you better understand your legal options.

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