When Is A DUI A Felony In Pennsylvania?

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Most driving under the influence (DUI) charges are misdemeanors. However, you may also face felony charges related to your drunk driving arrest if you caused an accident that injured or killed another person.

At the McKenzie Law Firm, P.C., our DUI lawyers can help you understand the charges you face and work to mitigate the impact of these charges on your everyday life. If you believe you may face a DUI felony in Pennsylvania, contact us as soon as possible at 610-680-7842.

What are the most common DUI offenses under Pennsylvania law?

State DUI laws treat drunk driving offenses as serious charges and require a minimum jail stay and license suspension with every conviction. However, these charges are still misdemeanors. There are three levels of DUI charges under the latest Pennsylvania drunk driving laws:

  • General Impairment applies to offenders with a blood alcohol content(BAC) between .08 and .099 percent;
  • A high BAC charge stems from a BAC between .10 to .159 percent; and
  • The highest BAC charge applies to drivers with BACs over .16 percent.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not eventually escalate repeated offenses to the felony class. A first offense is typically an ungraded misdemeanor. Second offenses are, as well. The courts classify a third or subsequent offense as a more serious crime—either a first- or second-degree misdemeanor, based on your BAC at the time of your arrest.

The “lookback” period in Pennsylvania is 10 years. This means if you had a previous DUI conviction but it was more than a decade ago, it will not count against you or trigger additional penalties because of a repeated offense.

When can a DUI arrest lead to a felony charge?

A DUI can lead to a felony charge if your impairment caused a crash where other people suffered injuries or died. This could be your passenger or someone in another car. There are three charges typically associated with this type of incident.

Felony DUI with Injury

Prosecutors can use this charge to hold a drunk driver responsible when they cause an injury. The law does not require the victims to suffer severe injuries; often their injuries are relatively minor. Those convicted of a felony DUI with injury charge face much more severe penalties, including up to six months in jail and increased fines.

If you face a felony DUI with injury, we may be able to convince the prosecution to reduce your charges to a misdemeanor DUI charge. This could reduce your penalties significantly.

Aggravated Assault While Under the Influence

In a separate section of Pennsylvania’s statutes, lawmakers outline the aggravated assault while under the influence charge. This is a second-degree felony and a conviction brings significant jail time and fines. Prosecutors use this charge when a drunk driver causes an accident that leaves the victim with serious injuries. Serious injuries could include:

  • An injury that could lead to death;
  • Permanent disfigurement; and
  • A long-term impairment.

When a client faces an aggravated assault while under the influence charge, we often fight to reduce this charge to a felony DUI with injury. While this is still a felony charge, it calls for much milder sentencing. It is unlikely the prosecution will drop all felony charges in this type of case, but depending on the facts, there may be other options we can pursue.

Homicide While Under the Influence

The most serious DUI-related charge you can face is homicide while under the influence. Homicide while under the influence is a second-degree felony. Prosecutors use this charge when a drunk driver causes an accident and there is a fatality. In some cases, the driver may face multiple charges stemming from multiple deaths. The consequences of a conviction in this crime are severe and include significant time in prison and fines.

If you believe you may face this type of charge, or if you already face homicide while under the influence charges, it is imperative that you call us as soon as possible. Your future is at risk and you need a lawyer who understands Pennsylvania DUI caselaw on your side.

How can an attorney help me beat a felony DUI charge?

If your arrest occurred after a drunk driving accident, contact us as soon as possible. We understand the dire consequences you could face and will fight to reduce the penalties as much as legally possible.

In addition to knowing how to navigate the legal system and mount a defense against your charges, we have the resources to collect all possible evidence in your case. Often, this includes testimony from accident reconstruction specialists, chemical testing experts, and others who can help us prove your innocence or raise questions about the evidence the prosecution has against you.

If you drove drunk and caused a serious car accident, it is almost impossible to avoid some jail time and fines. However, we will do everything we can to minimize the time you spend in jail and on probation. We will fight for you throughout the process and help you understand your legal options every step of the way.

How can I reach a DUI attorney from the McKenzie Law Firm, P.C.?

At the McKenzie Law Firm, P.C., we understand how scary it is to face a felony DUI charge in court. You need an attorney who knows how to fight these charges on your side. We will give you the best chance to reduce the severity of the penalties you face. Call us today at 610-680-7842 to discuss your case.