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Circumstances that could elevate a DUI charge to a felony

New york residents are aware that drinking and driving could result in serious penalties, and based on the circumstances of the traffic stop or charging location, the accused could face additional charges as well. However, what factors or circumstances could cause the charges to be elevated? Specifically, what makes a drunk driving charge a felony DUI charge?

While it is dependent on the state, there are certain circumstances that could result in a felony DUI charge versus a misdemeanor. A blood alcohol test is used to prove the presumption of intoxication, and if that test determines that the driver had an elevated blood alcohol concentration or BAC, that could result in a felony charge. This usually occurs at a BAC around .16 or higher, which is double the legal limit.

A felony DUI could also occur if bodily harm to another person occurred as a result of the actions by the alleged drunk driver. If a presumed drunk driving accident occurs, police might charge the accused with a felony DUI if a victim in the accident suffered injuries.

Additionally, if a driver has previous drunk driving convictions on their record, he or she could be charged with a felony DUI. While this varies between states, in New York, if a driver has just one past conviction, he or she will be charged with a felony DUI even if there were no other circumstances that would elevate the charge.

If the accused is charged with a DUI and a child 15-years-old or younger was in the vehicle during the time of the alleged offense, he or she could face a felony DUI. In New York, this is known as Leandra's Law, and this makes it a felony to drive under the influence of alcohol with children in the vehicle. Lastly, if the accused driver has a restricted, suspended or revoked license at the time of the DUI charge, he or she could face an elevated charge.

Because a felony DUI could result in harsh penalties, it is important that defendants understand their situation entirely. It is important to evaluate the circumstances used to elevate the charge, and what evidence was used. A strong criminal defense could make that evidence inadmissible, helping the defendant reduce or dismiss the charges against them.

Source: Dui.findlaw.com, "Felony DUI," accessed Jan. 11, 2016

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