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Is a DUI a Felony?

Posted on September 8, 2021 in DUI

Arizona is known for being one of the toughest states when it comes to penalizing crimes, including driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. Receiving a DUI conviction in Arizona can come with serious consequences such as a felony on your record, in some circumstances. Although the typical DUI in Arizona is treated as a misdemeanor, extenuating circumstances can lead to felony charges and enhanced penalties.

Most DUI Charges Are Misdemeanors

According to Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) Section 28-1381, driving under the influence means to be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, even if the vehicle is parked, while impaired by an intoxicating substance. In general, a driver can receive a DUI charge if he or she registers a blood alcohol content (BAC) level at or above 0.08 percent, or 0.04 percent for a commercial driver. However, a driver in Arizona could receive a DUI charge even with a lesser BAC if the arresting police officer believes the driver’s driving abilities are impaired.

The majority of driving under the influence arrests in Arizona are misdemeanor charges. Unless there are circumstances surrounding the arrest that make the crime more severe in the eyes of the law, someone who is convicted of a violation of Arizona’s DUI law is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. This crime is punishable by one day to six months or more in jail, as well as thousands of dollars in fines and a mandatory ignition interlock device installed on the car.

When Is a DUI Charged as a Felony in Arizona?

In Arizona, lawmakers may increase the charges and penalties associated with a driving under the influence arrest if there are extenuating circumstances (known as aggravating factors) that make the crime more severe in nature. In this way, a DUI could turn into a felony that comes with more significant consequences for the driver. There are several aggravating factors that can boost a misdemeanor DUI crime to a felony in Arizona:

  • Failing to install an ignition interlocking device after being ordered to do so by the court.
  • Three or more DUI convictions on the driver’s record in a seven-year period.
  • Driving under the influence with a minor under the age of 15 in the vehicle.
  • DUI with a suspended, canceled, revoked or otherwise restricted driver’s license.
  • Driving the wrong way on a one-way street or highway.
  • Drunk or drugged driving that results in serious bodily injuries or deaths.
  • A DUI that results in damage to someone else’s property.
  • An extreme DUI (A.R.S. 28-1382), or a DUI with a BAC above 0.15 percent.

The level of DUI felony charge for these aggravating circumstances can range from class 6 to class 2. The lower the class of felony, the more serious the crime and related consequences. It is possible to receive a class 2 felony charge for vehicular manslaughter for a DUI in Arizona if the impaired driver causes a crash that kills someone. This is the most serious potential criminal consequence of driving under the influence in Arizona.

What Are the Penalties for a Felony DUI in Arizona?

The penalties for a DUI conviction increase dramatically from a misdemeanor to a felony charge. If your DUI is a felony, you could face a minimum of 30 to 45 days in jail, up to a year or longer, depending on the degree of the felony. Other common penalties include hefty fines that can reach several thousand dollars, mandatory community restitution, an ignition interlock device, driver’s license suspension or revocation, and lasting effects related to being convicted of a felony in Arizona, such as difficulty finding housing and employment.

The possibility of a felony charge with a driving under the influence arrest is why it is imperative to seek help from a Tempe DUI lawyer right away if you are arrested for this alleged crime. You will need an experienced attorney by your side to help you avoid the most serious potential consequences.

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