Is a DUI a Felony?

Each Driving Under the Influence (DUI) case is different and has many factors that will decide the penalties of your charge. If you have been arrested for a DUI and it is your third offense or more, it is considered a felony in the state of Massachusetts. Your third offense, or other subsequent offenses, is the most severe which will lead to worse penalties unless challenged. 

Felony DUI

In most cases, first and second-offense DUIs are not charged as felonies but as misdemeanors. Some first and second-offense DUIs still carry felony charges if the incident results in serious bodily injury, extreme damages, or death. If you have been charged with a felony DUI, seek legal assistance immediately as the penalties are significant and difficult to fight on your own.


Third-Offense DUIs

If you have committed your third-offense DUI, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to assess your case. It is a monumental change compared to the law that was previously in place, only allowing that request for fourth and fifth offenders. 


Therefore, a third-offense DUI conviction is considered a felony which means that the penalties are harder to fight in comparison to the previous charges. Regardless of which offense you are facing, the risk of a felony is possible, and challenging this with an attorney as soon as possible is highly suggested. 


Death and Manslaughter Charges

If you receive a DUI charge after causing the death of another individual, it is often charged as a felony. Operating Under the Influence Causing Death, or “OUI Manslaughter,” is one of the most serious DUI offenses in the state. The minimum mandatory sentence is 5 years in prison and a 15-year loss of your license. 


DUI manslaughter cases result from the reckless or negligent killing of a person while a driver operates a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. . However, it is often more difficult for district attorneys to prove manslaughter in alcohol-related driving cases. Motor vehicle homicide charges are filed more frequently than manslaughter charges. 


Serious Bodily Injury

A serious bodily injury can be any of the following scenarios:

  • The actions of a driver under the influence caused someone involved in the incident to lose a limb. 
  • The actions of a driver under the influence caused total disability for someone involved in the incident. 
  • The defendant’s actions directly created a risk of death.
  • The incident resulting from driving under the influence led to at least one fatality.
  • The negligent actions of a driver under the influence put at least one minor at risk.

If convicted the minimum jail sentence is 6 months. There is also the potential for a prison term of up to 10 years. Sometimes OUI Serious Bodily Injury will be considered a misdemeanor but that is rare.  If convicted, an experienced attorney could provide you with the best chance at a reduced sentence. Contacting an attorney as soon as possible after an incident allows them to assess your case and determine the best course of action moving forward.


Punishments for Felony DUIs

Felony DUI punishments depend on the number of offenses the defendant committed, severity of the situation, and the victim’s injuries. Regardless of what offense you are fighting, the penalties are difficult to face on your own.


Penalties for a third offense DUI may include:

  • Loss of driver’s license for 8 years 
  • Fines ranging from $1,000 and $15,000 
  • At least 150 days in jail


Penalties of a felony DUI resulting in fatal or serious injuries may include:

  • License suspension for 8 years or more
  • Revocation of license registration or vehicle forfeiture 
  • Fines ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 
  • Up to 2 ½ years in jail and 5 years in prison


How Often Are Felony Charges Dropped?

Felony DUI charges can be dropped if there is insufficient evidence that could lead to a conviction. In this case, your attorney would need to file a motion to suppress. Before your case goes to trial, the prosecutor can drop charges if there is not enough evidence to obtain a conviction. Your best chance of being successful at this is with the help of an experienced DUI attorney. 


If you have been charged with a DUI felony in Massachusetts, you need a team of attorneys on your side to help you fight the case. Bonville & Howard has the experience and expertise needed to build a strong defense for your case. Contact Bonville & Howard at your earliest convenience to learn about your options from Fitchburg MA DUI attorneys.



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