Is A DUI A Felony? Can A DUI Be A Misdemeanor?

Is a DUI/DWI a felony or a misdemeanor?

Generally, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is a misdemeanor in case of a first-time conviction.  But the DUI jurisdiction may vary from one state to another. DUI can be charged as a felony crime especially in case of repetitive offenses of driving under influence.

In all the states of America, driving under the influence is a serious traffic offense or misdemeanor. Depending on the seriousness of the circumstance and other factors the charges can be raised from standard misdemeanor DUI to felony DUI.

Implications of DUI/DWI Offense

A DUI offense has far-reaching consequences beyond the legal implications.  It can affect your driver points, insurance rates, and the status of your driver’s license.

In some cases, a DUI charge involving injury, death, rash driving, or destruction of public property is punishable by a prison sentence or jail.

Consuming alcohol beyond the legal limit also puts your health at risk. The authorities may subject you to an alcohol evaluation test to check your drinking habit and send you to rehabilitation programs.

DUI/DWI puts the lives of others and yours at risk by causing accidents on the road and injuries.

DUI or DWI can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Differences between Felony and Misdemeanor

Crimes are differentiated into different categories.  Most criminal systems of states across the United States divide their crimes into infractions; misdemeanors; and felonies.


An infraction is a crime that involves minor violations of a rule, ordinance, or law. In general, there is no jail term associated with an infraction unless for repeated violations. It will not appear on a criminal record.


Misdemeanors are more serious than infractions. It is a criminal offense that carries a potential jail term for less than one year.


All serious crimes are treated as a felony. The federal government laws define a felony as any crime with a punishment of more than one year. Typically, a sentence of more than one year served in a federal or state prison will be considered a felony.

What does DUI mean?

Driving under the influence (DUI) is the crime or offense of driving or operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. Such a situation makes the driver incapable of operating the motor vehicle safely.

In every state, specific laws are formed to convict drivers who commit drunken driving. Such drivers have to undergo an alcohol test. If the BAC level is found to be above 0.8 percent, the driver can be charged with a DUI misdemeanor or felony DUI depending on other factors.

Factors that can make DUI a Felony

Generally, the judges or agents can charge DUI as a misdemeanor or a felony. DUI may be charged as a felony if any of the following conditions exist:

Serious Negligence of Driving Laws

Jurisdictions in most states elevate a DUI case to a felony offense when multiple violations of traffic rules happen along with DUI.

If you are driving under the influence and also you do not have a valid license, your offense may be considered a felony.

It is really bad for you to be caught for DUI when your driving license is revoked, suspended, or restricted.

Physical Injury

If someone is killed or injured in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver, the driver will be charged with a DUI felony. If the intoxicated driver is rear-ended by another driver at a stop sign, the intoxicated driver may escape a felony charge but can be charged with a misdemeanor instead.

Repeated DUI Offenses

Repeat incidences of DUI driving despite previous convictions, the driver may be charged with a DUI felony.

If your driving license was degraded, restricted, or penalized for driving under influence then it is a bad reputation for you. If you are again caught for DUI, then you may be charged with a DWI/DUI felony.

Suppose, you were ordered by authorities to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle because of a previous DUI. In such a condition, you may be charged with a DUI felony if you are caught for drunken driving again.

High Blood Alcohol Content

A blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 percent is the standard impairment level in all states. Any traffic rules violation by a driver with high levels of BAC may be charged with a DUI felony or a misdemeanor DUI.

Most of the states have set levels of BAC which is liable to be charged with a DUI felony. Often, this level is around 0.16 percent.

DUI with Children in the Vehicle

DUI with children in the vehicle is a serious offense. Most states have specific laws that recommend a DUI felony charge in case of children in the vehicle.  Usually, all below the age of fifteen are considered children.

The Bottom Line

Generally, it’s possible to be convicted of a DUI as a felony or a misdemeanor. A felony sentence is given to a DUI when the offender kills or seriously injures another person.

Repeated intakes of DUI convictions can also elevate a DUI to a felony. In most states, first and second DUI offenses are misdemeanors but a third or subsequent conviction is a felony.

Some states make a DUI a felony if the driver had a high-level BAC while transporting children in the vehicle.