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Detroit Legal Blog

When Is a DUI Considered a Felony in Michigan?

Feb 13, 2019, by Maurice Davis in OWI, Traffic
Felony DUI

Getting charged with driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious matter. You could face jail time, fines, a driver’s license suspension, and a drastic increase in your auto insurance premiums. Usually, DUI charges are treated as misdemeanors, meaning that your potential jail time is capped at one year. But is some cases, these cases are treated as felonies, which entails lengthy prison sentences, crippling fines, and harsher collateral consequences.

A felony DUI charge may occur under a fairly narrow set of circumstances: a third DUI charge, or a drunk driving incident that results in a death or serious injury. In each scenario, you may be able to avoid the increased penalties of a felony DUI conviction with the assistance of a Detroit DUI lawyer. To learn more about the defenses to felony DUI, call Davis Law Group today at (313) 818-3238 or use our online contact form to schedule your free initial consultation. Along with Detroit, Davis Law Firm also defends DUI cases in Flint, Port Huron, and Southfield as well.

A Third Drunk Driving Conviction Will Be Treated as a Felony

Under Michigan law, drunk driving is officially called operating while intoxicated (OWI) or operating while visibly impaired (OWVI). If you collect two convictions for either offense, your third will be treated as a Class E felony, which involves the following penalties:

  • 1 to 5 years in jail
  • A minimum jail sentence of 30 days
  • Fines of up to $5,000
  • 60 to 180 days of community service
  • Revoked driver’s license
  • Six points to your driver’s license
  • Forfeiture of your vehicle

Despite the harsher criminal penalties, the worst part about a felony DUI conviction may be the collateral consequences. As a felon, you will face extreme difficulties in finding employment and housing–even years after you have served your sentence–and you will lose your right to own a firearm. These collateral consequences often outweigh the actual criminal penalties, especially since people with clear criminal records who get convicted of class E felonies usually receive a probational sentence of jail time only.

Owing to the seriousness of the collateral consequences of a felony conviction, Michigan DUI lawyers often try to “plead down” a third DUI charge to a misdemeanor. In this scenario, your lawyer would admit that you are guilty and agree to a jail sentence of two to three months. In exchange, the prosecutor would treat your case as a second DUI offense, which is a misdemeanor. Of course, in some cases it may be desirable to fight your charges at trial–despite the risk of a felony conviction should you lose.

A DUI Causing Serious Injury or Death Is a Felony

If you drive drunk and cause a serious injury, a prosecutor may charge you with a class E felony–the same as a third DUI conviction. For you to get convicted of OWI causing serious injury, there must be strong evidence that your drunk driving was the actual cause of the victim’s injury, and that the injury resulted in an impairment of one of the victim’s bodily functions. While a bruise or a cut might not be considered a serious injury, a bone fracture would generally meet this standard because it usually entails restricted mobility for some time after the accident.

You will face even harsher consequences if your drunk driving causes someone’s death. The offense is a class C felony, which carries the following penalties:

  • Maximum prison sentence of 15 years
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Revoked driver’s license
  • Forfeiture of your vehicle
  • Six points added to your license

If the victim was an emergency responder, the offense is raised to a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

You may be able to avoid these penalties if your lawyer can demonstrate that your actions did not actually cause the injury or death. By performing an accident reconstruction, it may be possible to show that some other factor caused the casualty. And just like any other DUI case, you may win by demonstrating that you were not actually impaired. If you’ve been charged with felony DUI in Detroit, Flint, Port Huron, or Southfield – call Davis Law Group now at (313) 818-3238 or use our online contact form for a free and confidential consultation about the defenses that might apply to your case.

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