The Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor DUIs

Pennsylvania used to have some of the most lenient DUI laws in the country, but recent legislation in the Keystone State changed everything. Now, Pennsylvania has comparatively strict DUI laws, especially for repeat offenders. This makes it all the more important to know the difference between felony and misdemeanor charges. 

difference between felony and misdemeanorMost drunk driving arrests result in misdemeanor charges, but the implementation of recently-passed laws has led to harsher penalties and more felony charges in the state.

The most obvious difference between the two is that felonies carry stricter penalties than misdemeanors. Among other things, drunk drivers now have lengthier sentences, higher fines, and elevated penalties for vehicular homicide.

Misdemeanor or felony, handling these charges takes an experienced DUI attorney in Pennsylvania. Steven E. Kellis, Esq. is an award-winning DUI defense attorney who will work toward having your charges dismissed or reduced through a plea bargain. 

Keep reading to learn more, and then call Steven Kellis at (215) 543-6566 today.

PA DUI Laws

In 2003, Act 24 was signed into Pennsylvania law. Act 24 officially lowered Pennsylvania’s legal alcohol limit from .10 to .08%. This law led to more DUI arrests, but it’s not the only recent law affecting drunk drivers.

In 2018, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 961 into law. Among other things, this law allows DUIs to be treated as felonies in some situations.

Both of these laws carry serious repercussions for intoxicated drivers. Drunk driving is a dangerous crime, but it’s important to remember that you have legal rights even if you were arrested and convicted of DUI. difference between a felony and a misdemeanor

Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor

Level of Charges

The penalties you will face after being arrested for a DUI depend on the level of your charge, which depends on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The following are penalties for misdemeanor charges divided into general impairment, high BAC, and highest BAC:

General impairment (.08 to .099% BAC)

  • First DUI – Ungraded misdemeanor and up to six months of probation
  • Second DUI – Ungraded misdemeanor, 12-month license suspension, five days to six months jail time, and one year with an ignition interlock device (IID)
  • Third or subsequent DUI – 2nd degree misdemeanor, 12-month license suspension, 10 days to two years prison time, and one year with an IID

High BAC (.10 to .159% BAC)

  • First DUI – Ungraded misdemeanor, 12-month license suspension, and 48 hours to six months prison time
  • Second DUI – Ungraded misdemeanor, 12-month license suspension, 30 days to six months prison time, and one year with an IID
  • Third or subsequent DUI – 1st degree misdemeanor, 18-month license suspension, one to five years prison time, and one year with an IID
  • Fourth or subsequent DUI – 1st degree misdemeanor, 18-month license suspension, one to five years in prison, and one year with an IID

Highest BAC (.16% or higher) and controlled substance

  • First DUI – Ungraded misdemeanor, 12-month license suspension, and 72 hours to six months prison time
  • Second DUI – 1st degree misdemeanor, 18-month license suspension, 90 days to five years prison time, and one year with an IID
  • Third or subsequent DUI – 1st degree misdemeanor, 18-month license suspension, one to five years prison time, and one year with an IID

In addition to the above penalties, fines increase with the seriousness of the charge. For example, a first-time general impairment charge comes with a $300 fine, while a third-time highest-level DUI comes with fines of $2,500 to $10,000.

All of the above penalties are considered misdemeanors. Below, we discuss the penalties for a felony charge.

Is DUI a Felony in PA?

Under Pennsylvania’s 2018 Act 153, a DUI can be charged as a felony in certain situations. The following are the least-serious felony offenses, treated as third-degree felonies in PA:

  • Getting three DUI convictions of any level within the past 10 years.
  • Getting two DUI convictions within the past 10 years while a minor is in the vehicle.
  • Getting two or more DUI convictions and refusing to submit to breath or chemical testing.

The following are treated as second-degree felonies in PA:

  • Being charged with aggravated assault (causing injuries to others) while under the influence. In Pennsylvania, a second-degree felony has a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
  • Having no prior convictions and being charged with homicide by vehicle.

The following are treated as first-degree felonies (the most serious):

  • Having a prior conviction and being charged with homicide by vehicle (causing a fatality) while under the influence. This prison sentence may be longer than 10 years. You may also receive consecutive sentences for each person who was killed.

DUI Lawyer in Pennsylvania

If you were arrested for DUI, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed and confused. But remember that no matter the seriousness of your charge, you have the legal right to representation.

An effective, hard-working attorney like Steven Kellis will defend you and fight for the best outcome every step of the way. Give yourself the best chance to have your charges reduced or dismissed. Call Steven Kellis at (215) 543-6566 today.