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When is a DUI a Felony?

Felony vs Misdemeanor DUI

Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is a serious offense under any circumstances. When it becomes a repeated offense in Tennessee within a 10-year timeframe, the penalties become harsher with subsequent convictions. While earlier convictions will lead to misdemeanor charges, a fourth conviction within that timeframe will result in a felony charge. Felony charges are considered much more seriously than misdemeanors and, in the case of DUI, will lead to a mandatory minimum of jail time to be served.

A DUI becomes a felony offense under the following circumstances:

  • You caused the injury or death of a child passenger under the age of 13
  • You caused a serious injury to another in a traffic accident, known as vehicular assault
  • You caused another to die in a traffic crash, known as vehicular homicide
  • You caused major damage to personal or public property in a traffic crash
  • You have three or more previous convictions for DUI

DUI refers to driving while under the influence of not only alcohol but drugs as well, or a combination of both. Drugs can include any legal or illegal substance that affects the central nervous system, such as marijuana, cocaine, or prescription medicines. If you are facing a felony DUI charge in the greater Knoxville area, your first priority should be to retain the services of a trusted attorney. More specifically, you will want someone who is experienced in all of the considerable technical and legal aspects of this particular offense.

What Are the Penalties for a DUI Felony?

The penalties you will face if convicted of a Tennessee DUI felony are extremely harsh. As a Class E felony, the penalties that can be imposed include:

  • Up to six years in prison
  • A minimum of 150 days served in jail
  • Fines ranging between $3,000 all the way up to $15,000
  • A license suspension of up to eight years with a minimum of five years
  • An ignition interlock device installed and maintained in your vehicle at your own expense
  • Potential seizure/forfeiture of your vehicle
  • Potential substance abuse evaluation and treatment
  • Completion of an alcohol DUI educational program
  • Community service
  • Restitution to any victims harmed through your actions
  • Fees and charges for reinstating your license after your suspension period is over

Above and beyond this, a felony DUI will result in a hike in auto insurance premiums once you are allowed to drive again. It will also put a felony on your criminal record that can seriously jeopardize future opportunities in employment, housing, professional licenses, and more.

Other DUI Felony Charges

If you are convicted of DUI vehicular assault, even on a first conviction you will be charged with a Class D felony punishable by two to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 as well as a one to five-year license revocation. Vehicular homicide is charged as a Class B felony punishable by eight up to 30 years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, and three to 10-year loss of your license. Finally, the most serious DUI felony charge is a Class A felony. This is charged as “aggravated vehicular homicide” if you kill someone with two or more prior DUIs. It carries 15 up to 60 years in prison and a fine as high as $50,000.

Get Distinguished Legal Representation in the Face of DUI

At Eldridge and Cravens, PC, you can work with a lawyer who is part of a criminal defense team that has 55 years of shared legal experience to contribute to your case. This is a team that has spent years conducting trials in Tennessee courtrooms and that has helped thousands of clients throughout its history of practice.

Reach out to a Knoxville attorney at (865) 544-2010 for a free consultation or request one through our online form today.