When Does DUI Become a Felony in Delaware County, PA?

In Delaware County, PA, most driving under the influence (DUI) charges will be prosecuted at the misdemeanor level. However, if aggravating factors are present, misdemeanor DUI charges could be elevated to the felony level. This most often occurs when an instance of drunk driving causes a collision that results in severe bodily injury or death. 

If you have been charged with a felony DUI, you are going to need an exceptional DUI attorney on your side who can help you reduce the fallout. When you are ready to explore potential defense options, do not hesitate to contact Bonner Law Firm to request a confidential consultation.

DUIs are Usually Tried as Misdemeanors Under Pennsylvania Law

Pennsylvania generally tries DUIs at the misdemeanor level. However, there are certain circumstances that may make it appropriate for a DUI to be elevated to the felony level. In many states, when you have multiple DUI convictions on your record, additional DUI charges will elevate the charges from a misdemeanor to a felony. However, that is not the case in PA.

First offense and second-offense DUIs are almost always tried as ungraded misdemeanors. Once you receive a third or subsequent DUI, charges will be elevated to a first or second-degree misdemeanor. According to 30 Pa. § 923, if convicted, you could spend up to five years in a Pennsylvania state prison and be fined up to $10,000.

The level of your charges will also depend on your blood alcohol content BAC levels at the time of your arrest. If your levels reached .10%, but were less than .16%, you could face more serious penalties than someone whose BAC levels were between .08% and .099%. The highest BAC charges will apply to motorists whose BAC levels exceeded .16%.

Additional penalties may apply for those with higher BAC levels and multiple convictions on their record. Pennsylvania has a 10-year look-back period for DUI convictions under 75 Pa.C.S. Section 3803. If you were convicted of a DUI more than 10 years ago, that prior case should have no impact on the charges today or the sentence you receive if you are found guilty.

DUI Arrests Can Still Lead to Felony Charges

Despite the fact that most DUI cases are tried as misdemeanors, there are several situations in which felony DUI charges may apply. This most frequently occurs when a drunk driver causes an accident that causes catastrophic injury or death. These felony DUI charges include:

  • Homicide while under the influence
  • Aggravated assault while under the influence
  • Felony DUI with injury

Homicide While Under the Influence

Under 75 Pa. § 3732, you can be charged with homicide while under the influence if you were drunk and caused a motor vehicle accident that cost someone their life. This is typically tried as a second-degree felony. If convicted, penalties could include:

  • Fines of up to $25,000
  • Loss of firearm rights
  • A 10-year prison sentence
  • Loss of the right to vote
  • Loss of child custody or visitation rights
  • Professional license suspension or revocation
  • Parole restrictions upon release from prison
  • Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license

Aggravated Assault While Under the Influence

Aggravated assault while under the influence is a criminal offense under 75 Pa. § 3735.1. This is also typically considered a second-degree felony which could lead to a 10-year prison sentence and fines of up to $25,000. 

For aggravated assault while under the influence charges to apply, the victim must have suffered “serious” injuries. But what makes an injury “serious”? Any injury that leads to a permanent disability or disfigurement, long-term impairment, or death may be considered a serious injury. 

Prosecutors may be less willing to allow you to enter an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program when victims are injured or killed. While the district attorney may be less likely to drop felony DUI charges, depending on the circumstances of your case and the evidence at hand, we may be able to secure a plea agreement and avoid some of the harsher penalties associated with a conviction.

Felony DUI with Injury

You could be charged with a felony DUI with injury if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol and caused a collision that resulted in an injury to another party. In felony DUI with injury cases, victims’ injuries do not need to be considered severe.

Felony DUI with injury is not a charge in and of itself, but rather a sentencing enhancement. Your standard DUI charges will apply, but will carry additional penalties due to the sentencing enhancement. If you are convicted of a felony DUI with injury, you could spend up to six months in jail, pay up to $5,000 in fines, and have your driver’s license suspended for up to 12 months.

The Benefits Of a Skilled DUI Attorney Are Undeniable

You may have hoped to work with a public defender to clear your name of the charges against you or plead guilty and simply get your record expunged later. However, a DUI is only eligible for expungement after 10 years have passed according to Clean Slate. It may be in your best interests to work with a trial-proven DUI lawyer who can help you build a powerful defense strategy.

With DUI cases in particular, the state recognizes that rehabilitative measures may be more appropriate. For that reason, the prosecutor may be more likely to allow you to enter an ARD program. You will need to fulfill specific terms, including completing community service, paying fines, attending a substance abuse treatment program, and abstaining from drug or alcohol use. 

Once you meet these requirements, you graduate from the program and the prosecutor dismisses your charges or reduces them to a less serious offense. Make sure you have a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side who has built relationships with other court officials who may be more willing to listen when we tell them ARD is the better option for you.

Turn to a Strategic DUI Defense Attorney for Help Today

All felony DUI charges can be intimidating, but with the right criminal defense lawyer advocating for your future, you can feel more confident as your trial approaches. You may even be able to avoid a trial altogether if we can work out a plea agreement with the prosecutor. 

Our team at Bonner Law Firm will conduct an intensive investigation and gather the evidence we need to build a powerful defense strategy. Find out which approach may be best suited for your case when you contact us to request a confidential consultation. You can reach us by phone or through our secured contact form to get started as soon as today.