Those accused of DUI often are charged with misdemeanors. However, prosecutors may pursue aggravated drunk driving charges, which is classified as a felony. It is a felony when the driver gets their fourth DUI, or the victims are injured or die. While they are not automatically a felony, extremely high blood alcohol levels or other mitigating circumstances can elevate the classification. If convicted of a felony, defendants will face life-changing penalties that likely involve prison (not county jail).
The penalties for felony DUI
Felony charges classifications range from Class 4 to Class 3. The penalties include:
- Class 4 (fourth DUI): 2-6 years in Colorado State Prison with 3 years of parole, a $2,000 to $500,000 fine, and license revocation for two years.
- Class 4 (vehicular assault): 2-6 years in Colorado State Prison with 3 years of parole, a $2,000 to $500,000 fine, and license revocation for one year.
- Class 3 (causing death): 4-12 years in prison with 5 years of parole, a $3,000 to $750,000 fine.
There will likely be other charges that can involve other penalties as well. The sentences have mandatory minimums but may be less than stated guidelines.
There are still alternatives
A strong legal defense can help the defendant, even if they are guilty. Attorneys can advocate for more lenient alternatives. It may include:
- Shorter time in prison
- Successfully participated in an alcohol treatment program
- Alternative sentencing involving community service
- Installing an ignition interlock device on the defendant’s vehicle
- Options that do not include public safety risks
Everyone has rights
An experienced DUI defense attorney can help protect a driver’s legal rights. As with misdemeanor charges, it could involve pointing out a lack of probable cause during the stop, or the patrol officer did not follow all proper protocols. The officer may not have appropriately operated his or her equipment. There could be an argument that a previous charge was not DUIs even if they were alcohol-related or did not accurately reflect the circumstances of that previous arrest. There could be other circumstances involving a reasonable doubt.
Regardless of the circumstance, it is vital that those facing felony DUI charges work with an attorney who fights felony charges. Their skill and experience will be essential in helping clients and their family reclaim their lives and best ensure that the penalties reflect the true nature of the crime.