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What could make a DUI offense either a misdemeanor or a felony?

On Behalf of | May 26, 2020 | Firm News |

A first-time offense for driving under the influence generally results in a misdemeanor charge in Mississippi. If convicted for a first-time or second-time DUI misdemeanor, you may see your driver’s license suspended or an ignition interlock device installed in your car. Penalties may include paying a fine of at least $250 and spending 48 hours in jail. 

Certain circumstances, however, could turn a first-time DUI offense into a felony charge. 

DUI offenses that can result in felony charges  

Your first or second DUI offense could result in a felony charge if severe bodily injury or death occurred. If an officer arrested you for a DUI after discovering a suspended license or having children in the car, it could enhance the penalties. 

When a third DUI occurs within five years, it automatically classifies as a felony. A judge may hand down a sentence of up to five years in prison along with a $5,000 fine and a five-year license suspension. A fourth DUI results in a felony conviction regardless of how many years have passed since the last charge. 

Repeat DUI convictions and habitual offender status 

In one repeat-offense case, a Gulfport resident had six prior DUI convictions when he pleaded guilty to his seventh charge. As reported by WLOX News, the judge considered the 50-year-old a habitual offender and sentenced him to seven years of imprisonment. 

When pulled over for his seventh offense, he refused to provide a breath test. After his arrest, the results from a warrant-authorized lab test showed a blood alcohol content of 0.139%, a level significantly higher than the 0.08% legal limit. 

BAC test refusal 

By submitting to a BAC test before the court issues a warrant, you may reduce the severity of a DUI sentence or charge. Under Mississippi’s implied consent law, you must provide a sample for BAC testing when a law enforcement official requests it. An initial refusal to submit to a BAC test could help a prosecutor obtain a conviction and request a harsher penalty.