The factors present in an alleged perpetrator's DUI case will determine whether he or she will be charged with a standard DUI charge - which is classified as a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania - or a much more serious felony DUI charge.
Types of Felony DUIs in Pennsylvania
Tragic accidents that result in either the injury or the death of a person who is not the motorist in question are handled aggressively by prosecutors. Oftentimes, in situations when such fatal outcomes ensue, courts tack sentencing enhancements onto these charges, elevating a standard DUI to a felony DUI. Being specifically convicted of one of the following offenses: DUI resulting in injury, aggravated assault by vehicle or a homicide while under the influence, will lead to incredibly harsh penalties enforced by the state of Pennsylvania.
DUI resulting in Injury
A DUI resulting in an injury is the least severe DUI felony in the state, however, the penalties for this offense are more severe than those imposed for a standard DUI. A defendant may be convicted of this offense if a drunk driving accident involves an injury - no matter how minor - that is inflicted to a person other than the defendant.
A person convicted of this offense will have to pay a fine of up to $5,000 and spend up to six months in a county jail. In addition to these penalties, a defendant will get their license suspended for one year.
Aggravated Assault by Vehicle DUI
In order for an individual to be convicted of aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, a prosecutor must prove that a defendant violated state DUI laws and that this violation led to the infliction of a serious bodily injury to a person other than the motorist.
According to Pennsylvania statutes, serious bodily injury refers to an infliction that causes permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. Evidence displaying that a motorist was driving impaired, paired with evidence that the fatal accident wouldn't have happened if the driver would have acted responsibly may lead to the conviction of this offense. If the injuries inflicted on a victim do not fall within the confines of the definition of a serious bodily injury, the charge could be classified as a DUI with injury, which has less severe repercussions.
Aggravated assault by vehicle is classified as a second-degree felony under state law. This offense carries penalties of a fine of up to $25,000 and a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
Homicide While Under the Influence
Homicide while driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is considered the most severe type of felony DUI in the state. An individual is charged with this crime when a person other than the defendant dies as a result of a drunk or drugged driving accident. In the unfortunate event that more than one person is killed in one setting, multiple counts of DUI homicide charges may be acquired by a motorist.
This offense is classified as a second-degree felony. This means that a defendant convicted this crime will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine that won't exceed $25,000. If more people were killed as a result of an accident, this punishment will be imposed accordingly for each victim.
Acquiring a felony DUI results in other consequences that are not solely carried out by the criminal justice system. A felony on a person's criminal record could make it increasingly difficult for a person to find meaningful work and receive government aid. For commercial drivers, a conviction of a felony DUI means the end of their entire career in the commercial industry. It's important to remember that even after you do your time, there will be lasting consequences that follow a DUI offense long after a defendant has served their time.
Experienced Philadelphia DUI Defense Attorney
Being charged with a felony DUI is an incredibly serious ordeal. Those facing such allegations also face harsh penalties that guarantee mandatory prison terms and costly fines. If you have been arrested and charged with a felony DUI, should consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable of the DUI laws in Pennsylvania. Just because you have been charged with this offense does not mean that you have to plead guilty or that you will be convicted. Contact skilled attorney Joseph D. Lento day for a consultation.