Driving under the influence (DUI) offenses are typically misdemeanors but can be charged as a felony under certain circumstances. A misdemeanor charge is bad enough and a conviction of the same can send you to jail in Philadelphia, among other penalties in addition to the collateral consequences of a criminal record. But a felony DUI carries much harsher prison sentences that can result in a significant amount of time behind bars.
Here's what you should know about Philadelphia felony DUI charges.
When does a DUI become a felony in Pennsylvania?
A DUI in Pennsylvania becomes a felony under certain circumstances, which are primarily the following two circumstances:
- when the DUI is the suspect's third DUI within ten years and his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.16 or higher; or
- when the DUI charge is the suspect's fourth offense – and this is regardless of what his or her BAC was.
There are also DUI-related felonies. These include offenses that occur when the DUI suspect causes an accident and another person is either injured or killed. These offenses are actually enhancements of the underlying DUI and include:
- DUI resulting in injury;
- aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence (§3735.1); and
- homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence (§3735)
Aggravated Assault while DUI
This offense is a second-degree felony offense and occurs when the DUI suspect negligently causes an accident and another person is seriously injured – serious bodily injury means that the person is at "substantial risk of death" or the injury results in disfigurement or an inability to function properly.
Homicide while DUI
This offense can be either a first- or second-degree felony offense and occurs when the DUI suspect negligently causes an accident and another person dies as a result – the felony degree is determined by whether or not the DUI suspect has any prior DUI convictions or completed diversion due to a DUI.
What are the consequences of a felony DUI conviction in Philadelphia?
The obvious and most immediate consequence of a felony DUI conviction in Philadelphia is the sentence that will be issued. Penalties for felony DUI enhanced convictions are severe and may include mandatory minimum incarceration, fines, license suspension, ignition interlock requirement, and/or participation in a victim impact panel.
Apart from the sentence, you will face what's known as collateral consequences. These kinds of consequences can impact your life well after you have paid your debt via completion of the sentence against you. Examples of this kind of consequence include:
- Loss of employment and difficulty finding employment
- Difficulty obtaining loans, e.g., personal, mortgage, school
- Problems with child custody
- Loss of or inability to obtain professional licenses
- Loss of or inability to obtain a security clearance
- Problems traveling outside the country (e.g., to Canada).
What happens after a felony DUI arrest in Philadelphia?
After you are arrested for a felony DUI charge, you are taken into custody and booked. You will likely be held in a holding cell for a minimum of 12 hours but up to 48 hours before you are granted a preliminary hearing.
You are then released either on bail or on your own recognizance. When a felony DUI is involved, a formal arraignment is held later in the process – after a preliminary hearing is held and the judge finds that probable cause exists that you committed the charges against you.
All DUI proceedings take place in Philadelphia at the Criminal Justice Center, also known as the Juanita Kidd Stout Criminal Justice Center, located at 1301 Filbert Street.
Who do I contact if I have been charged with a felony DUI in Philadelphia, PA?
If you have been charged with a felony DUI in Philadelphia, your rights and freedom are at risk. You need an aggressive, smart DUI attorney who knows the court system in Philadelphia, who can navigate it with ease while defending your rights, and who can either negotiate a plea deal in your favor or develop a viable defense that can cause your charges to be reduced or dismissed.
The DUI lawyer you are looking for in Philadelphia is Joseph D. Lento. He has comprehensively and successfully represented numerous clients and will be committed to your representation, too. Contact Joseph D. Lento today online or by phone at (215) 535-5353 at the earliest available opportunity.