In Illinois, driving under the influence (DUI) can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. A felony DUI is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor, and it attracts stiffer legal penalties if you are found guilty. That is in addition to the post-conviction consequences, such as losing some civil rights and having a criminal record.
Therefore, it helps to understand the fine line between these two classes of DUI offenses in Illinois and the circumstances that could determine the nature of your charges. Here are some of the factors that could come into play.
Previous DUI convictions
The severity of your DUI offense partly depends on whether you have been previously convicted of a similar offense. In most cases, the first and second DUI offenses are misdemeanors. However, if it’s your third DUI, you will likely be up against felony charges.
DUI resulting in bodily injury or death
Similarly, you may be charged with felony DUI if you caused an accident that led to serious injuries or death to the victims. This applies even if it is your first offense.
DUI with a child passenger
Whether or not you had children in the vehicle at the time of your DUI arrest also matters. Under Illinois law, a DUI committed while transporting a child under 16 years is a felony offense. The charges could further be ramped up if you caused an accident where the minor got injured.
Other aggravating factors
You can also face felony charges for committing a DUI:
- Without a valid driver’s license or permit
- While driving a vehicle-for-hire carrying one or more passengers
- Without vehicle liability insurance
Ultimately, the particular circumstances of your DUI offense will determine whether you will face felony or misdemeanor charges. It is also worth noting that there are different levels of felony DUI offenses, with varying degrees of punishment and penalties.
If you have been arrested for a DUI, it helps to seek the necessary assistance as soon as possible. That way, you will better understand the gravity of the situation and make decisions that are in your best interests.