Why is my DUI being charged as a felony?
Here in Arizona, a felony DUI is called an aggravated DUI. As the name implies an aggravated DUI is a regular DUI plus some statutorily-listed aggravating factor that makes it a felony. There are are essentially two ways a prosecution agency can allege a DUI: the defendant was driving with some indeterminate amount of drugs or alcohol that impaired the defendant "to the slightest degree," or the defendant had a specific concentration of drugs and/or alcohol within two hours of the time of driving. The potential sentence of an aggravated DUI does not depend on whether it is an "impaired to the slightest degree" aggravated DUI or a specific blood concentration aggravated DUI. What will affect the potential sentence is the type of aggravated DUI.
There are five (5) types of aggravated DUI:
DUI while the defendant's driver's license or privilege to drive is suspended, canceled, revoked, or refused. If the defendant's driver's license had a restriction on it as a result of a prior DUI, then this type of aggravated DUI would apply as well.
Third or more DUI within a period of 84 months.
A person under the age of 15 is in the vehicle.
The defendant is required to have an ignition interlock installed in any vehicle they are driving.
The DUI is committed while driving the wrong way on a highway.
Many people are surprised with how the Legislature has "ranked" these various types of Aggravated DUI. People often think that driving under the influence with someone under 15 in the vehicle is worse than driving under the influence with a suspended license. However, that is incorrect. As a matter of fact, the "kid in the car" Aggravated DUI is the lowest class of felony among the felony DUIs, a Class 6. The other kinds of Aggravated DUI are all Class 4 felonies.
People are also surprised to learn that even if it is the defendant's very first criminal offense, there is mandatory prison time for "suspended license" Aggravated DUIs, "3rd or more within 84 month" Aggravated DUIs, and "driving the wrong way on a highway" Aggravated DUIs. The minimum time a person convicted of these offenses will have to serve in prison is 4 months.
In addition to the harsh sentencing scheme that applies to Aggravated DUIs are all of the other consequences including, but not limited to, driver's license suspensions, very hefty fines and fees, professional license suspensions, immigration consequences, and many others.
The bottom line is that i you are being charged with an Aggravated DUI, you need a top quality attorney representing you and helping you navigate a system that is heavily stacked against you.
You need a lawyer with experience litigating these types of cases.