Within the Oklahoma criminal justice system, there is separation of crimes into various categories or levels of severity. In certain situations, the police may arrest you and charge you for a particular crime. In some cases, a crime that would typically be in the misdemeanor category may escalate in level of severity to a felony. This is often true regarding DUI charges.
In most states, a first-time DUI offense is a misdemeanor. However, if certain issues are relevant at the time of your arrest, you may face felony charges, instead. In any case, penalties for drunk driving convictions in Oklahoma are severe, including up to one year in jail for a first offense. Understanding how the criminal justice system functions can help you ensure that you get a fair trial.
Conditions that elevate DUI misdemeanor to a felony crime
If any of the conditions mentioned in the following list are present when an Oklahoma police officer takes you into custody for suspected DUI, the charges filed against you may be at the felony level:
- You were involved in a motor vehicle collision that resulted in injury or fatality to another person.
- Your blood alcohol content (BAC) level was double the legal limit or more.
- You were driving without a valid driver’s license, or the court had suspended or restricted your license.
- There was a minor in your vehicle when a police officer pulled you over.
- You have prior DUI convictions on your record.
Be aware that Oklahoma state allows a maximum of 20 years in prison for a felony DUI conviction. You could also incur up to $5,000 in fines and a license suspension for up to eight years.
Your insurance premium might skyrocket after a DUI conviction
Especially if you face conviction for a felony DUI, the agency that ensures your vehicle may decide to increase your premium. With a felony on your record, you would also lose voting privileges and would not be able to possess a firearm. Many employers are hesitant to hire workers with felony convictions on their records.
Is there anything that can mitigate your circumstances?
As a defendant, you’re guaranteed an opportunity to present a defense in court. There may be options available to help you secure a lighter sentence than the maximum allowed by Oklahoma law if you face a conviction. However, not every felony charge results in a conviction.
Any number of issues may constitute a personal rights violation, such as an unlawful search or seizure from your vehicle. You may be able to request a case dismissal or challenge evidence as inadmissible. To determine the best course of action, you must be fully aware of your rights. If you’re unsure about a specific aspect of your case, it’s helpful to speak with someone who is well-versed in criminal justice issues.