AmbulanceOne of the most common questions about DWI is whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor.  Typically, it is a misdemeanor, but it can be elevated to a felony very quickly.  One way that this can happen is when there is an accident that results in serious injury or death.  There is very little that separates an ordinary DWI, where someone may have had a little too much to drink, and a DWI where someone ends up going to the hospital (or the morgue), but the moral and legal effects are much different.  Many times, when people cause injury or death to another person, they feel immense guilt; they never intended to hurt anyone.  But they never can go back and undo what was done.  On the legal side of things, as soon as a serious injury or death occurs, the charges are elevated, and the penalties that you could be facing increase dramatically.

At times, the police may initially charge you with an ordinary DWI, only to later raise the charges if they discover there was serious injury or death.  So what can the charges be raised to?  If there is serious injury, then the charge can be raised to Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle.  This charge is a Class F Felony.  There is an even higher charge, Aggravated Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle, which is a Class E Felony.  The charge is raised to an aggravated level if the person charged has an impaired driving offense conviction within the past 7 years.

If someone dies because of an accident in a DWI case, obviously you are facing very serious charges.  You are at least facing a Felony Death by Vehicle charge.  This is a Class D Felony.  If you have an impaired driving conviction within 7 years of the date of the alleged offense, then you would be charged with Aggravated Felony Death by Vehicle, which is a Class D Felony as well, but is sentenced in the “aggravated” range of punishment for that class of felony.  If you have a previous Felony Death by Vehicle conviction, then you could be facing a Repeat Felony Death by Vehicle charge, which is a Class B2 Felony.  There is a chance that you could be charged with Manslaughter.

Any of these felonies have the potential to put you behind bars for a very long time.  The best thing to do is to avoid any of these felonies by choosing to take a taxi if you have been drinking.  You can never guess when you will be in an accident.  If you are drinking and you are involved in an accident with another car, there is a good chance that you could be charged with a felony.  So the next time that you have had one too many, don’t risk it!  You could impact many peoples lives depending on the decision that you make.  If you are charged with one of these crimes, you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer to represent you.