Drunk driving charges tend to get lumped into one, broad category that many people in Louisiana perceive as the same thing. While the differences between misdemeanor and felony DWI charges can sometimes -- although not always -- be subtle, the consequences can vary greatly. Felonies typically carry harsher penalties if convicted and usually require a different criminal defense approach. These are just a few situations that sometimes lead to felony drunk driving charges.
Driving with an especially high blood alcohol concentration can result in felony allegations. A .08 BAC is usually considered the threshold for adult drivers who are over the age of 21 and will lead to a misdemeanor charge, regardless of whether the driver feels that his or her ability to drive is impaired. A BAC that registers as slightly higher than the legal limit is not likely to lead to felony charges, while BACs that hit close to .16 -- about double the legal limit -- can.
A driver can still be charged with a felony even if a breath or blood test reveals that their BAC is very close to the legal limit. Prior convictions can elevate what might have otherwise been a misdemeanor charge to a felony, even if a driver has already paid the fines and regained driving privileges. However, only convictions from the past 10 years may be used in this manner.
In general, felony convictions have stiffer and longer-lasting penalties than their misdemeanor counterparts. Drunk driving charges, which already carry severe consequences in Louisiana, are no exception. With fines, revoked driving privileges and possible jail time on the line, there is likely no time that is too soon to start developing a comprehensive criminal defense team.
Source: FindLaw, "Felony DUI", Accessed on Sept. 29, 2017