Generally, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is considered a misdemeanor offense that typically results in the loss of driving privileges, fines, and minimal jail time. Under some circumstances, though, a DUI can be elevated to a felony, which comes with more substantial punishments. Here are two ways this can happen.

Children Were in the Vehicle

It may seem inconceivable that people would drive intoxicated with children in their vehicles. Unfortunately, it happens more often than you'd think, so much so that you will automatically be charged with a felony DUI if you do it. Depending on the state, you may also be charged with felony child endangerment and risk having the kids taken by child protective services in addition to other legal consequences.

It should be noted that in many states, the legal alcohol limit for a DUI is lower for people who drive vehicles designed to transport children, such as school buses. This is because those vehicles require people to obtain CDLs to operate them, and DUI limits for CDL holders are more stringent.

For instance, in Connecticut, the threshold is .04% instead of the standard .08%, though you will only be subjected to this exception if you were driving a commercial vehicle at the time you were arrested.

As you can see, you can rack up felony-level charges in your DUI case fairly easily when kids are involved. Thus, it's essential you contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to go over your options for handling your case.

Someone Was Injured or Died

Another way you could face felony charges in connection with a DUI is if someone was injured or died in an accident you caused. In some states, the prosecutor will add what are called enhancements to the DUI charge that includes injuries to others and increases the charge level from a misdemeanor to a felony.

In other states, the prosecutor will tack on other relevant felony charges to the DUI. For instance, if you hit someone and that person died, you may be charged with vehicular assault or manslaughter in addition to driving under the influence. So, even if the DUI charge itself only comes with mild penalties, you may still be subjected to more severe punishment because of the separate charges.

Depending on the circumstances of the incident as well as your driving and criminal history, it may be possible to reduce the felony charges or eliminate them altogether. It's best to consult with a criminal defense attorney to see what can be done in your case.

For more information about handling felony charges or help with your criminal case, contact a local felony lawyer.