How do I know if a DUI is a Felony?
July 3rd, 2009
A Washington State DUI might be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending upon several factors. How to tell? 1. In which court is the case pending? If your case is already pending in court, then the answer is determined by the type of court where the case is pending. Municipal and District courts have jurisdiction to hear misdemeanors only; Superior courts hear felony cases. However, a misdemeanor and felony charge arising out of the same incident may be heard together with the felony in Superior Court. Thus, a Seattle DUI pending in Seattle Municipal Court is a misdemeanor because the municipal court has jurisdiction to hear misdemeanor cases arising in the City of Seattle. A Seattle DUI pending in Seattle District Court or a DUI pending in any district court in Washington State is a misdemeanor as well and cases pending in these court are generally the result of a DUI arrest by the Washington State Patrol of King County Sheriff. On the other hand, a Seattle DUI arrest that is prosecuted in King County Superior Court is definitely a felony if it is the only crime charged but it may be a misdemeanor if it is consolidated with other felony charges that arise out of the same incident. 2. What does the charging document say? This is the way to be certain about the charges. The charging document, or complaint, will state whether a felony or misdemeanor is charged. A Washington State misdemeanor DUI charge will reference RCW 46.61.502(1) which states: (1) A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state: (a) And the person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or (b) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or (c) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug. RCW 46.61.502 (6) also provides that the same DUI described above can be charged as a felony if (1) the accused has four or more prior offenses within ten years, or (2) the accused has a prior vehicular assault conviction or vehicular homicide conviction within his/her lifetime. RCW 46.61.502(6): It is a class C felony punishable under chapter 9.94A RCW, or chapter 13.40 RCW if the person is a juvenile, if: (a) The person has four or more prior offenses within ten years as defined in RCW 46.61.5055; or (b) the person has ever previously been convicted of (i) vehicular homicide while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, RCW 46.61.520(1)(a), (ii) vehicular assault while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, RCW 46.61.522(1)(b), or (iii) an out-of-state offense comparable to the offense specified in (b)(i) or (ii) of this subsection. A DUI where “substantial bodily harm” occurs can result in a felony DUI charge under RCW 46.61.522 of “vehicular assault” which states as follows: Vehicular assault — Penalty. (1) A person is guilty of vehicular assault if he or she operates or drives any vehicle: (a) In a reckless manner and causes substantial bodily harm to another; or (b) While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, as defined by RCW 46.61.502, and causes substantial bodily harm to another; or (c) With disregard for the safety of others and causes substantial bodily harm to another. (2) Vehicular assault is a class B felony punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW. (3) As used in this section, "substantial bodily harm" has the same meaning as in RCW 9A.04.110. A Washington State DUI charge, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, is a serious matter with very serious penalties. Fox Bowman Duarte attorneys have years of experience defending misdemeanor and felony Washington State DUI charges in locations ranging from Seattle DUI courts to Bellingham DUI courts and all other courts throughout Washington State.