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Can a DUI be charged as a misdemeanor?

Yes, it possible, but that is the exception rather than the rule. You are entitled to a reduced DUI charge as a matter of law. It is up to the discretion of the prosecutor and, to some degree, the judge. This post will go over how that may happen and what a misdemeanor can mean for you.

First time DWI offenders, if they cause no injuries, do not cause any property damage, and their BAC is below a defined "severe" threshold, may qualify to have their DUI charged as a misdemeanor. Often the prosecutor will rely on the statements from the arresting officer, so it is imperative to be on your best behavior and obey all instructions.

If your DUI is charged as a misdemeanor, then you receive several benefits. But, keep in mind, that, just as there are degrees of felonies, there are varying degrees of misdemeanors. The three types of misdemeanors are:

  • Gross or high misdemeanors;
  • Ordinary misdemeanors; and
  • Petty misdemeanors.

A DUI, if it is reduced, will almost always go down to a gross misdemeanor which means you are subject to severe fines, incarceration up to one year in local county jail, and possibly other punishments (like alcohol counseling and an ignition interlock device).

Prosecutors and judges are given broad authority to meet out punishment, which means there is a lot of room for negotiation. If you are facing a DWI first offense, then you may want to speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. There is plenty of time for you to mount a vigorous defense and, perhaps, get your DWI reduced to a misdemeanor. A lawyer can help you.

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