In early October, a pickup truck over-corrected when exiting an interstate in Washington. According to NBC Right Now, the driver of the truck was taken to a nearby hospital for the injuries he incurred. His passenger, however, was thrown from the vehicle and died.
Due to the circumstances of the incident, Washington State Patrol noted they are conducting a felony investigation of the event, as they believe the driver was impaired. It is important for drivers to understand the factors that could take a typical DUI and turn it into a felony, such as the following three items:
1. Prior DUI convictions
Like many other states, Washington has determined that having a certain number of previous drunk driving convictions will automatically make a subsequent charge a felony. According to the state law, anyone who has four or more such offenses within a 10-year time frame will be charged with a class C felony. Additionally, anyone previously convicted of either DUI vehicular homicide or DUI vehicular assault will face a class C felony charge for subsequent drunk driving arrests.
2. Causing a fatal accident
As the Washington State Legislature points out, a vehicular homicide charge can be brought if the victim dies as a result of the incident within three years of when the accident took place. When this occurs as a result of impaired driving, the charge is considered DUI vehicular homicide and is a class A felony.
3. Causing an substantially injurious accident
A vehicular assault in terms of a drunk driving incident occurs when someone is under the influence and causes someone else to experience substantial bodily harm. The state defines substantial bodily harm as an injury that leads to one or more of the following:
- Temporary yet substantial impairment or loss of an organ or body part
- Temporary yet substantial disfigurement
- A fracture
Vehicular assault is considered a class B felony.
Penalties for felony DUI
A class C felony in Washington is punishable by up to five years in prison as well as fines of up to $10,000. The state department of motor vehicles will also revoke the license of someone convicted of a felony DUI for a period of one to three years, depending on the circumstances of the event.
To develop a sentence, a judge will determine the person’s offender score. According to the law, the score takes into account the type of crime, the severity of the crime and previous convictions, among other factors. That score then aligns to certain sentencing ranges that the judge may assign to the defendant.
Because of the serious nature of the penalties associated with felony DUI, it is imperative that anyone who has questions about the matter consult with an attorney.