A standard DUI charge is usually classified as a misdemeanor in most states. Certain circumstances, however, can raise the level of the charge to a felony. A conviction for a felony DUI carries stiffer penalties and greater lasting consequences than misdemeanor charges. States may define the differences between felony and misdemeanor differently. Typically, says NY DUI and traffic violations attorney Zev Goldstein, the presence of a minor—that is, anyone under the age of 16 for DUI purposes—can increase fines, the time spent incarcerated as a result of the offense, and may shift the DUI from a misdemeanor to a felony. This effect is often referred to as a DUI modification or aggravated DUI.

How the DUI is Viewed

With many DUI offenses, it’s possible to issue a plea bargain that will reduce charges. In the event of an aggravated DUI with a minor in the vehicle, on the other hand, many prosecutors, judges, and the jury will consider the crime much more serious. Endangerment of a child as a result of driving under the influence is often viewed much more severely than driving alone or accompanied by adults. This can make plea bargaining much more difficult than it would be if the child hadn’t been in the car.

Consequences of Felony DUI

A felony DUI leaves a more serious mark on the convicted individual’s criminal record. The lasting impact of this mark can cause problems for years down the road as it disqualifies them from certain jobs, makes it harder for them to find living spaces to rent, and a variety of other problems. Fines can range from $1,000 to $5,000, and individuals convicted of a felony DUI may have to spend time in state prisons.

Leandra’s Law

Leandra’s Law, or VTL 1192.2-a(b), was instituted in honor of Leandra Rosado, who was killed when a friend’s mother flipped her car while allegedly under the influence of alcohol. The law says that even the first DUI conviction with a minor in the car is a criminal offense. Class “E,” “B,” and “C” felonies are all part of Leandra’s Law, which is designed to protect minors from adults who would put them in danger while under the influence of alcohol.

There are plenty of good people who make bad decisions. Unfortunately, a Leandra’s Law violation is a mistake that will require a tremendous amount of mitigation in order to combat. Those who violate Leandra’s Law can’t count on the sympathy of the jury, which will be much more likely to go with the child, nor can they assume that the judge will allow them a plea bargain. If you or your loved one have been arrested for a DUI, it’s important that you consult an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. This is even more necessary in the event of a Leandra’s Law violation.