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Aggravated DUI: What is it?

In this article we explain what an aggravated DUI is, how it differs from a regular DUI, and what the penalties are.

evident Editorial Team
October 16, 2023
drinking, driving, dui

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a common criminal offense, yet not all DUI cases are alike. There's a more severe offense known as an "Aggravated DUI" that many people aren't familiar with, but its implications can be far-reaching.

This article will shed light on what constitutes an aggravated DUI, how it differs from a standard DUI, and its implications on your driver's license.

Key Takeaways

What is a DUI?

DUI stands for "driving under the influence." In some states, it is referred to as "driving while intoxicated" or DWI. This legal term is used when a person operates a motor vehicle while alcohol, drugs, or both impair their ability.

Each state in the U.S. has set a legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) at 0.08%. If law enforcement officers pull over a driver suspected of DUI and their BAC is at or above this limit, they can be arrested and charged with a DUI.

But it's important to note that a DUI charge can apply even if the driver's BAC is below the legal limit if their driving is noticeably impaired.

What is an Aggravated DUI?

An aggravated DUI is a more severe form of a DUI charge. Aggravated DUIs are typically leveled when certain exacerbating factors, or "aggravating" circumstances, are present in the DUI case.

These can include:

  1. High BAC: Having a blood alcohol content significantly above the legal limit (often 0.15% or higher) can turn a DUI into an aggravated DUI.
  2. Multiple Offenses: Repeated DUI offenses within a specific time frame (usually 5 to 10 years) can lead to an aggravated DUI charge.
  3. Minor in Vehicle: Driving under the influence with a minor (typically under 14 years old) in the car is usually considered an aggravating factor.
  4. Causing Harm: If drunk driving results in bodily harm, death, or substantial property damage, your charge could be elevated to an aggravated DUI.
  5. Driving on a Suspended License: If you were driving under the influence while your license was suspended or revoked, you might face an aggravated DUI charge.

having a significantly high blood alcohol content — often double or more the legal limit, having a prior DUI conviction, causing bodily harm or property damage while driving under the influence, having a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense or driving significantly above the speed limit. 

Aggravated DUI charges carry heavier penalties than a standard DUI due to the elevated risk and potential harm they pose to public safety. It is considered a serious criminal offense, going beyond reckless driving to endanger others intentionally.

Understanding an aggravated DUI and its implications can make a significant difference when dealing with such charges.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and an Aggravated DUI?

While a DUI and an Aggravated DUI both involve operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol, they differ in terms of severity, repercussions, and the conditions under which they are charged.

A standard DUI becomes an aggravated DUI when certain 'aggravating' factors are present in the case.

For instance, a first-time DUI offense with a BAC at the legal limit of 0.08% may result in a misdemeanor DUI charge. In contrast, if the same driver had a BAC of 0.15% or higher, or if they caused an accident resulting in serious bodily injury, the charge could escalate to an aggravated DUI. 

man drinking

Another significant difference lies in the penalties. The consequences of an aggravated DUI conviction are generally more severe, including longer jail sentences, larger fines, extended license suspension, and possibly mandatory alcohol education or treatment programs.

Sentences for Standard DUI and Aggravated DUI Charges

prison, prison cell, jail

The sentence for a drunk driving offense can vary widely. The specifics of each case and the legal jurisdiction can significantly impact the outcome.

For a first-offense misdemeanor DUI, penalties might include fines, jail time, mandatory alcohol education programs, and a license suspension. These can vary greatly depending on local laws. For example, fines may range from $500 to $2,000, with a potential jail sentence of up to six months, and a license suspension of six months to a year.

However, aggravated DUI charges are often classified as felony offenses and carry more severe penalties. A convicted individual may face larger fines, longer jail or prison sentences, longer license suspension periods, and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device. In extreme cases, an aggravated DUI can lead to a maximum DUI sentence of several years in prison.

Regardless of the specifics, anyone facing a DUI charge is advised to seek counsel from an experienced DUI attorney to navigate the complexities of the case and legal system.

What Will Happen to My Driver's License?

When charged with a DUI or aggravated DUI, a primary concern is the impact on your driving privileges.

In many jurisdictions, a DUI arrest initiates an administrative license suspension process, separate from the criminal case. This administrative suspension often occurs immediately after an arrest, particularly if the driver fails or refuses a breath test. The duration of this suspension can vary from a few months to a year or more, depending on local laws and the specifics of the offense.

For an aggravated DUI, which can involve factors such as repeat offenses, high BAC levels, and instances of harm or damage, the suspension period can be even more extended. However, the specific consequences largely depend on the laws of the particular jurisdiction.

Moreover, after a suspension period, the reinstatement of a driver's license often requires meeting specific conditions, which can include, but are not limited to, completing a DUI education program or installing an ignition interlock device. Again, these requirements can vary by jurisdiction and the specifics of the individual case.Frequently Asked Questions

What is the penalty for aggravated DUI in Mississippi?

In Mississippi, an aggravated DUI—commonly linked with a death or serious injury—can result in prison time of up to 25 years, fines ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, and a five-year license suspension. Penalties can increase for repeat offenders.

What is an aggravated DUI in the state of Illinois?

In Illinois, a DUI becomes aggravated if it's a third offense, involves a school bus, causes bodily harm, or occurs during a period of license suspension or revocation for a prior DUI, among other circumstances. Aggravated DUI is a felony, with penalties varying based on the specific offense class.

What is aggravated DUI in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, a DUI becomes aggravated if the driver's BAC is 0.16% or higher, the driver's third offense or the DUI results in bodily injury. Aggravated DUI carries stiffer penalties, including mandatory jail time, fines, and long-term license revocation.

How much time do you get for aggravated DUI in Arizona?

Arizona has some of the strictest DUI laws. An aggravated DUI, which may involve a third offense within seven years, a DUI with a suspended license, or a DUI with a child under 15 in the vehicle, is a felony. Penalties include mandatory prison time of at least four months for a first offense, fines, license revocation, and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.

Please note: While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, DUI laws can change, and penalties can vary based on individual circumstances. Always consult with a knowledgeable attorney if you're facing DUI charges.

The Bottom Line

Understanding the difference between a DUI and an aggravated DUI is crucial as it directly impacts the penalties and legal consequences one might face. Aggravated DUI, with its severe punishments, can significantly impact a person's life, including potential prison time, hefty fines, and long-term license suspension.

If you face such charges, seeking counsel from an experienced DUI attorney is essential. They can guide you through the complex legal landscape, protect your rights, and potentially mitigate the consequences.

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