Prosecutors often have a choice when it comes to filing charges in a criminal court case. They can choose to pursue a variety of related charges for the same action, depending largely on the circumstances surrounding the case and the severity of the criminal activity. For one man, this ability to choose means the difference between facing a misdemeanor DUI charge and a felony one.
The 49-year-old driver was convicted in 2009 of a drunk driving charge resulting from a 2008 snowmobile accident that killed his friend, who was riding along as a passenger. The accident occurred just north of Eagle River in Wisconsin. After a no contest plea, he received three years' probation for a conviction on the charge of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. His recent arrest in July found him charged with drunk driving again.
The prosecutor originally charged the driver with misdemeanor DUI for the incident, along with related traffic offenses. After further consideration of his history of driving while under the influence, the prosecutor dropped the misdemeanor charge and filed a felony DUI charge instead.
Prior DUI offenses on one's record can rapidly lead to increased consequences if a defendant is arrested for drunk driving in Wisconsin an additional time. For those with four prior offenses, the next could become a felony. If convicted, defendants can face mandatory prison terms depending on the county where the offense occurs. In addition, one's ability to drive may be revoked for a substantial length of time. To fight the charges against them, it is important that those facing DUI charges be fully aware of all of their legal rights and alternatives.
Source: Northwest Herald, "DUI charges upgraded for man convicted in 2008 Salerno death," Susan Sutschek, Sept. 26, 2012