Felony DUI Lawyer in California
Most DUI cases are misdemeanor crimes. There are however a few situations that can result in felony charges. A felony is the more serious classification of criminal offenses. A felony DUI conviction can result in the following penalties:
- Up to four years in State Prison with up to an additional 9 years of certain factors are present
- Up to $5,000 in fines
- Habitual Traffic Offender status for three years
- 4 to 5 years of license revocation
- 18 or 30 months of DUI education
Generally only about 2.5% of total DUI arrests are felonies. There are three situations that can lead felony DUI charges being issued. They are as follows:
Many Prior DUI Convictions
Recidivism is a big concern for police when it comes to DUI. Repeat DUI offenders are more likely to cause fatal accidents. In order to discourage offenders from repeat offenses, lawmakers include punishments like DUI education and license suspension. The more times that a person commits a DUI related offense, the more they demonstrate to the court that they have not learned their lesson.
When a person is arrested under suspicion of DUI, police will look in their criminal record for any past DUI convictions. In California, police are allowed to look back 10 years. Any convictions during that time can be used against an offender to bring harsher penalties. A conviction for any of the following crimes counts as a prior DUI offense:
California Vehicle Code 23152 VC - Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This also includes any DUI convictions from any other states.
California Vehicle Code 23153 VC - Driving under the influence and causing injury
California Vehicle Code 23103.5 VC – Reckless driving with alcohol aka ‘wet reckless'
If police find that a driver has had three or more prior convictions in a ten year period, they will be charged with a felony DUI for the most recent arrest. Even if the 4th DUI offense involves a very low BAC and no aggravating factors, if the driver was convicted three or more times for a DUI offense in the past ten years, the charge will be a felony.
DUI Offenses with Injury
When a person is charged with driving under the influence and causing serious injury, they will face charges for 23153 VC – DUI with injury. This law exists to make sure that DUI offenders who hurt people face extra penalties. Three things must be proven for a person to be convicted of a 23153 offense:
- The driver operated a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol
- The driver made a driving error, broke a law or exhibited negligent behavior
- That act caused an accident
- The accident led to a person being injured
If all of these factors are met, a DUI with injury charge will result. 23153 offenses can be either misdemeanors or felonies. Whether a person receives a felony or a misdemeanor charge depends on several factors including:
- The seriousness of the injuries
- The offenders past DUI convictions
- The circumstances surrounding the offense
The severity of the charge is left up to the prosecution to decide. A first time offender who caused only minor injuries is likely to get a misdemeanor while a repeat offender that caused several people to be badly hurt will probably face felony charges.
If the driver is extremely negligent or breaks a law that leads to death, they could face a charge for vehicular manslaughter instead. Felony vehicular manslaughter charges can result in 2, 4 or even 6 years in state prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
Prior Felony Conviction
The final situation that can lead to felony DUI charges is criminal record. If a driver has any prior felony DUI convictions on their record, all subsequent DUI charges will be felonies as well. Once a person is convicted for a serious DUI crime, the courts want to make sure they never repeat their offense. One way to discourage this is by making any DUI related charge result in very serious consequences.
For example, a driver has a clean record but causes a serious accident that leads to a passenger becoming critically injured. The driver had a very high BAC at the time and was conviction of felony DUI with injury. Two years later the driver is stopped by police with a BAC just barely over the legal limit. Because the driver has a prior felony conviction, this new offense will also be charged as a felony.
California Felony DUI Defense Lawyer
In many cases a felony conviction on your criminal record will be even more detrimental to your life than the sentence itself. Employers and landlords often run background investigations on applicants and will turn down a person with a felony on their record without even giving them a chance to explain. When you are facing felony charges, you need serious legal representation.
If you are facing felony DUI charges in California, call our firm now for a free consultation.