When a DUI Becomes a Felony in California
In California, individuals arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs are most likely to face misdemeanor charges—as long as there were no aggravating factors involved. This is known as “simple DUI,” and it typically remains a misdemeanor on one’s first, second and third drunk driving arrests.
There are some situations in which you could face felony DUI charges, however. If a prosecutor is pursuing felony charges against you, it will be especially important to consult a Los Angeles DUI attorney who has experience handling these types of cases.DUI Resulting in Injury or Death
If another person—such as a driver, passenger or pedestrian—suffered a serious injury or died as a direct result of your alleged impaired driving, it is likely you will face felony charges. This may come in a number of forms, including:
- Charges of driving under the influence causing injury under California Vehicle Code 23513 VC
- Charges of DUI vehicular manslaughter
- Charges of DUI second-degree murder
The exact charges you face depends on the circumstances of your arrest and the presence of any previous criminal convictions on your record. A DUI would have to be particularly serious, for example, for prosecutors to seek second-degree murder charges. For that to happen, there would likely need to be some presence of reckless driving or a blood alcohol content (BAC) level extremely far over the legal limit of .08 percent.
A Los Angeles criminal defense attorney will provide you with more information on the circumstances that could lead to elevated DUI charges.Multiple DUI Offenses on Your Record
Driving under the influence is a “priorable” offense in California. This means there are harsher penalties with each conviction of a same or similar offense. If you’ve had three or more DUI convictions within the last ten years and a police officer arrests you once again, you are likely to see felony charges.
These prior offenses could include DUIs that occurred in California, out-of-state convictions that would be equivalent to DUI in California or a California “wet reckless” plea bargain, which is essentially a plea bargain to lessen the charges after a first offense.Prior Felony DUI Charges on Your Record
The criminal justice system classifies all impaired driving-related charges—even simple DUIs without any aggravating factors—as felonies if you have at least one prior felony DUI conviction on your record. Typically, this occurs if you have already had a DUI conviction that resulted in injury or death, or a felony DUI classified as a felony because of multiple prior simple DUIs. There is no 10-year statute of limitations—prosecutors can look back at your entire record to find previous felony DUIs in California.
A conviction for felony DUI could result in serious penalties, including large fines, jail time and a suspension of your driving privileges. With that in mind, be sure to consult a skilled drunk driving defense attorney to ensure you protect your constitutional rights.Schedule Your Free Case Evaluation With Our Top Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyers
The attorneys at the The Omofoma Law Firm Firm are experienced DUI lawyers who can help you fight your charges. As top criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles, we serve clients throughout Los Angeles and Orange County, including Huntington Park, Alhambra and Monterey Park.
We’re available 24/7 to provide you with a free case evaluation. Give us a call at (213) 455-4050.