Is driving under the influence (DUI) an automatic felony in California? The court generally doesn’t treat “simple” DUIs as felonies. In fact, even most severe DUI charges are considered “wobblers.” This means prosecutors could treat them as misdemeanors or felonies.
However, some very severe DUI charges are automatic felonies in California. Find out more about different types of DUI charges and review the penalties for an automatic felony with this article.
The majority of DUIs in California get treated as misdemeanors. Simple DUIs often occur when no one gets hurt by a driver who is under the influence. You could face simple DUI charges for operating a vehicle after drinking alcohol or using drugs.
Each DUI conviction remains on your criminal record and your driving record. These offenses are “priorable.” Priorable offenses count against you if you are convicted again. The court generally charges drivers with a misdemeanor for the first three DUI convictions in a ten-year period. During this time, you may face:
- Jail time.
- Fines and court fees.
- Court-ordered DUI school.
- The use of an ignition interlock device (IID).
The penalties you face grow worse with each conviction, even for misdemeanor offenses.
Some DUI Charges Are Wobblers in California
Prosecutors may charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony for some DUI offenses in California. These charges are known as “wobblers.” The following charges are all wobblers:
- A fourth or subsequent DUI within 10 years
- A DUI with injury
- A charge for vehicular manslaughter
You do not face automatic felony charges with a wobbler offense. However, the odds are good that prosecutors will treat these offenses as felonies. Felony convictions generally lead to higher fines. You may also face prison time for a felony conviction.
The prison system in California handles individuals accused of more serious or violent offenses. Prisons generally have higher security than local jails. Make sure you get legal help if you are charged with a wobbler in California.
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Some DUI Offenses Are Automatic Felonies
In some rare cases, you may face automatic felony charges for a DUI in California. Generally, automatic DUI charges are only used if someone is killed in a DUI accident. In this situation, the prosecution could charge you with:
- Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
- DUI second degree murder.
In these cases, the prosecution must show that you demonstrated willful disregard for the lives of others. You may automatically face felony charges in either of these situations. Neither charge leads to misdemeanor charges.
A conviction for either gross vehicular manslaughter or DUI second degree murder may lead to life in prison. You may also end up paying high fines and restitution to the family of anyone who died in the accident. Make sure you’re ready to take a felony DUI charge seriously by contacting a lawyer.
Work to Get Felony DUI Charges Reduced in California
Focus on getting legal help if you are charged with a felony DUI in California. A lawyer may get these charges reduced for you. Your lawyer may investigate what happened in your situation. A lawyer could then work with prosecutors to secure you a plea bargain.
Plea bargains are agreements with the prosecution. You must plead guilty to a lesser charge in order to accept a plea bargain. You then receive less severe penalties. In some cases, you could plead down a felony charge to a misdemeanor. This could help you avoid time in prison.
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Build a Defense for Felony DUI Charges in Court
You may want a strong defense if you are accused of a DUI in California. A lawyer may work to build your case as soon as you are arrested. Your lawyer may:
- Support you during questioning from law enforcement or the prosecution.
- Help with your bail hearing when applicable.
- Work to show you were stopped for a DUI without due cause.
- Take steps to show you weren’t driving under the influence.
Some felony DUI charges are resolved with a not-guilty verdict in California. Find out more about your options by contacting us now.
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Find Out If a DUI Is an Automatic Felony with a Lawyer
Most DUI charges in California are not automatic felonies. Get help with misdemeanor or felony charges by contacting the Simmrin Law Group. You could also fill out our online contact form. We are prepared to review your case right now.
Contact us and get a free consultation about your legal options.