The court may prosecute driving under the influence (DUI) as a misdemeanor or a felony in California. Many DUIs are treated as misdemeanors. So, why would a DUI be a felony? A DUI could be a felony if:
- A driver had too many prior DUI convictions on their record.
- Someone was hurt in a DUI accident.
- Someone was killed in a DUI accident.
Learn more about the different reasons the court prosecutes DUIs as felonies with this article.
Prior Offenses Lead to Felony DUI Charges in California
All DUIs in the state of California are priorable offenses, meaning they remain on your record. DUIs stay on your criminal record indefinitely and on your driving record for 10 years. During these 10 years, you face harsher penalties for each subsequent DUI conviction.
Your first three “basic” DUIs are likely going to be misdemeanor charges. However, the court may treat a fourth DUI as a felony, even if you did not hurt or injure anyone in a DUI accident. Merely having previous DUIs on your record could lead to felony charges.
You may also deal with a felony charge if you have a prior felony DUI conviction. For this reason, it’s essential to take all DUI charges seriously. Accepting a misdemeanor conviction could have severe impacts on your life in the future.
Felony Charges for a DUI Causing Injury
You may face felony charges if you are involved in an accident while driving under the influence. Charges for a DUI causing injury are treated severely in California. A DUI causing injury is classified as a “wobbler.” The prosecution may charge a wobbler as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Prosecutors often consider the details of your criminal history and your current charge when handling wobblers. They may use felony charges if you have multiple previous DUI convictions on your record. The prosecution may also focus on felony charges if other individuals were severely hurt in the accident.
You may reach out to a DUI lawyer in California if you are accused of felony DUI causing injury. Start working on your defense now by calling (310) 929-6503.
Felony Charges for Deaths Associated With DUI Accidents
Serious auto accidents in California, including DUI accidents, often result in fatalities. You might face several different charges if you were involved in a fatal DUI accident. The court could charge you under one of the following penal code sections:
- Section 191.5(b): Vehicular Manslaughter
- Section 191.5(a): Gross Vehicular Manslaughter
- Section 187: Second Degree Murder
Vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler, which means you could face misdemeanor or felony charges for vehicular manslaughter. However, both gross vehicular manslaughter and second-degree murder are felonies. You do not have the option of a misdemeanor charge for these offenses in California.
Penalties for a Felony DUI Conviction in California
The results of a felony conviction are often very harsh in California. Drivers convicted of a felony may face thousands of dollars in fines. The court could order you to pay restitution to anyone hurt in a DUI accident or to the surviving family of anyone killed in a DUI accident.
Additionally, a felony conviction leads to time in prison in California. Even a relatively “minor” felony DUI could result in three years in prison. Drivers accused of killing someone else could end up facing life in prison in California.
Felony DUI convictions also have some less obvious consequences. For example, upon conviction you could:
- Be forced to attend a court-ordered DUI school.
- Be ordered to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicles.
Make sure you take felony DUI charges seriously, as they may have a lasting impact on your life.
Handle a Felony DUI Charge With a Lawyer in California
A DUI lawyer in California could help you handle felony charges. Your lawyer may work to get your charges dismissed in some cases. A lawyer may also assist you with getting your charges reduced to a lower degree of severity. Finally, your lawyer may defend you in court here in California.
Find Out Why a DUI Would Be a Felony in California
Why would a DUI be a felony in California? The court treats DUIs as felonies if someone is hurt or killed. You may also face felony charges if you have at least three previous misdemeanor DUI convictions. Get help handling felony charges from the Simmrin Law Group. Contact us easily by calling (310) 929-6503. You could also fill out our online contact form.
We are prepared to offer you a free consultation today.