Under California law driving under the influence is usually a misdemeanor offense. Unlike in other states, in California blood alcohol level has no impact on how the offense is charged. There are only three factors that can make a DUI a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
4 or more subsequent DUIs within a period of 10 years:
If within a period of 10 years you have been convicted of 3 DUIs, any subsequent DUI will be charged as felony. The prior convictions include wet reckless and out of state DUIs. A prior can also be a probation violation after a DUI, or driving with a suspended license.
An accident that causes great bodily injury:
If another person is injured during an accident cause by a DUI, the DUI will be charged as a felony. Small injuries such as cuts, scrapes and bruises will not turn a DUI into a felony, but they can lead to a misdemeanor DUI with injury charges. In order to be charged with a felony DUI under this factor, it must be proven that you were at fault for the accident.
A prior DUI conviction that was a felony:
Any DUI received within 10 year of another felony DUI, will be charged as a felony. Even with a low BAC or if there was no accident involved it will still be charged as a felony.
In order for a DUI to be charged as felony, the offense must meet one of the aggravating factors noted above. Penalties for a felony DUI are much harsher than misdemeanor ones, including longer jail or prison sentences and a felony can alter your life permanently, making it harder to find employment opportunities.
Alcohol addiction treatment is a good way to minimize the penalties for a felony DUI, participating in treatment does not guarantee any leniency, but it will show that you are trying to better yourself. If you face a judge or prosecutor who favor treatment, treatment can benefit the outcome of your case.
If you or a loved one are facing DUI charges contact the Law Offices of David S. Chesley. Our DUI lawyers are among the best in southern California, with more than 50 years of courtroom experience our attorneys will meet your legal needs.