Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious criminal offense in California. Generally, it is charged as a misdemeanor, but in some circumstances, the prosecutor can pursue a felony charge. When this happens, the penalties are greater and you will need a San Diego DUI lawyer on your side.
What is Felony DUI?
Typically, you’re charged with DUI when you are suspected of driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the .08 California legal limit. In most instances a BAC level of .08 or higher will be sufficient evidence to prove a case of DUI. However, you also can be arrested and charged if your BAC is less than the legal limit, but police have evidence that your driving was impaired by alcohol.
DUI is typically a misdemeanor in California, even if for a second or third offense. However, DUI can be charged as a felony when one or more of the following aggravating factors is involved:
- Injury or death – If, while driving under the influence, you cause injury or death to a person other than yourself, the prosecution can choose to charge your DUI as either a misdemeanor or a felony. When the latter is pursued, depending on the facts of the case, you may be charged with DUI causing injury, DUI vehicular manslaughter, or DUI second-degree murder.
- Prior convictions – The laws in California allow for stricter penalties depending on the number of prior DUI convictions. If your current charge would make a fourth or more conviction, you can be charged with felony DUI. This is applicable as long as the prior offenses were within the past 10 years. The prosecutor will also take into consideration a DUI committed in another state.
- Prior felony DUI – If you have a previous felony DUI on your record, a current DUI will be charged as a felony. The facts surrounding the current case become irrelevant, so even if it is a simple DUI that would ordinarily be charged as a misdemeanor, it will still be pursued as felony DUI because of the prior felony conviction.
It is clear that felony DUI is a serious offense and will carry equally serious penalties if convicted.
Penalties for Felony DUI in California
Since the penalties for DUI offenses increase with the defendant’s prior convictions, it is no surprise that a felony DUI will include increased consequences and in particular a possible prison sentence. Because each felony DUI will vary based on the circumstances, so will the penalties.
Fines can range from a low of $390 to a high of $10,000 in cases where the DUI results in the death of someone. License revocation can be for as long as 5 years in cases involving injury. The court may also consider enrollment in an alcohol education program. However, it is the prison time that makes this offense a very serious one. A fourth DUI conviction can lead to 1 year behind bars, 4 years in cases involving injury, and up to 15 years of imprisonment for DUI second-degree murder.
Without an experienced San Diego felony DUI attorney on your side, you could be facing a significant amount of time behind bars.
Contact a Skilled San Diego Felony DUI Attorney Today
It is not recommended to face any criminal case unrepresented. Even if you plan on pleading guilty, you will need a San Diego felony DUI attorney to make a case on your behalf for reducing your penalties. Whether this is your first DUI or fourth time before the court, being charged with a criminal offense can be confusing and scary. You will need the steady hands of an attorney to handle your case from start to finish.
Everyone charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. With an attorney, you can advance a solid defense that will help to secure your freedom. There are a number of legal defenses that may be available to you. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on the best way forward.
It is important to note that not all cases go to trial. In many instances, charges can be dropped or reduced for a lesser penalty. Remember that in some situations the prosecution can choose to proceed with a misdemeanor or a felony. An experienced lawyer is equipped with the knowledge and strategy that can help to influence this decision.
At McElfresh Law, we have dedicated our practice to criminal defense. We have represented a number of defendants like yourself who faced felony penalties. The law can be technical and overwhelming, but our years of experience have positioned us as strong advocates for people charged with felony DUI and other crimes in San Diego. Call us today at (858) 756-7107 and let us discuss your case.