What Makes a DUI a Felony?

Although a DUI is typically charged as a misdemeanor, under certain circumstances, it can be considered a felony. If you’re arrested for driving under the influence, it’s important to know what kind of charge you face and what this means for your case.

Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor

Before we get into what constitutes a felony DUI, let’s take a closer look at the difference between a misdemeanor and felony. While they’re both criminal charges, misdemeanors are less serious while felonies involve more complex trials and harsher penalties.

Misdemeanor: Carries a maximum of 1 year in jail, to be served in county jail, fines typically under $1,000 and probation.

Felony: Carries a minimum of 1 year in jail, fines will in excess of $1,000 (tens of thousands of dollars), and parole. Longer prison sentences are served in a state prison. Additionally, once you are convicted of a felony, you lose the right to bear arms (forever) and vote (temporarily).

Three Instances Where a DUI Can Be a Felony

A California drunk driving charge may result in a felony if:

1.Someone is injured or killed: If your DUI involves an accident where someone was hurt or killed, it could count as a felony. If someone dies, you can be charged with DUI vehicular manslaughter or DUI second-degree murder. It all depends on the specific facts of your case and criminal history.

2.You get 3 or more DUI convictions within the last 10 years: If you get a 4th DUI charge, it can be tried as a felony. Prior offenses include any combination of the following: a DUI, a “wet reckless,” or an out-of-state conviction that would be the equivalent to a DUI. Also, the 10 years refers to the date of each offense and not the conviction. If you were charged, but not convicted, 10 years and 1 day from the date of your 4th DUI offense, you would face a misdemeanor charge.

3.You have a prior felony DUI conviction: If you already have a felony DUI, any subsequent DUI convictions will automatically be a felony.

A California felony DUI conviction has severe penalties including substantial prison time, heavy fines, and the loss of your driver’s license for several years. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, contact our Modesto DUI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Mark Girdner. Our firm may be able to toss out evidence against you, find holes in the prosecution’s case, and get your charges reduced or even dropped.

Call (209) 326-1533 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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