Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in California, and the consequences for DUI convictions can vary greatly depending on the circumstances. The presence of certain factors can elevate a DUI charge from a misdemeanor to a felony and significantly up the stakes.
Understanding when a DUI can become a felony in California is essential for anyone facing such charges. Here is what you need to know.
The law in California
A standard DUI in California is typically charged as a misdemeanor. For instance, if it is your first, second or third DUI and there are no aggravating factors, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor offense. Some of the factors that can elevate your charges to a felony offense include:
- Prior convictions: The law seeks to deter drunk driving, and the penalties are harsher for repeat offenders. If you have three prior DUI convictions within the last ten years, your fourth offense will be charged as a felony.
- DUI resulting in injury or death: When a DUI incident leads to an accident that causes injury or death to another person, it can lead to felony charges.
- Other aggravating factors: The unique circumstances of your situations will ultimately define your charges. Factors like child endangerment, attempting to evade law enforcement, excessively high alcohol levels or a prior felony DUI conviction can lead to felony charges.
Felony DUI convictions in California can lead to heftier penalties like substantial fines, lengthy license suspensions, mandatory alcohol education programs, and, in some cases, harsh prison sentences. A felony DUI on your record can also have a long-lasting impact on your life, affecting employment opportunities and more.
Learning more about your legal rights and seeking qualified guidance in the face of such serious charges can help protect your interests and make informed decisions that will increase the odds of a desirable outcome.