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DUI: Is It a Felony in California?

OKABE & HAUSHALTER Sep 15, 2018 DUI

We all know that DUI is a serious offense. It carries heavy penalties from fines to jail time. You can temporarily or permanently lose your driving privileges, and the mark stays on your record for years at best, forever at worst. But is it considered a felony?

Felony DUI convictions come with much greater penalties that hangover you forever and limit your rights. Find out how a felony DUI affects your life, what effects a conviction has, and how a Los Angeles DUI defense attorney can help.

What a Felony Is

Most crimes fall into one of three categories: an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony. Misdemeanors can mean fines and/or imprisonment in a county jail for up to a year. Felonies carry a state prison sentence of more than one year.

What the Consequences of Conviction Are

After you turn 18, all convictions stay on your record for life and may carry serious consequences. Felony convictions carry the heaviest punishments. Based on the severity of the crime, you could be looking at a state prison sentence from one year to live. These crimes must be reported every time you apply for a job, and you could lose your right to own firearms, drive, and vote as well as other privileges.

Is a DUI a Felony in California?

The answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. The best response would be “sometimes.” Whether a DUI is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on how many times you’ve been charged and convicted of the crime, and whether there were extenuating circumstances such as property damage, an accident, injuries, or other serious factors.

Misdemeanor DUI

In California, state law is pretty forgiving. DUI is considered a misdemeanor for first, second, and third offenses, as long as there are no extenuating circumstances. Misdemeanor DUI carries punishments from three to five years of probation up to one year in jail. You may also be sentenced to community service, pay fines up to $2,800, and have your license suspended or revoked for anywhere between six months and three years.

You’ll be required to attend alcohol education classes for three to nine months for the first offense, or up to 18 months for subsequent offenses, and may have to install an ignition interlock device on any car you operate. You’ll also see your auto insurance rates shoot through the roof.

Felony DUI

DUI is considered a felony under specific circumstances. These circumstances can change based on the situation, but generally, include:

  • The death or injury of another person
  • Habitual and excessive convictions

When a DUI leads to the death of another person, you may face homicide or manslaughter charges as well. If convicted of a felony DUI, you will be subject to formal probation or a state prison sentence for five years, six months jail time, and/or fines up to $3,000. You’ll also be required to complete alcohol education, install an I.I.D. in your car, and give up your driver’s license, as well as deal with the lifelong consequences a felony conviction brings.

Why You Should Hire an Attorney

Because the consequences of a DUI can be so serious, it’s imperative to seek out an experienced Los Angeles DUI defense attorney to avoid a criminal conviction. If you think you should forego legal representation because you can’t afford it, are embarrassed, or can handle the case yourself, you’re wrong. The representation can be the only thing that stands between you and the loss of your freedom and your rights.

The state won’t bring charges against you lightly. If they charge you, it’s because they believe they have a case, and they’ll have experienced attorneys ready to prosecute you. You need to have an equally capable legal team fighting for your rights and defending your innocence. The basic right to an attorney is the one right that can never be taken away.

Being charged with a DUI of any type is a grave situation, but it’s worse when a felony is on the table. Don’t risk fighting it on your own. Get in touch with a skilled Los Angeles DUI defense attorney at Okabe and Haushalter to discuss your options. Call us today at 310-430-7799.