When is a DUI a Felony in California?

In California, most charges related to driving under the influence are misdemeanor offenses. However, certain circumstances can lead to felony DUI charges. If convicted of a felony offense, the motorist may face significantly harsher consequences than if convicted of a misdemeanor charge. Some of the more serious offenses can have a long-term impact on the defendant, such as suspended driving privileges, difficulty finding or keeping employment, challenges obtaining professional licensing, and considerable jail or prison time. There are multiple types of DUI cases that are charged as felonies under California law. These include:

Multiple DUI Convictions

Under California law, if you receive a fourth DUI within ten years, you can be charged with a felony. DUIs that took place in other states are also taken into consideration. Penalties for a fourth or subsequent DUI include up to four years in prison and up to a $1,000 fine. 

A Prior Driving Under the Influence Felony Charge

If a motorist has been convicted of a felony DUI within ten years of being charged with another drunk driving charge, the latest offense will likely be charged as a felony – even if there are no aggravating factors. If convicted, the motorist will face up to four years in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000.

Drunk Driving Leading to Injury

If a person or persons were seriously injured or killed due to a motorist driving under the influence, the driver would likely be charged with one or more felony offenses. If convicted, the motorist will face a maximum fine of $5,000, up to 4 years in state prison, a 5-year suspension of their driving privileges, and long-term alcohol education classes.

DUI with Fatalities

An intoxicated motorist who causes the death of another person is generally prosecuted under California’s vehicular manslaughter or murder laws. The driver can be charged with:

  • Negligent vehicular manslaughter
  • Gross vehicular manslaughter
  • Second-degree murder

Depending on the charge, a defendant can face anywhere from one year in jail to 15 years to life in state prison.

If you or a loved one is facing felony charges related to driving under the influence, it is crucial to immediately obtain legal representation from a qualified and aggressive DUI defense attorney. Our leading DUI defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Scott Henry skillfully defend those facing serious criminal charges in and around Southern California. To learn more about your legal options, contact our offices for a free consultation by calling today.

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