We all know that simple driving under the influence (DUI) charges are serious.
After all, a conviction for a
first DUI without
any aggravating circumstances can translate into probation, fines, community
service, driver’s license suspension, DUI School, AA classes, attending
a MADD victim impact panel, vehicle impoundment, a DUI on your DMV record
for 10 years, and so on.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about one in
three traffic-related fatalities in the U.S. involve an impaired driver.
To combat this problem, the state has taken measures to reduce alcohol-related
injuries and fatalities, such as passing drunk driving laws, passing “zero
tolerance” laws for people under 21,
Ignition Interlock Devices, administrative
license suspension and revocation laws, and mass media campaigns.
Are DUI accidents a felony?
With DUI accidents being such a cause for concern among law enforcement,
judges, prosecutors, and lawmakers, does that mean that the state has made
all DUI accidents a
felony? Believe it or not, not all DUI accidents are felonies.
There are three ways for a DUI to be a felony: 1) it’s the driver’s
fourth DUI offense (including any prior
wet reckless convictions) in 10 years, 2) the driver has at least one prior felony
DUI conviction on their record, or 3) someone else was injured or killed
as a result of the drunk driving incident.
Essentially, if none of the above factors apply and the driver is involved
in a DUI accident with property damage
only, then it would still be a misdemeanor DUI. For example, let’s say
that “Dan” had six beers and on his way home, he drove his
truck right into his neighbor’s retaining wall. Since nobody was
hurt and this was Dan’s first DUI, it would be charged as a misdemeanor.
On the other hand, if Dan’s wife was in the passenger seat when he
hit the wall, and she cut her head open on the windshield and was transported
to the hospital for a traumatic brain injury, then Dan could be prosecuted
with a felony DUI. These laws can be found under
Sections 23153 (e) and (f) of the California Vehicle Code.
Note: Even a DUI involving bodily injuries may be charged as a misdemeanor DUI
if the injuries were minor enough. In DUI accident cases involving bodily
injuries, it’s at the prosecutor’s discretion whether to charge
the defendant with a felony or a misdemeanor.
Were you involved in a DUI accident? If so,
contact our Orange County DUI defense firm to speak with a Board Certified DUI
specialist for free!