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Is DUI a Misdemeanor in California?

Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs has been a problem ever since automobiles became so affordable, virtually every household had one, if not two vehicles parked in the driveway. Before automobiles were invented, drinking wasn’t usually that dangerous to anyone but the drinker themselves. However, now that people are driving drunk behind thousands of pounds of machinery, drinking and driving are deadly combinations that claim thousands of lives every year.

In California and across the United States, a driver is considered to be impaired by alcohol when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches .08% or greater. So, when a crash involves a driver with a BAC of .08% or higher, it is said to be an alcohol-impaired crash, and any fatalities involved in such crashes are recorded as alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

According to the NHTSA, in 2013, there were 10,076 fatalities involving drunk drivers with a BAC of .08% or higher, accounting for 31% of the total traffic fatalities in that same year.

DUI is a ‘Wobbler’ in California

Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both under Vehicle Code 23152(a), and driving with a BAC over .08% under Vehicle Code 23152(b) are considered misdemeanor offenses.

A DUI offense becomes a “wobbler,” which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, when someone else has been injured or killed as a result of the impaired driving incident. Further, if an impaired driver causes a fatal accident, they can also be charged with second degree murder.

If a driver has prior DUI convictions, the DUI can be charged as a felony. For example, if a driver has three other DUI convictions or a “wet reckless” in the previous 10 years, the fourth DUI can be charged as a felony. Also, any new DUI within ten years of a previous felony DUI can be charged as a felony.

Note: If you have a “wet reckless” it’s important to understand that it is still priorable and will be treated as a prior DUI for the purpose of DUI enhancements.

In a nutshell, a DUI can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. However, if this is your first offense and there was no accident and no one was injured, then it’s likely a misdemeanor.

If you, or someone you love has been charged with DUI in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. to discuss the DMV and criminal aspects of your case.