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Is a California DUI a Felony?

If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Orange County, you may be curious to know if your DUI case can be charged as a felony. While the majority of cases involving driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are prosecuted as misdemeanors in California, if there are “aggravating factors” present, it is possible to be charged with a felony DUI. Aggravating factors are circumstances that make a DUI more serious; for example, causing serious bodily injury or death are two aggravating factors that elevate a DUI to a felony.

If this was your first, second, or third DUI offense, and there were no aggravating factors, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor. However, there are certain situations where even a “simple” DUI can be charged as a felony DUI offense. When a person is arrested for DUI in California, he or she may be facing felony charges under the following circumstances:

  1. The driver has three or more prior DUI or “wet reckless” convictions within the previous ten years.
  2. The driver has one or more prior felony DUI convictions.
  3. The act of driving under the influence injured another person.
  4. The impaired driver took another’s life.

Keep in mind that numbers (1) and (3) above are called “wobblers” in California. This means that the prosecutor may charge you with a misdemeanor offense; however, this happens rarely and is more the exception than the rule.

Penalties for Felony DUI in Orange County

A misdemeanor DUI conviction is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, whereas a felony DUI conviction can result in 4 to 10 years in prison for a vehicular manslaughter charge. If this is the defendant’s fourth DUI offense, it may result in up to 3 years in prison. Further, a DUI causing injury is punishable by up to 3 years in prison, with 3 additional years in cases where a victim sustained serious bodily injuries.

If you are facing felony DUI charges, do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. for a strong defense. You have everything to gain by scheduling a free consultation with Attorney Virginia L. Landry, who is board-certified in DUI defense.