Did you recently get into a car accident while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in California? If so, you may be wondering, “Will I face felony DUI charges?” This is a very good question indeed and we’re here to shed light on the subject of DUI accidents.
In California, DUI is a “wobbler,” which means depending on the facts of the case, it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony offense. Generally, a DUI is a felony when:
- It is a fourth DUI within 10 years.
- It is a new DUI and the defendant has a prior felony DUI on their record.
- It is a DUI involving bodily injury.
- It is a DUI involving death.
So, when is a DUI accident prosecuted as a felony? It’s usually charged as a felony when any of the following are true: 1) it is the driver’s fourth DUI in 10 years, 2) the defendant was previously convicted of felony DUI, 3) the accident caused bodily injury to someone other than the accused, or 4) someone was killed in the accident.
Is Property Damage Only a Felony?
Under Section 23153(a) of the California Vehicle Code it reads: “It is unlawful for a person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.” Bodily injury is the important distinction in felony DUI cases.
When someone is involved in a drunk driving accident that is either a single vehicle crash, or that only causes property damage (no one was hurt), it’s not typically a felony unless the case meets the aforementioned requirements for a felony; for example, the fourth DUI in 10 years or a prior felony DUI conviction. In other words, most DUI accidents involving property damage only are misdemeanors in California.
We hope this post cleared up any questions that you may have about DUI accidents. If you’re facing DUI charges in Orange County, contact us for a free consultation.