Is a DUI a Felony in California?

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Sep 14, 2018 | DUI

It’s illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in California. While most first-time DUI offenses will be charged as misdemeanors, it is possible for DUI to be a felony. Getting a felony DUI can be devastating. The consequences of a conviction can stay with you for life. It’s important to understand when you may be at risk of being charged with felony DUI.

When Can a DUI Be a Felony in Los Angeles?

A DUI will typically only be charged as a felony when there are aggravating circumstances present. In some cases, the state will have to decide whether the specific factors in your case warrant misdemeanor or felony DUI charges.

Multiple DUI Convictions

You may be charged with felony DUI if, when you are arrested, you have at least three prior DUI convictions within the last 10 years. This includes wet reckless convictions as well as any out-of-state DUI convictions.

When you are arrested for your fourth DUI offense, the state has the right to charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. Factors that may influence the decision include:

  • BAC

  • Harm or injury caused

  • Driving with a suspended license, and

  • Willingness to seek alcohol and/or drug treatment.

Prior Felony DUI Conviction

Once you have been convicted of felony DUI, any future DUIs can also be charged at the felony level. You may be surprised to learn that it doesn’t matter how long ago you were convicted of felony DUI. Any convictions in your past, even one more than 10 years ago, can cause subsequent DUIs to be charged as felonies.

DUI Causing Injury or Death

You can still be charged with felony DUI even if this is your first offense. A DUI that causes serious bodily injury or death can be a felony offense. This includes any injury or fatalities sustained by passengers in your own vehicle. When you cause bodily injury or death while driving under the influence, the state has the option of changing you with a number of different felony DUI crimes. These include DUI vehicular manslaughter, DUI second degree murder, and DUI causing injury.

What are the Penalties for Felony DUI in Los Angeles?

The penalties for felony DUI convictions will depend on the specific reason you have been charged with a felony.

Multiple or Prior DUI Convictions. Penalties for a felony DUI, based on multiple or prior DUI convictions, include:

  • Imprisonment: 16 months to 3 years

  • Fines: $1,000

  • License Suspension: 4 years

  • DUI School: 30 months

Felony DUI Causing Death or Injury. Penalties for a felony DUI, based on the death or injury of another person, include:

  • Imprisonment: 16 months to 16 years

  • Fines: $5,000

  • License Suspension: 5 years

  • DUI School: 30 months

In addition to these criminal penalties, you may also face administrative sanctions and experience collateral consequences. These may include:

  • Requirement to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle

  • Additional license suspension

  • Revocation of professional license

  • Prohibition on collecting certain government benefits

  • Prohibition on working in education, healthcare, or government

  • Loss of job due to travel restrictions, and more

These consequences can follow you for life. Once you have completed your criminal sentence, you will still have a criminal record that reflects a felony conviction. This will make it difficult to get back to your normal day-to-day life.

You have the fundamental right to assert a defense. Hiring an attorney to handle your DUI case will help you secure the best possible result. Contact The Rodriguez Law Group to schedule a free consultation with our legal team.

To learn more, call our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm at 213-995-6767 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.