Felony DUI vs. Misdemeanor DUI in Orange County California

Typically, if you are arrested for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. However, there are situations that can and will result in a felony DUI. Here are some examples of felony DUI’s:

  1. Fourth or More DUI

A fourth, or more, arrest for DUI, within a ten-year period, will automatically be filed as a felony. A felony is obviously more serious in terms of the consequences but it also has a more serious long-term effect on a person’s life. A conviction for a 4th DUI typically requires jail time. However, depending upon the individual’s circumstances, alternative sentencing may be an option. For someone who has a family and a job, and who may be the sole support of their family, an aggressive DUI defense lawyer is absolutely crucial. Getting creative with the sentencing that will both satisfy the Court and help the individual keep their job, should be the goal of the attorney.

  1. DUI with Great Bodily Injury

If you drive while intoxicated, and cause “great bodily injury” to your passenger or another, you may be charged with felony DUI. In order for you to be charged with great bodily injury, two things must be determined: 1) You have to be at fault for the collision; and 2) The physical injuries sustained by your passenger or another, must be determined to be “great bodily injury”. When the District Attorney is reviewing the file, he or she will review the case to determine how serious the injuries are.

  1. Past DUI Felony Conviction

If you have a prior conviction for felony DUI, even if it is only one prior, you may be charged with a felony if you get a second. The key here is that the prior was a felony.

  1. Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

Vehicular Manslaughter is defined by Penal Code section 191.5(a) and states: “Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152 or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.”

It’s important to note here that, when someone is convicted of a DUI, at the time of the sentencing, they must sign what’s called a “Watson Waiver”. This waiver basically says that you understand that if you get a DUI in the future, and that the DUI caused the death of another person, you can be charged with second-degree murder rather than manslaughter.


Driving under the influence, or driving while intoxicated can result in serious consequences. But, being arrested and charged with DUI in Orange County may elevate the level of severity and make it more difficult to achieve a favorable outcome. The reason for this is that Orange County is generally extremely strict when it comes to drunk driving or drug driving. For this reason, if you are arrested for DUI anywhere in Orange County, your best chance at a favorable outcome is to consult with and engage the services an experienced DUI defense lawyer who is familiar with the district attorneys, judges and court staff in the Orange County Courts.