DUI, or driving under the influence, charges are typically charged as misdemeanors. However, some DUI’s can be charged as felonies. The circumstances under which an arrest for DUI may result in a felony filing, may include the following:
1. DUI Manslaughter – This is also referred to as vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with gross negligence. The penalty, if convicted depends upon the circumstances but can be up to 1 year in county jail, or 4,6 or 10 years in state prison. However, in a situation where someone has one or more prior convictions for driving under the influence or, certain other vehicular felonies, the sentence can be 15 years to life in state prison. DUI manslaughter can also be charged as murder under certain circumstances. Anytime someone is convicted of a dui, the judge will advise the defendant of the dangers of driving under the influence and, caution them that if they do it again and it results in the death of another person, they may be charged with murder.
2. DUI causing serious injury – Someone who drives while intoxicated and who causes injury to another person, is sometimes referred to as a “wobbler” charge. A “wobbler” means that it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. However, prosecutors typically pursue the charge that carries the most punishment, but the deciding factor typically depends upon how serious the injuries of the other person are. If the situation is such that a complete dismissal is unattainable, and the case is filed as a felony, the obvious focus is on having the felony reduced to a misdemeanor.
3. 3rd DUI conviction within 10 years – If you are arrested for DUI, and it’s your third or more arrests/convictions for driving under the influence, the case will be filed as a felony. Anyone convicted of three or more dui’s will be sentenced to state prison, or county jail, for no less than 180 days and not more than 1 year. So, while a conviction for a 1st or 2nd will not necessarily result in doing time, a conviction for three or more will.
4. 4th DUI conviction – Anyone who is convicted of a fourth dui, along with the sentences listed above will be designated as a habitual traffic offender. This type of conviction and designation can be used to enhance any future punishments should that person be charged with and convicted of another crime.
As you can see, a conviction of felony DUI carries a much more serious punishment than a misdemeanor DUI. While a misdemeanor first offense DUI can be punishable by up to six months in county jail, typically anyone who is well represented by a DUI defense attorney usually will not serve time. The typical sentence for a first time conviction for driving under the influence is to enroll in and complete an alcohol program, attend Mothers Against Drunk Driving, lose your driving privilege for a period of time, pay fines and penalties and three years informal probation.
Anyone charged with misdemeanor DUI or Felony DUI, should seek to hire an experienced DUI Defense Attorney, specializing in Drunk Driving Defense. An experienced Orange County, CA DUI defense lawyer should aggressively pursue and develop a strategy to defend your felony (or misdemeanor) DUI case and work to minimize all the negative consequences.