DUI, or driving under the influence, charges are typically charged as misdemeanors. However, some DUI’s can be charged as felonies. A DUI that is charged as a Felony DUI, usually involves DUI manslaughter; DUI causing serious injury; 3rd DUI conviction within 10 years; and 4th DUI conviction at any time. Drunk drivers who cause injury, or DUI with injury is sometimes referred to as a “wobbler” charge, which means that it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. However, prosecutors typically pursue the charge that carries the most punishment. An experienced drunk driving defense attorney, or DUI defense attorney, will have the knowledge and experience that is necessary to get the charge reduced to a misdemeanor.
A conviction of felony DUI carries a much more serious punishment than a misdemeanor DUI. A misdemeanor first offense DUI can be punishable by up to six months in the county jail, whereas a felony DUI can carry a year or more in state prison sentence.
In Orange County California, being under 21 and driving with a blood alcool of 0.01% or greater subjects you to the penalties under California’s “Zero Tolerance Law”. This means that even if you have only one drink, you may be found guilty of the offense. You do not need to be found to be “under the influence”, only that you consumed some measure of alcohol. Penalties for a minor being convicted of DUI vary according to the circumstances. Violating California Vehicle Code 23140 is an infraction and therefore not filed as a misdemeanor or felony. However, certain circumstances can cause the punishment to be more severe. Possible sentences include three to five years of informal probation; $390.00 to $1,000.00 in fines; up to one year in county jail; mandatory court-appointed alcohol class; and a six month driver’s license suspension.
The Department of Motor Vehicles has it’s own punishments/consequences for minor’s drinking and driving. If a minor violates the Zero Tolerance Law he or she will lose their driver’s license for one year, be required to attend and complete a minimum three month alcohol program; and possibly be ordered to participate in a “Youthful Drunk Driving Violation Program”. Participation in this program includes a visit to an E.R., the coroner’s office or a chemical dependency recovery center.
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 develope a strategy to defend your felony (or misdemeanor) DUI case and work to minimize all the negative consequences.
If you would like to know more about Felony DUI and Under Age DUI, contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William M. Weinberg at his Irvine, CA office at 949-474-8008 or at www.williamweinberg.com.