Is a DUI a Felony in California?

Picture of sobriety checkpoint sign

Our San Jose DUI Attorney Explains

Impaired driving is responsible for more than 30,000 U.S. deaths each year. California and other states have strict laws on impaired driving to protect the public. If police pull you over and arrest you for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you could face either misdemeanor or felony charges. It would depend on the circumstances surrounding the arrest and whether you have a prior criminal history.

In California, a DUI may be a felony under the following circumstances.

There Were Deaths or Injuries

You could be facing a felony DUI and additional felony charges if you injured or killed other people while driving under the influence. If you receive a felony DUI conviction, then you could face:

  • Up to $5,000 in fines
  • Time in prison
  • Loss of driver’s license for 5 years
  • 30 months of DUI classes
  • Restitution

A prosecutor may also charge a drunk driver with a misdemeanor in cases involving an injury. In a “wobbler” case, it is at the discretion of the prosecutor to pursue a misdemeanor or felony conviction. When making his or her decision, the prosecutor may take prior criminal charges and the circumstances surrounding the accident into account.

If the collision resulted in a death, then you may face felony vehicular manslaughter charges. These charges are very serious and could result in a lengthy prison sentence.

Three Or More DUIs in a 10-Year Period

You may be prosecuted for a felony DUI if you already have three prior DUI convictions in a 10-year-period. Without skilled legal assistance, your fourth DUI charge could potentially become a felony conviction. In California, you may receive a prison sentence, fines and mandatory DUI courses following a conviction.

You Have a Prior Felony DUI

Multiple DUIs always lead to more serious penalties, especially if a prior DUI conviction was for a felony. In California, a DUI is a priorable offense, which means repeat convictions carry stiffer penalties. You could receive another felony DUI if you received a prior conviction. This would be true even if there were no aggravating factors during your second arrest.

What Are Felony DUI Penalties in California?

The penalties of felony DUI in California can vary depending on the circumstances. If you have prior convictions, the penalties are more severe. The same is true if there are aggravating factors surrounding your case, like other motorists suffering injuries or the presence of children in the vehicle.

We listed the penalties of a felony DUI with injuries in the section above. For a general felony DUI in California, some penalties may include:

  • 16 months to 3 years in California state prison
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Being labeled a “habitual traffic offender” by the California DMV

Can I Fight a Felony DUI in California?

You should contact a DUI attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. It is important to take immediate steps to protect your driver’s license and evidence surrounding your case. San Jose DUI attorney Nick Cvietkovich has extensive experience helping Californians who are facing criminal charges. Depending on the unique circumstances surrounding your case, it might be possible to reduce or dismiss the charges.

Felony charges can have a major impact on your personal and professional life. It is very important to choose an experienced attorney if you are facing felony charges for a DUI or other alleged crime.

We encourage you to reach out to us for a free consultation if you want to learn more about your legal rights after a felony DUI in California. Reach us by dialing (408) 898-9653 or by using the contact form on our site.

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