Felony DUI California

Last Modified: June 18, 2024

Felony DUI California



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Under normal circumstances, a DUI in the state of California is considered a misdemeanor. However, when an accident occurs involving serious injury, the DUI may be elevated to a felony DUI. California laws differ greatly from county to county, and the circumstances under which a DUI becomes a felony are varied.

Felony DUI by Causing Bodily Injury

One such example is if the driver has broken one, or a series, of other laws while under the influence OR has a BAC of over .08%. However, the offender must have caused some kind of bodily injury to a third party in order for the DUI to become a felony.

Felony DUI Caused by Three or More Prior Convictions

Additionally, a series of three or more prior convictions (either DUI or “wet reckless”) will lead to a felony DUI arrest for subsequent offenses; a previous felony DUI conviction may result in another felony arrest as well. It is difficult to say with much certainty what the exact penalties for a felony DUI will be without knowing the particular circumstances of an individual case. However, it is certainly safe to say that the more severe the injuries caused, the more severe the penalties will be.

If an offender has caused injury to another person while under the influence (CA Vehicle Code 23513 VC) or caused death (vehicular manslaughter or a “Watson Murder” – second degree DUI murder), then the penalties differ. Generally, however, a felony DUI that does not result in another person’s death will carry with it a fine of $3,000, a mandatory 180-day jail term, participation in and completion of an alcohol education and counseling program, and suspension of one’s license for a period of four years.

Felony DUI with Fatality

If, however, a fatality occurs and the offender committed the act while driving under the influence, then this is no longer the purview of the CA Vehicle Code. At this point, the offense falls within the realm of the Penal Code, and is unavoidably a felony DUI. California Penal Code 191.5 PC describes vehicular manslaughter as being a death while the driver is intoxicated. This code indicates a negligence on the part of the driver. Contrariwise, a second-degree, or “Watson” murder must involve either implied malice or ‘malice aforethought” (a deliberate disregard for human life). In the case of a felony DUI, California prosecution has little sympathy for the accused. When a death occurs, one could find themselves facing a murder charge. If you’ve been charged with any sort of felony DUI, San Jose law firm Summit Defense may be able to help. Call today.

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