Despite California DUI laws forbidding drivers from getting behind the wheel when under the influence, people still drink and drive. If you are arrested for DUI, generally, you will face misdemeanor charges whose penalties include incarceration and loss of driver's license. But if there are any aggravating factors in your arrest, you will be charged with felony DUI. A conviction for this charge is life-changing because you will be saying goodbye to job opportunities, the opportunity to hold public office and professional licenses. If you are a driver in Los Angeles, CA, and have been arrested for DUI, if someone suffers injuries because of your conduct or you have a prior conviction, the Law Offices of Jeff Voll is ready to offer guidance because you will be charged with felony DUI. Our attorneys have highlighted instances where you might face felony DUI charges, their penalties, and common defenses.
4Th DUI Conviction Within the Last Decade
DUI in California is a priorable offense. In other words, it means that if you have been previously convicted of the crime, the penalties of a subsequent DUI conviction will be affected by the previous one. The penalties become stiffer as sentences increase. If you have three or more prior DUI or wet reckless convictions and get another one within ten years, the prosecution is going to charge you with felony DUI. However, it remains on their discretion whether to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor. It is unlikely for them to opt for misdemeanor charges.
If unusual mitigating factors were surrounding the case, the prosecution could prefer misdemeanor charges. Also, if you enter into a plea deal in your 4th DUI within 120 months, you can get the felony charges reduced to a misdemeanor.
Calculation of Prior DUIs
You might not understand what it means by three or more prior DUI convictions if you don't know how to calculate. A lot of people expect to face misdemeanor charges because they think they are facing a first, second, or third DUI conviction, and to their surprise, they find themselves facing felony charges. You can avoid such incidents by learning how to calculate prior DUIs.
If you were convicted for a DUI charge outside California, you should count it as a prior. The out of state conviction, however, must be similar to California DUI in terms of the blood alcohol concentration. When an out of state DUI conviction happens in a jurisdiction where legal BAC is below .08%, then that will not count as a prior in California.
Also, it is crucial when learning how to calculate priors to note that an expunged DUI conviction will still count as a prior. Therefore, don't think that because your previous DUI conviction was deleted, it won't count if you are charged with a DUI again. The offense remains priorable, and it can count as a 4th DUI within the last decade resulting in felony charges.
Further, it's essential to understand that priors are counted from the date you violated DUI laws and not the day of sentencing. A fourth DUI within ten years means that even at the time of the fourth offense, you were driving on a restricted license without a license or while on probation, and this might result in enhanced penalties.
A fourth DUI conviction would face harsher penalties if there were aggravating factors like:
- Having a passenger who is at most 14 years
- Being under parole
- Running away from a law enforcer
DUI Involving Infliction of Injury
You would be charged as per VC 23153 if you were operating a car under the influence or with a BAC level of .08% or more, and during that time, you violated traffic rules. Secondly, you break the Vehicle Code if you fail to exercise care while driving and end up causing injuries. Serious injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Deep laceration
Note that an injury is deemed severe as long as it requires medical attention for a laceration at a minimum to broken bones as a maximum. Also, it is essential to understand that if you are involved in an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and someone is injured, you could still be charged with a felony DUI even if it is your first offense. The penalties will increase depending on your priors. If you already have three previous convictions and you are arrested for a fourth DUI within 10 years of your first conviction, the charge will be a felony whether there were injuries sustained or not.
DUI with Fatality
If you are driving a vehicle while under the influence or with a BAC level that exceeds the legal limit and you cause a fatal accident, you will be charged with vehicular manslaughter as per PC 192(c)(2). The offense can either be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. But if you are accused of gross vehicular manslaughter under PC 191.5, you will face felony charges.
A felony DUI could be charged as murder if you were driving under the influence when you caused an accident that killed someone, and you have a prior DUI. A felony DUI will also be filed as second-degree murder if you were DUI when someone died in a car crash or when you have a Watson advisement.
A Watson advisement is where you have been warned of the dangers of DUI by a judge in your previous DUI conviction(s) OR traffic school/alcohol program. In the advisement, you are educated about the dangers of DUI and you are warned that if you are arrested again for DUI, which resulted in the death of another as a result of your DUI, you will be charged with murder. A DUI murder conviction carries a prison penalty of 15 years to life in a California prison.
Having a Prior Felony DUI
If you commit a simple DUI, but with aggravating situations and you already have a prior felony DUI conviction, you will be subject to felony charges. These cases are prevalent where you get a DUI, and you had a prior DUI that caused severe injuries or death. Also, this would happen where a DUI is charged as a felony because it was your 4th DUI within ten years.
Penalties for Felony DUI
Sentencing for felony driving under the influence charge will attract the following sentences:
- Sixteen, twenty-four, or forty-eight months' state incarceration
- Court fines ranging from dollars one thousand to dollars five thousand
- Habitual traffic offender status for thirty-six months
- Loss of driving privileges for 12 to 120 months, depending on the number of previous felony DUI convictions.
- Mandatory DUI school program for 18 or 30 months
- Alcohol/drug addiction rehabilitation program
- Installation of IID for at least twelve months after the date of conviction
- Three to five years of formal probation
Note that these penalties are going to change your life entirely. Any potential employer looking to hire you is likely to come across this record, and the opportunity will be lost. Holding a public office with this conviction is impossible too.
You will also face additional or enhanced penalties if aggravating circumstances were surrounding your arrest. These aggravators include:
- Having a BAC of .20 or higher
- Fleeing a law enforcement officer
- Hit and run
- Speeding twenty miles or more over the legal speed limit
- Refusal to take a chemical test
Fighting a Felony DUI Charge
As discussed above, felony DUI conviction has severe penalties which no one wants to face. But it is critical to understand that despite these penalties being harsh, it is possible to defend against a felony DUI and win the case. It will only happen if you put up a strong defense. Some of the arguments your attorney can apply are:
- You were not involved in a car collision, so the felony charges are unwarranted. The assertion works best where you are being charged with felony DUI because of causing an accident while DUI.
- You were not driving or operating a vehicle at the time you were arrested
- Lack of enough proof of impairment or intoxication at the time of the incident
- Lack of enough evidence to prove your BAC at the time of the crash
- Your conduct was not gross negligence
- The injuries sustained by the victim do not fit the definition of significant bodily harm. The defense applies when you are being charged with felony DUI for injuring someone in an accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- The chemical test results indicating you were under the influence were not administered the right way, and a professional technician did not administer them; hence the results are false.
- The prosecution cannot confirm you had three prior DUIs before the current arrest. The defense applies in cases where you are being charged with felony DUI because of multiple previous convictions.
Find a Felony DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
If you are in Los Angeles, CA, and you have been accused of DUI while injuring or killing a person, you will be facing a felony DUI charge. If you have multiple prior convictions or have a previous felony DUI, you will be facing the same charges. The Law Offices of Jeff Voll is here to help you understand the circumstances that can lead to felony DUI charges and how to fight the case. Call us today at 323-467-6400 to speak to one of our criminal defense attorneys.