Make the Best Decision
For your Future and your Freedom
For your Future
and your Freedom

What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony DUI in California?


What is a Misdemeanor DUI in California?

Driving under the influence is a violation of the law that can attract hefty penalties upon a conviction, depending on the case specifics. If you’re arrested for a DUI, you can face charges for a misdemeanor or felony. Legal experts from a law firm in San Bernardino explain that the differences depend on a few significant factors.

A misdemeanor DUI is the most common type of charge most offenders face. The first three DUI charges within ten years are charged as misdemeanors if no bodily injury or fatality was involved, and there were no aggravating factors that require enhanced penalties. The offense is more serious than a traffic infraction, but the consequences can be severe.

What Are the Penalties for a Misdemeanor DUI?

The penalties for misdemeanor DUI depend on whether it is a first, second, or subsequent charge, as felony DUI lawyers in San Bernardino highlight below:

First-Offense Misdemeanor DUI

If you face charges for a misdemeanor DUI for the first time, you risk the following penalties upon a conviction:

  • A jail term of up to six months
  • A fine of between $390 and $1,000
  • Probation of between three and five years
  • Enrollment in an alcohol education or treatment program for three to nine months
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for between six and ten months
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle for six months

Second-Offense Misdemeanor DUI

Being convicted of a second misdemeanor DUI within ten years of a first conviction may attract the following penalties:

  • A jail term of up to one year
  • A fine of between $390 and $1,000
  • Probation for between three and five years
  • IID installation for one year
  • Attendance at a California DUI school for 18-30 months

Third-Offense Misdemeanor DUI

If you’re arrested for a third misdemeanor DUI within ten years of the first conviction, you could get harsher penalties upon a conviction:

  • Completion of a thirty-month DUI education program
  • Department of Motor Vehicles designation as a “habitual traffic offender”
  • Enrollment into and completion of a thirty-month DUI education program
  • Installation of an IID for two years or suspension of your driver’s license for three years

Fighting DUI charges can be challenging, especially if you’re a habitual offender. The penalties can have life-long consequences. Consider enlisting the help of skilled felony DUI attorneys in San Bernardino to defend your rights and protect your future.

What is a Felony DUI in California?

Once a prosecutor proves that you were driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that exceeds the legal limit and that your physical and mental abilities were impaired, they can file felony DUI charges under the following scenarios:

You Get a Fourth DUI Within 10 Years

Any subsequent DUI charge you face after the third one within ten years will likely be charged as a felony in California. The ten-year look-back period is based on the date of the offense, which may entail:

  • Driving while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
  • Wet reckless offense
  • Conviction outside California that is equivalent to a DUI

DUI with an Injury

If your DUI offense entails causing an injury to another person, you can face charges for a DUI causing injury. This is a wobbler offense, meaning the prosecutors will evaluate whether to charge it as a misdemeanor or felony DUI based on the facts of the case and your previous criminal record.

San Bernardino Felony DUI attorneys point out that the prosecutors must prove the following to convict you of a felony DUI causing injury:

  • You were driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs
  • You committed another violation of the law or negligent act that caused bodily injury to another person other than themselves

DUI with a Minor

San Bernardino Felony DUI attorneys explain that California imposes an enhanced punishment for drivers that put minors at risk. If you’re arrested for a DUI with a minor in the car, there are two options for the charges:

  • DUI with a child under 14: You risk enhanced sentencing, such as additional mandatory jail time
  • Child endangerment: You can face additional charges in addition to the underlying DUI charges. Child endangerment can be filed as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the case specifics

DUI Causing Death

You can be charged with the following felony criminal code violations if another person dies in a DUI accident:

  • Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
  • DUI vehicular manslaughter
  • Watson murder or second-degree murder

The case specifics will determine which offense the prosecutors will charge you with and the penalties you incur. Work with skilled felony DUI lawyers in California to help you create a strong defense strategy to protect your rights.

DUI with a Prior Felony DUI Conviction

If you have a previous felony DUI, a subsequent offense within ten years will be charged as a felony regardless of the circumstances. The law doesn’t provide a ten-year look-back period for previous felony gross vehicular manslaughter under the influence.

Felony DUI charges can have devastating consequences upon a conviction. The penalties may include:

  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Mandatory interlock device installation for at least one year
  • Up to 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison
  • Collateral consequences such as loss of your right to own a firearm or vote

You can avoid these stiff penalties by working with aggressive DUI lawyers in California.

Beating Misdemeanor and Felony DUI Charges with the Help of a Skilled DUI Attorney

The differences between misdemeanor and felony DUI charges are essentially based on the case specifics. If you’re arrested for a DUI for the first, second, or third time without bodily injury or death, the chances are high that you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor. You risk felony charges if there are aggravating factors, such as having a minor in the car or causing injury or death.

Patrick Silva, Attorneys at Law, is a reputable law firm with skilled felony DUI attorneys in San Bernardino. We can represent you during your DUI trial to help you fight for the most favorable outcome. Our knowledgeable team understands how the system works, and we can provide the support you need during this stressful time. Call us at 909-500-4819 to schedule a FREE consultation.

Related Articles