A driving under the influence charge can be a serious criminal allegation. It could cost you your freedom, your driver’s license or your job, depending on the circumstances. The more prior offenses you have, the more likely you are to face severe penalties after a drunk driving arrest.
Most DUI charges are misdemeanor offenses, but that is not always the case. Some DUI offenses result in felony charges. Obviously, a felony charge will have more of a chilling effect on your future opportunities than a basic misdemeanor charge.
As someone recently arrested for allegations of drunk driving in California, when would you potentially face felony charges for that alleged driving infraction?
When someone gets injured or dies
The consequences of your decision are a major consideration for the prosecutor charging you and the judge sentencing you. California will pursue a felony charge against you if you cause injury to someone else during a drunk driving incident.
When someone else dies, the state will likely charge you with vehicular manslaughter, which is a felony offense. Whenever drunk drivers cause collisions that result in injuries to others, they typically face enhanced charges.
When they have multiple prior offenses
You can get arrested for drunk driving several times and face a misdemeanor charge each time even though the penalties will increase with each subsequent offense. When you have three prior DUIs on record, your next charge is likely to be a felony offense. Even drunk driving offenses in another state can lead to a felony DUI offense here in California.
When you have a prior felony DUI
Even if you didn’t hurt anyone and you only have one prior DUI on your record, if that previous offense was a felony DUI charge, then your current charge is very likely to be a felony offense as well.
A felony DUI will enhance the penalties you face for any subsequent offenses and will lead to more serious criminal record penalties you face for any subsequent offenses and will lead to more serious criminal record if you plead guilty or get convicted. Making sense of the California DUI laws can help you plan a defense strategy that will minimize the penalties you risk due to DUI charges.