Felony driving under the influence (DUI) offenses are prosecuted aggressively in the state of California, and there are many different ways your Los Angeles DUI charge can be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony, including being charged with a subsequent DUI offense after three prior DUI convictions in a 10-year period or after just one prior felony DUI conviction. The penalties associated with a felony DUI conviction in California are extremely harsh and can affect every aspect of your life for years to come, possibly causing you to lose your driver’s license, incur heavy fines and spend years in a California state prison. If you are facing felony DUI charges in Los Angeles, your first course of action should be to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney with experience helping clients fight felony drunk driving charges. Contact our defense team at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today by calling (213) 205-3100.
Affordable Felony DUI Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
Felony DUI (Vehicle Code § 23566 VC) is a serious charge under California law, and the criminal consequences of a felony DUI conviction can be life-altering. However, California DUI cases are rarely hopeless. Breathalyzers can malfunction, blood testing is prone to error, police officers may fail to follow proper protocol during roadside investigations, and certain medical conditions can give false BAC readings. A good criminal defense attorney capitalizes on these errors and uses them as leverage in negotiating a reduction in or a dismissal of charges. Our competent and aggressive defense team at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles know how prosecutors typically approach felony DUI cases and what defense strategies work best in these situations, and we will investigate every aspect of your driving under the influence case to determine how best to defend you against these criminal charges. With our criminal defense lawyers on your side, you can ensure that your legal rights are protected every step of the way and significantly improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in your criminal case.
Under California DUI laws, it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol (meaning your physical or mental abilities are impaired by alcohol); drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or greater; or drive under the influence of drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Driving under the influence is a serious criminal offense in California, and there is a fine line between misdemeanor and felony DUI charges in Los Angeles, the deciding factors in most cases being the intoxicated driver’s criminal record and whether other people suffered injuries because of the driver’s actions. There are four main factors that can cause your DUI offense to be charged as a California felony, including the following:
- Your DUI caused injury to another person
- Your DUI caused death to another person
- You have at least one prior felony DUI conviction
- You’ve had three or more prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years
It is important to note that when it comes to DUI causing injury, there is a requirement that the driver acts in a negligent manner or breaks a law in addition to driving under the influence, and it must be the negligence or illegal act that causes bodily injury to another person, for the driver to be guilty of the crime of DUI causing injury. An example of a DUI causing injury offense in Los Angeles would be if a person drives home from a party at a friend’s house after having a few drinks, and while speeding, rear-ends another vehicle. If the person in the other vehicle suffers an injury in the accident, the person driving under the influence could be charged with felony DUI causing injury under California Vehicle Code § 23153 VC, because he sped while under the influence, and his speed is what led him to rear-end the other vehicle.
Conviction for Felony DUI
When you are arrested for driving under the influence, it is easy to assume that the evidence against you is insurmountable, but that is not always the case. In order to get a DUI conviction in Los Angeles, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the crime. For instance, before you can be found guilty of felony DUI causing injury under Vehicle Code § 23153 VC, the prosecutor assigned to your case must establish the following:
- That you were violating California’s DUI laws;
- While doing so, you broke another law or otherwise acted in a negligent manner while driving; and
- Your negligence or unlawful act caused injury to another person.
How is Felony DUI Different from Misdemeanor DUI
For the most part, California DUI charges are prosecuted as misdemeanor crimes, but there are certain circumstances that can elevate a DUI case from a misdemeanor offense to a felony, including having numerous prior DUI convictions within the previous 10 years, having a prior felony DUI conviction, or being charged with a DUI causing injury or death to another person. Some other crimes related to felony DUI offenses in California include Vehicle Code § 20001 VC felony hit and run involving injury or death, Vehicle Code § 23152(b) VC driving with a BAC of 0.08% or greater, and Penal Code § 273(a) PC child endangerment (if a child is in the car at the time of the DUI).
Penalties for a Felony DUI Conviction
If you are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in California, and there are no so-called “aggravating factors,” you will most likely be charged with a misdemeanor “simple DUI” offense, whether it is your first, second or third offense. However, in the state of California, if you have three prior DUI convictions occurring within the previous 10 years, and you are arrested for another DUI, you could automatically face felony DUI charges. In this case, a felony DUI carries a potential penalty of 16 months, two years or four years in state prison, along with other criminal penalties, including up to $1,000 in fines and “habitual offender” status for three years. If you are arrested for a DUI in California, even a simple drunk driving offense with no aggravated circumstances, and you have at least one prior felony DUI conviction, you could also be charged with felony DUI.
If you are charged with a DUI causing injury or death (Vehicle Code § 23153 VC), a “wobbler” offense in California, you could face either a misdemeanor or a felony, although this crime is almost always charged as a felony. Under VC § 23153, felony DUI causing injury or death is punishable by two, three or four years in state prison, with an additional and consecutive three to six years if any victim suffers great bodily injury in the DUI accident, and an additional and consecutive one-year sentence for each additional person who suffers any injury at all. With a felony DUI causing injury or death conviction, you could also face up to $5,000 in fines, a mandatory 18- or 30-month DUI school, habitual traffic offender status for three years, and a revocation of your driver’s license for up to five years.
Under the state of California’s “Three Strikes” sentencing law, which imposes significantly longer prison sentences for certain repeat offenders convicted of serious or violent felonies, a felony DUI causing injury or death conviction can result in a “strike” on your criminal record. If you are convicted of a felony aggravated DUI and you have two prior strikes for serious or violent felony convictions, you could face a prison sentence of 25 years to life.
Defenses to Felony DUI Charges
Fighting felony DUI charges is not easy, but neither is living with a felony DUI conviction. If you are facing felony driving under the influence charges in Los Angeles, you need an aggressive and skilled lawyer on your side who specializes in California DUI defense and knows what defense strategy is most likely going to help you avoid going to jail. The following are some possible defenses that may help you fight your felony DUI charges:
- You weren’t under the influence
- You weren’t the one driving
- Your BAC was inaccurately reported
- The accident wasn’t your fault
- You did not act with negligence
- Negligence didn’t cause the other person’s injury or death
- You were facing a sudden emergency and acted reasonably under the circumstances
Hiring a Skilled Felony DUI Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
When it comes to California driving under the influence cases, the most important distinction is whether the crime will be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense. Felony DUIs carry severe criminal penalties and other collateral consequences that can follow you for the rest of your life, especially if you cause injury to another person or you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter as a result of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (Penal Code § 192(c) PC). If you have been charged with felony DUI in Los Angeles, contact Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today at (213) 205-3100 to discuss the best way to defend yourself against these criminal charges. Our reputable defense lawyers understand the serious nature of a felony DUI arrest and may be able to get your charges reduced to a lesser offense or get them dismissed altogether.