In California, DUI charges are a grave matter, primarily revolving around the presence of alcoholic or intoxicating substances in a driver's system. This impairment compromises the ability to safely operate a vehicle, posing a significant risk to the driver and others on the road. Whether the impairment is evident through erratic driving or the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at or above the legal limit, DUI charges carry severe consequences.
While many DUIs are misdemeanors, some can be felonies. Understanding the implications of felony DUI charges is crucial due to their gravity and potential long-term repercussions. Felony convictions can impact various aspects of life, including employment opportunities and professional licensing. Recognizing the seriousness of these charges empowers individuals to make informed decisions and take necessary steps to defend their rights.
When facing felony DUI charges, hiring a defense lawyer becomes paramount. An attorney can help navigate the complexities of the legal system. Beyond offering legal advice, an attorney can investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrest, consult with expert witnesses, and craft a robust defense strategy tailored to the client's situation. This proactive approach is instrumental in seeking a favorable outcome, mitigating potential consequences, and safeguarding the client's future.
If you face charges in Los Angeles, contact Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP at (800) 462-7160.
Circumstances that Can Lead to Felony DUI Charges
DUI charges typically fall under misdemeanors, but certain circumstances can elevate them to felonies.
Fourth DUI Within 10 Years
If an individual accrues three prior DUI convictions, including those from out-of-state that would constitute a DUI in California, any subsequent DUI within 10 years of the prior convictions becomes a felony.
Subsequent DUIs After a Felony Conviction
A previous felony DUI conviction significantly amplifies the severity of subsequent DUIs. Even if the current DUI lacks aggravating factors, the State will pursue it as a felony due to the prior history of a felony DUI conviction.
DUI Resulting in Bodily Harm
When operating a vehicle while intoxicated, engaging in any act forbidden by law or neglecting any duty imposed by law while driving that results in the proximate cause of injury to another person, excluding the driver, escalates the DUI charge to a felony.
DUI Resulting in Death
California Penal Code § 191.5 addresses two categories of felony DUI charges related to fatalities. Gross vehicular manslaughter involves an unlawful killing without malice aforethought while violating DUI laws, characterized by gross negligence.
Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated encompasses killing another without malice aforethought or gross negligence.
Possible Consequences of a Felony DUI
The repercussions of a felony DUI include immediate legal implications and far-reaching consequences.
Increased Fines and Penalties
A fourth DUI or a DUI following a felony DUI conviction can lead to can lead to 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years of incarceration. Additionally, individuals may face fines of up to $10,000. In cases involving gross vehicular manslaughter, individuals may face 4, 6, or 10 years of imprisonment. DUI incidents leading to death can result in 16 months, 2 years, or 4 years of incarceration.
Driver’s License Suspension
The suspension or revocation of a driver's license is a common consequence of felony DUI convictions. The loss of driving privileges presents significant challenges for individuals who rely on their ability to legally drive for personal and professional purposes, impacting daily life and mobility.
Employment and Future Opportunities
A felony DUI conviction can have multifaceted effects on a person's life.
A couple of the areas that may be affected include the following:
- Professional licensing: Felony DUI convictions can have enduring effects on professional licensing, potentially jeopardizing careers requiring a clean legal record.
- Employment: Individuals with felony DUI convictions may encounter challenges in securing employment, as employers often scrutinize criminal records during the hiring process.
Potential Defense Strategies
The foundation of a robust defense begins with legal representation. A lawyer can provide insights into navigating the intricate legal landscape, protecting the accused throughout the legal process.
Reviewing Arrest Procedures and Evidence
A meticulous review of arrest procedures and presented evidence is critical to any defense strategy. This process includes a detailed examination of breath or blood test results. The defense may challenge the validity of these tests, highlighting potential testing errors that could render the results void. By scrutinizing the evidence, attorneys can identify weaknesses in the prosecution's case and build a compelling defense.
Exploring Plea Bargains and Alternative Sentencing Options
In some cases, negotiating plea bargains and alternative sentencing options can be a strategic approach to seeking a more favorable outcome. This strategy involves engaging in discussions with the prosecution to reach an agreement that mitigates the severity of potential penalties. The goal is to secure a resolution aligned with the accused's best interests, considering individual circumstances and the case's specifics.
Challenging the Legality of the Traffic Stop
Challenging the legality of the traffic stop is a fundamental defense strategy. If the defense can establish that the initial stop was conducted without proper legal justification, it may lead to the suppression of evidence obtained during the stop. Evidence being excluded can significantly weaken the prosecution's case and bolster the defense's position.
Navigating the Legal Landscape with Professional Help
Felony DUI charges are not to be underestimated; their implications extend beyond immediate legal penalties. The gravity of the criminal consequences can cast a long shadow, affecting various aspects of an individual's life. Understanding the weight of these charges underscores the need for proactive measures to navigate the legal complexities effectively.
Promptly seeking legal counsel allows individuals to benefit from insightful guidance and develop a comprehensive defense strategy.