Vista DUI Attorney Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm based in Vista, California, and handles all criminal offense cases for anyone accused of criminal charges. The firm’s attorneys have expertise in driving under influence (DUI) defense and defenses for all related charges. Among the most common DUI offenses is felony DUI, a serious crime whose consequences may be severe such as sixteen years behind bars in some cases coupled with fines, driver’s license suspension, and a maximum of 30 months in DUI School. In fact, the penalties increase depending on the nature of injury caused, the accused DUI criminal history, and the number of charges at hand. Therefore, it is crucial to seek our attorney’s help to argue on your defense and help to reduce the number of charges pressed by the prosecutor.

Legal Constituents of DUI Offenses in California: Simple DUI vs Felony DUI

Every driver should be aware of the dangers associated with driving under the influence of intoxicants such as alcohol. Section 23153 renders it illegal for any person to drive while intoxicated, where in most cases, alcohol is considered the intoxicant and a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08% makes it drunk-driving offense. Accidents arising from such influences in California are generally classified as misdemeanors and charged as simple DUI cases. Misdemeanor offenses of DUI arise from incidents where there were no aggravating factors such as lack of remorse and recidivism. If someone commits the same offense up to three times and the charges pressed by prosecution within a ten years period, the person would still face misdemeanor DUI charges. However, a fourth DUI charge will cease from being a misdemeanor, and consequently charged as a felony DUI.

A felony DUI charge is every driver’s nightmare as its penalties are more stringent compared to a simple DUI charge. Many drivers undermine the instances of DUIs thinking that they are minor crimes. But under California state laws, one can be charged for committing a DUI felony if the amounts of alcohol after a BAC (blood alcohol content) measures up to 0.08% or more according to section 23153 (b) of California’s vehicle codes.

More so, in the case of younger drivers under the age of 21 years, he/she can be charged with a Felony DUI after chemical tests show even the least amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. Similarly, commercial vehicle drivers with an alcohol content test of 0.04% or more are considered impaired and can be charged with a felony DUI under this vehicle code section. Preventing an officer from taking your blood alcohol content through breathalyzers or chemical tests to gauge the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream could as well amount to a felony DUI prosecution.

Instances of a California Felony DUI Prosecution

Under California Vehicle code section 23153, anyone who drives under the influence of alcohol or any intoxication or both alcohol and drugs, causing an act that is forbidden by the law, and/or neglects any legal provision is considered a felony. It is a driver’s duty to stop immediately after an accident scene. The offense could be charged as a felony if:

  1. The act causes injuries or death to another party. If another person dies or endures severe injuries, the person driving under influence is held accountable and can face a felony DUI prosecution – even if the offense was the driver’s first-time crime;

  2. Multiple DUI Convictions. In addition to felony cases resulting to serious injuries and/or death, a DUI driver that is arrested for the 3rdor 4thtime due to driving under influence can be convicted of a DUI felony even if the current crime didn’t result to serious injuries or death. Prior offenses can also be wet recklessness and DUI offenses in California. The person could as well be convicted in California if the previous offenses include criminal convictions in another state(s) that would amount to a California DUI;

  3. A Previous Felony DUI Conviction. Whether you commit a DUI crime that would amount to a simple DUI offense but you have a previous history of felony DUI conviction, the crime will be charged as a felony.

Prosecution’s Proof that a DUI is Felony

Under California DUI laws, the prosecution has a task in proving beyond reasonable doubts that the crime should be charged as a felony DUI. The essential elements of felony DUIs are;

  • The crime must be serious, and emanating from driving under influence of alcohol or drugs causing injuries to individuals;
  • You have a prior DUI conviction where victims were killed or murdered;
  • You refused to undergo a blood alcohol content test or a chemical test to assert the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream;
  • After undergoing the blood alcohol content test, your alcohol content was above 0.08%;

Determination of Charges for DUI Felony?

Charges and penalties are determined according to the category of the DUI offense:

California felony DUI causing injury or death

Driving under influence causing death to a person(s) or injuries, and committing a vehicle violation or driving in negligence will be charged under California DUI felony by California Vehicle Code 23513 that convicts you for driving under the influence causing injury and California penal code 191.5 (a) & (b) that convicts you for vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated. It is also possible for a DUI 2nddegree murder conviction in accordance with both penal code 187 PC and section 23513 VC.

California felony DUI in the case of more than one conviction

In California, when a driver drives under influence, he/she faces severe penalties and sentences each time he/she is under the jurisdiction of the same crime. Being convicted of three or more felony DUI in the past ten years, and currently arrested for another DUI crime, California law convicts you of a felony DUI. The prior offenses would be a California DUI, reckless driving and/or out of state crime that would be charged as a DUI in California.

The penalties issued under a DUI depends on the situation in which one was arrested. Similar to most criminal cases, a DUI can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. Many DUIs are misdemeanors but in the case of a repeated misdemeanor, one is likely to be convicted for a felony DUI. In the assumption that you are a first time offender, the prosecutors will consider the below elements so as to treat your case as a felony DUI.

  • The driver under influence must commit a traffic offense by running away or speeding up after an accident
  • Injury of another person as a result of the DUI accident
  • The injury must have been caused by violation of traffic offense.

If charged with a DUI case under California law, it’s better to determine whether your offense would be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor. Felony DUI conviction carries more serious sentences and penalties than what a misdemeanor would carry. If convicted of a felony DUI, one will be subjected to a minimum Sixteen months in state prison and a minimum fine of 390 dollars. In addition to this, your license would be suspended for four years. You will also undergo a minimum probation in alcoholism for eighteen months not forgetting the repercussions of having a felony DUI conviction on your criminal record.

Penalties and Sentences for DUI Offenses in California?

In California, the penalties for driving under influence vary depending on two factors; involvement or a prior conviction of a DUI(s) or injury of another person as a result of you driving under influence. Most DUIs are prosecuted as misdemeanors but a DUI is considered to be a felony if the accident causes an injury to a person or having four or more DUIs prior to the current DUI. Below are the penalties and sentences for felony DUIs;

  1. A first offense misdemeanor convicts the offender for a sentence of up to six months in county jail with a minimum fine of three hundred and ninety dollars. The maximum possible fine is one thousand dollars. In addition to these, the offender undergoes a DUI School period for three or nine months and his/her license revocation of a period of six to ten months.

  2. A second offense misdemeanor DUI would convict the offender with a penalty of ninety-six hours to a year in county jail with an additional fine of three hundred and ninety dollars to one thousand dollars. Your license would be under revocation or suspension for a period of two years (convertible for a restricted license after 12 months) and a DUI School period of eighteen or thirty months.

  3. A third offense misdemeanor convicts one to 120 days to one year in county jail with a fine not exceeding $1000. Your license would be suspended or revoked for three years (convertible for a restricted license after eighteen months) with thirty months in a DUI School.

  4. In case of a DUI –misdemeanor –with injury, one is sentenced with between five days and one-year imprisonment in county jail with a fine not exceeding $5000 with the injured person given restitution. Your license would be suspended or revoked for a period of one year to three years and a DUI School period of three, eighteen, or thirty months.

  5. A DUI involving injuries renders one to charges of sixteen months to sixteen years imprisonment in state prison with a fine of $1000 to $5000 with restitution to injured persons. Your license would be suspended for five years and a DUI School period of eighteen or thirty months.

  6. Finally, for a direct felony DUI conviction, the convict would face sixteen months, two years, or three years state prison imprisonment. This is in addition to a one thousand dollar maximum fine, four years of driving license suspension, and eighteen or thirty months in DUI School.

Are There any Additional Conditions for California Felony DUI Conviction?

As supplements to the above sentences and penalties, the imposition of a DUI in California results in the addition of the following conditions;

  • You are not allowed to drive under any alcoholic influence
  • You should comply with breathalyzers or any other chemical tests to assert the amount of alcohol in your body
  • You should avoid committing any other related crimes.

Depending on the DUI circumstances, further conditions can be leveled to an offender. One will be needed to undergo meetings in either alcoholism or drug abuse such as Marijuana; additionally, offenders would be required to participate in Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) or restitution. Furthermore, under DUI judge discretions, one can undergo an ignition device can be installed on your car or a vehicle that you drive for a period not exceeding four years.

Under California DUI laws, if the offender does some aggravating factors (having a blood alcohol content exceeding 0.08%, refusing to accept chemical tests, causing an accident, speedy driving, driving under influence where a child of below 14 years is in your car, and/or if you are a minor when driving under influence) will automatically increase the amount of sentences issued to you for DUI either In county jail or state prison. This doesn’t matter whether it would be the first, second or third offense, rather, it depends on the circumstances surrounding your DUI offense during the arrest and your previous DUI criminal history.

Alternatively, one can be sentenced for a DUI felony in various ways apart from the above. There are various alternatives to penalties given for a county jail or state prison imprisonment if convicted with a DUI. These alternatives are; community service involvement, Cal-Trans roadside working, residing in a sober living environment and/or being monitored electronically as well as a house arrest. The best alternative is always the incarceration into a private jail in the city or county. Therefore, it is important to check in with Vista DUI attorneys who are well acquitted with such alternatives and would help you minimize your California DUI sentences.

Can a DUI Felony be defended? What are The Possible Defenses?

If you are sentenced for a DUI felony in California, it dwells on you that penalties would be severe and life consequences would be tougher in the cause of revocation of your license or suspension. However, hiring a Vista DUI lawyer would argue in your defense so as to minimize the harshness of the penalties. Here are some of the arguments that are possible for legal defense:

  1. It might happen that you were not at fault during the accident. This happens when, while you were driving under the influence of either alcohol or intoxicated with drugs, you were still keen on the traffic laws. It can be so if the other driver was the one in traffic turmoil like losing control while driving, and because of that, your car collided with his/hers.

  2. If you were not the driver of the said vehicle (the vehicle that caused the accident) despite the fact that you are the owner of the vehicle. This happens if when drunk, you decide that another passenger or maybe a friend drives you home. While on the way, he causes an accident. Yes, you own the vehicle, but you were not the driver at that moment when the accident happened. California DUI laws allow for a defense in such cases or drop of the charges.

  3. You might be driving and eventually caused an accident, killing or injuring a person other than yourself. However, after undergoing a blood alcohol content test or any chemical test to gauge the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream and it is found out that you were totally out of alcohol or intoxication, defense lawyers can argue in your defense. This will reduce the charges meaning that the penalties and sentences would as well be reduced. Your license wouldn’t face suspension and/or revocation. More so, you wouldn’t go through DUI School.

  4. When you improperly stopped and/or improperly searched by the police. Although it is the duty of a traffic police officer to pull over any given vehicle in case he/she suspects unlawful traffic act, it is unlawful if the officer does it while violating the driver’s rights. This happens in incidents such as witnessing a traffic violation, an identification that a certain vehicle has broken rears or expired tags, or observing a behavior that suggests the driver might be impaired. Driving too speedy or too slowly and not maintaining your driving lane may be used to strengthen the above suspicions. But if the law enforcers violated any rights of the victim during the act, your charges for a DUI felony would be dropped.

Can a Vista DUI Lawyer Near Me Help?

If you or your closest friend, relative, or loved one is faced with driving under influence felony charges, you will need a DUI attorney to argue in your defense and even ask for charges to be dropped. This would help you avoid the harshness and the consequences you would face after such a sentence. Our criminal defense lawyers at Vista DUI Criminal Attorney Law Firm are experienced with such DUI cases and are ready to help you. Reach us on 760-691-1540 to speak to our felony DUI attorneys and let them determine the best defense to defend your charges.